When foreign intruders came from the far east of Asia inside Armenia, (circa 900 A.D.) and occupied the whole territory and the capital city of Ani, residence of Pakradounis’ royal dynasty, they destroyed all around pitiless, plunging the country into total disorder and gloomy destruction.

These foreigners established their domination everywhere, persecuting and killing the population, creating miserable life conditions. This people were obliged to search refuge in neighborhoods, or in other free lands outside Armenia.

Historians say that caravan after caravan of Armenians headed toward the north, passing over the Caucasian mountains, settled in Crimea (Russian Empire), and more in far countries as Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgary. Other people proceeded to the western regions of Asia Minor occupied by the greek byzantines, and settled down near Bosphorus Strait, in Constantinople exactly, the mother city of the Roman-Greek Empire.

But other people preferred to go southward, near the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Many princes, ministers and others liked to accompany all this caravans headed toward areas where they found large extents of land.

This land, or as we like to call it “region”, had the name of Cilicia, a greek appellation meaning green environment, or something like that, according to etymologists. We begin now by exposing just the position and the generalities characterizing this region, where the newlycomers established their own community bringing important improvements and accelerating house constructions. More later they founded and inaugurated a realm which lasted approximately three centuries, since 1080 to 1375 A.D.


Located at the eastern basin of Mediterranean Sea, just north of Cyprus Island, Cilicia was a beautiful and fertile land known since the ancient times. It belonged to no any defined population but many intruders had occupied and then left it. Beginning from 1080 A.D. Cilicia has been obviously known as the territory belonging to Armenians where they left huge memorabilia of their own.

The geographical structure of the new refuge of Armenian people, the territorial entity of Cilicia is composed of three sections: maritime, rural and mountainous. 300 miles of seashore stretches beginning from the city of Antalia at the west to eastward till the city of Alexandrette, so forming the maritime section. At the West, there are high and arc-shaped Taurus mountains, surrounding the country with other chain of mountains which are the Amanos mountains, constituting a natural boundary and a wall, as defense for the inhabitants who live overthere.

Between the sea and the mountains, exists an immense extension of cultivable land, named Field of Adana, which can be estimated as the source of wealth of Cilicia where a hot or moderate climate dominates all year long.   Mountains and rural sections extend over 35,000 sq.mil., but the cultivable portion is only 12,000.

Four medium lenght rivers descending from the Taurus mountains irrigate the abovementioned  fields: Jihoun, Sihoun, Cydnos, the latter crossing the  city of Tarson, but at the west runs the river Seleucia, just near the homonym city. Many other rivers and sources bring   abundant water to the rural Cilicia.


The Field of Adana is a cultivable area of 60 miles long and 20 miles large. Even if small sized, it is very fertile with variety of fruits: there is a rich growth of pears, apples, oranges, grapes, apricots, cherries and peaches. The most important and lucratif crop is the cotton, a remarkable and high quality produce of this land. Rural Cilicia, with its hot and humid climate, favorites also the growth of some tropical plantations, such as dates and bananas. On the flanks of the mountains, man can find olive, chestnut, hazelnut trees.  Almonds are abundant and of exceptional quality and taste. You can find beautiful oranges with their own exquisite  perfume  and juicy taste you can’t enjoy elsewhere: perhaps,  in Palestine, where oranges  with exceptional beauty and big slices are called Jaffa oranges. Cilicia’s mountains are covered with thick and centennial trees. The botanical richness is famous with variety of exotic flowers,very beautiful and strangely perfumed.  


The Taurus mountains, whose underground is not well known yet, need exploration and hard work in order to have a lucrative production of possible mineral richness. In the ancient times, lead, gold and silver were extracted from the deep entrails of the Taurus mountains which are so huge, panoramic and magnificent.

Nowadays saline minerals are extracted from caverns existing on the flanks of Cilician mountains. People tell about massive portions of salt, so natural, so tasteful, simple product whose chemical compound it is said to be pure sodium chloride, with no other mixture. These massive portions are brought down to homes and reduced into little pieces and then pulverized for kitchen purposes. But this habitude now is in extinction. At the north of Adana there are interesting oil fields never exploited, as also the anthracit.


A country rich like this, with natural defense at the north by impassable heights, and by the sea at the south, would certainly be enormously coveted by any conquering nation. In the old times dominating people have been the Hittites, Assyrians, Persians and Romans. Then came the Byzantines, just in time when Armenians reached the region and begun to appropriate the lands.


