II. THE ARMENIANS: 1060–1300

About 1080 many Armenian families, resenting Seljuq domination, left their country, crossed the Taurus Mountains, and established the kingdom of Lesser Armenia in Cilicia. While Turks, Kurds, and Mongols ruled Armenia proper, the new state maintained its independence for three centuries. In a reign of thirty-four years (1185–1219) Leo II repelled the attacks of the sultans of Aleppo and Damascus, took Isauria, built his capital at Sis (now in Turkey), made alliances with the Crusaders, adopted European laws, encouraged industry and commerce, gave privileges to Venetian and Genoese merchants, founded orphanages, hospitals, and schools, raised his people to unparalleled prosperity, earned the name of Magnificent, and was altogether one of the wisest and most beneficent monarchs in medieval history. His son-in-law Hethum I (1226–70), finding the Christians unreliable, allied himself with the Mongols, and rejoiced at the expulsion of the Seljuqs from Armenia (1240). But the Mongols became converts to Mohammedanism, warred on Lesser Armenia, and reduced it to ruins (1303f.). In 1335 Armenia was conquered by the Mamluks, and the country was divided among feudal lords. Through all this turbulence the Armenians continued to show an inventive skill in architecture, a high excellence in miniature painting, and a resolutely independent form of Catholicism which turned back all attempts at domination by either Constantinople or Rome.

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