Thoros II, Prince of Armenia

Thoros II the Great
Lord of Cilicia / “Lord of the Mountains”
Lord of Armenian Cilicia
Reign 1144/1145–1169
Predecessor Leo I (until 1137)
Successor Roupen II
Born (unknown)
Died February 6, 1169
Burial Monastery of Drazark
Spouse (1) an unnamed daughter of Simon of Raban
(2) an unnamed daughter of the future Regent Thomas
Issue Rita
unnamed daughter
Roupen II
House Roupenians
Father Leo I
Mother (unknown)

Toros II the Great[1] (Armenian: Թորոս Բ), also Thoros II,[2][3][4] (unknown[3] – February 6, 1169[3]) was the sixth lord of Armenian Cilicia[1] or “Lord of the Mountains”[3] (1144[3]/1145[1][4]-1169[1][3][4]).

Thoros (together with his father, Leo I and his brother, Roupen) was taken captive and imprisoned in Constantinople in 1137 after the Byzantine Emperor John II Comnenus, during his campaign against Cilicia and the Principality of Antioch, successfully had laid siege to Gaban and Vahka (today Feke in Turkey).[1] All Cilicia remained under Byzantine rule for eight years.[4]

Unlike his father and brother, Thoros survived his incarceration in Constantinople and was able to escape in 1143.[1] Whatever the conditions in which Thoros entered Cilicia, he found it occupied by many Greek garrisons.[4] He rallied around him the Armenians in the eastern parts of Cilicia and after a persistent and relentless pursuit of the Greeks, he successfully ousted the Byzantine garrisons from Pardzerpert (now Andırın in Turkey), Vahka, Sis (today Kozan in Turkey), Anazarbus, Adana, Mamistra and eventually Tarsus.[1] His victories were aided by the lack of Muslim attacks in Cilicia and from the setbacks the Greeks and the Crusaders suffered on the heels of the loss of Edessa.[1]

Emperor Manuel I Comnenus, unhappy with Thoros’s progress in the areas still claimed by the Byzantine Empire, sought peaceful means to settle his conflict with Thoros, but his attempts bore him no fruits.[1] The recovery before 1150 of the Taurus fortresses by Thoros had not seriously affected Greek power, but his conquest of Mamistra in 1151 and the rest of Cilicia in 1152 had necessitated a great expedition.[5] As a result, during the course of the next 20 years there were no less than three separate military campaigns launched by the emperor against Thoros, but each campaign was only able to produce a limited success.[1]

Thoros’s accomplishments during his reign placed Armenian Cilicia on a firm footing.[1]

Thoros was of a tall figure and of a strong mind: his compassion was universal; like the light of the sun he shone by his good works, and flourished by his faith; he was the shield of truth and the crown of righteousness; he was well versed in the Holy Scriptures and in the profane sciences. It is said that he was of such profound understanding, as to be able to explain the difficult expressions of the prophets – his explanations even still exist.
Vahram of Edessa: The Rhymed Chronicle of Armenia Minor[6]

His early years

Thoros was the second son of Leo I, lord of Armenian Cilicia.[3] The name and the origin of his mother are not known with certainty.[3] It is possible that she was a daughter of Count Hugh I of Rethel, or she may have been the daughter of Gabriel of Melitene.[3]

In 1136, Leo I (Thoros's father) was made prisoner by Baldwin of Marash who sent him off to captivity in Antioch.[2] In his absence, his three sons quarreled; the eldest, Constantine, was eventually captured and blinded by his brothers.[2] After two months of confinement, Leo I obtained his liberty by consenting to harsh terms.[4]

In the early summer of 1137, Emperor John II Comnenus came to Cilicia with a full force on his way to take Antioch; his army successively retook Seleucia, Korikos, Tarsus, Mamistra, Adana, Tel Hamdoun (now Toprakkale in Turkey) and Anazarbus.[1] Leo I took refuge in the Taurus Mountains, but at last found the situation hopeless, and surrendered himself to the conqueror;[4] Thoros and his youngest brother, Roupen were also taken captive together with their father.[1] They were dragged away to Constantinople, where Leo I died in imprisonment in 1141.[4] Roupen, after being blinded, was assassinated by the Greeks.[4]