From the ancient times, Armenian merchants from homeland have established their colonies and businesses in the proximity of the shores of Mediterranean Sea. At the time of Tigran the Great, Armenians moved toward the west of Euphrate river, and during the centuries they continuously organized little entities, specially among mountainous regions. This immigration took big proportions during the persian Sassanide dynasty’s persecutions. The cities of Malatia,Cesarea, Sebastia, Edessa had more Armenian population then Greeks or Assyrians. The massive immigration of Armenians into Cilicia begun before 920-1000 A.D., when byzantine army  commanders Nicephore Phocas and Johannes Chemeskik occupied  Cilicia from the Arabs expulsing them out of the region. They created a new era of prosperity, revitalizing all the desolate lands around. Soon Cilicia was populated by newcomer Armenians. Accompanying the working people, artisans or simple adventurers were also aristocratic people who occupied soon all the castles   and other strongholds. The clergy, that has been the faithfull custodian everytime for the Armenians, came here with them for the defense of  faith,  spiritual and educational purposes  for all them in search of a new and honorable life for themselves, their children and for their friends. Khachig I, a catholicos chief of Armenian Church, had seat in Antiochia  before 900 A.D.  A new fatherland was in sight instead of the other fatherland, trampled upon by the Byzantines and many other undesirable intruders.


In 1071, when the Greeks were defeated at the gates of Manazgerd city by the invader Alp-Aslan, one of the generals serving among the Greek army was Pilardos the Armenian, on assignment of defense for the city of Malatia.  Consecutively he conquered many autonomous feudal ruling  houses and distributed  lands and castles to everybody:  so Wassil the Thief received Kessoun, Toros received Edessa, Tatoul received Marash, Rouben received Barzerpert. Other Armenian princes dominated in the rural Cilicia: Aboulgharib Arzrouni in Tarson, and Oshin also in the castle of Lampron, and Abirad received the region of  Zopk castle. Abirad’s son was Nerses Shnorhali, who became one of the most famous figures of Armenian Church.

PRINCE ROUBEN  (1080-1095)

Cilicia was ready to be a little Armenia. In order to realize such an ambition, it was important to unite the castle-owner   princes and the remaining population. That was done by the  prince Rouben. Brave, intelligent and aristocratic, Rouben reigned over the Parzerpert and environments, and over the castle Kosidara (near Hadjin city), in the middle of the country.

We have no satisfactory informations about his origins, but many historians relating the history of Cilicia say he was from the dynasty of Pakradounis reigning at north, in the city of Ani, or probably from the other dynasty of Arzrounis, kins of  Pakradounis,  dominating the southern part of Armenia, around the Van Lake, (here seen in our picture). The most valuable opinion was that Rouben was the chief of reserve officers of king Gagik II, in the northern city of Ani, kingdom of Pakradounis. After the king’s death (1079 A.D.) surely he passed with all his guard corps into eastern Cilicia and occupied all around the Parzerpert castle and the stronghold of Kizistra.

Rouben protected his clansmen against the Greek and other warriers. Once King Gagik II was dead, Rouben was revengeful against the Greek : the time was propitious to act, because the byzantine emperor was occupied to make war in Europe, Seljuks also were in trouble, very busy for the distribution of lands among them; so nobody paid attention that  upon the Taurus mountains a new dynasty was borning : the Roubenians. And when Rouben died, in 1095 A.D. he left an immense and organized authority to Constantin, his son.


In 301 A.D., Armenians became Christians, abjuring the paganism and neglecting all its idols. It was during the reign of king Dertad III (286-330 A.D.) that the Armenian people adopted the christian faith and made it their official religion. The conversion to this new religion occurred with the help of a person called Krikor, whom later the people honored as the “Illuminator” of the nation. The ceremonial took place during a garden meeting on the shores of the Arazani river, in Ardashad. King Dertad with all his family, wife and sister, and all the kins, received their baptism, soaked into the waters of the river.

In order to commemorate this exceptional event of Armenian national history, the newly created Armenian Government in Erevan, (after the collapse of Soviet rule in 1991), with the cooperation of the Spiritual Chief of the Apostolic Church of Armenia, and all the communities, will inaugurate with a Solemn Mass the new multimillion worth Cathedral, dedicated to St.Gregory the Illuminator. During a visit to Rome of His Holiness the Catholicos Karekin II, on last November 2000, and His Holiness the Pope John Paul II presided over an ecumenical liturgy in St. Peters’ Basilica. Then the Pope offered to Karekin II the relics of St. Gregory the Illuminator,  kept venerated during centuries in a church of Naples, in Italy. The relics have been brought to Armenia, where they will be exposed to the faithfull  and then put into custody of the church responsibles. The church you see on the picture at left, is the Holy Cross church on Akhtamar Island in Van Lake, constructed by order of  Gakig Arzrouni, king of Vasbouragan region. This church can be considered the prototype of the new Church of Erevan (above, at right). Architect: Stepan Kurkjian.

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