His rule

The liberation of Armenian Cilicia

Thoros escaped from Constantinople about the year 1143;[2] he fled to the island of Cyprus, which was then under Byzantine suzerainty, aboard a Venetian vessel and then found his way to Antioch.[1] He took refuge at the Court of his cousin, Count Joscelin II of Edessa.[2] From there, in the company of a few trusted comrades, he was assisted by a Syrian priest, who led them by night to a safe shelter by the river Pyramus (now Ceyhan River in Turkey).[1]

They then crossed the Amanus range (now Nur Mountains in Turkey) and reached the mountainous Armenian strongholds in the Taurus Mountains where Thoros began gathering a new following.[1] He recaptured the family stronghold of Vahka and two of his brothers, Stephen and Mleh joined him.[2] He made friends with a neighboring Frankish lord, Simon of Raban, whose daughter he married.[2]

Leo died and was elevated to Christ; the emperor then felt compassion for Thoros, took him out of prison, and received him into the imperial guards. Being now in the imperial palace, and a soldier among the soldiers, he very soon distinguished himself, and even the emperor looked upon him with benevolence. Before the end of the year /1141/ the emperor left Constantinople with a large army, and went to assist the Prince of Antioch, who was hard pressed by the Turks. Being on a hunting party in the valley of Anazarbus, one of his own poisoned arrows wounded him, and he fell dead on the spot; he thus met with his deserved fate (…) The Greek army returned, but Thoros remained in the country; though the traditions concerning this fact are different. Some say, Thoros withdrew himself quite alone, went by sea from Antioch to Cilicia, and took possession of his dominions, finding means to gain at first the town of Amouda, and afterwards all the other places. But the emperor’s party say that Thoros, during the time the Greeks stayed in the country, lived with a lady who gave him a great sum of money; with these treasures he fled to the mountains, and discovered himself to a priest as the son of Leo, the true king of the country. The priest was exceedingly happy at these tidings, and Thoros hid himself under a shepherd’s disguise. There were many Armenians in this part of the country who, being barbarously treated by the Greeks, sighed for their former masters; to these men, as it is said, the priest imparted the joyful tidings; they instantly assembled and appointed Thoros their Baron; he gained possession of Vahka, and afterwards of many other places. Let this be as it may, it was certainly ordained by God that this man, who was carried away as a prisoner, should become the chief of the country of his forefathers, that he should take the government out of the hands of the Greeks, and destroy their armies.
Vahram of Edessa: The Rhymed Chronicle of Armenia Minor[6]

The first Byzantine attack against Cilicia

In 1151, while the Byzantines were distracted by the Moslem attack on Turbessel, Thoros swept down into the Cilician plain and defeated and slew the Byzantine governor, Thomas, at the gates of Mamistra.[2] Emperor Manuel I at once sent his cousin Andronicus Comnenus with an army to recover the territory lost to Thoros.[2] But Thoros was well prepared for the unsuspecting Greeks and consequently won a decisive victory:[1] as Andronicus Comnenus moved up to besiege Thoros at Mamistra, the Armenians made a sudden sortie and caught him unawares.[2] His army was routed and he fled back in disgrace to Constantinople.[2]

In the meantime, the Hethumids, who were pro-Byzantine sympathizers, did not overlook any opportunity for engaging in an anti-Roupenian armed conflict.[1] Andronicus Comnenus’s mission was such an opportunity but it was not an occasion for glory: many of their numbers were killed by Thoros’s aggressive strategy, and many more were taken into captivity.[1] Among the captives were the two illustrious members, Oshin II of Lampron and his son Hethum.[1] Oshin II was eventually released for a ransom but his son was kept as hostage; but Thoros arranged the marriage of his daughter to Hethum and returned half the ransom money to the groom’s father Oshin II of Lampron.[1]

In the same year /1151/ Leo's son, Thoros, took Mamistra and Tel Hamdoun from the Romans and seized Duke Thomas. Duke Andronicus who was charged with protecting the land of the Cilicians by order of the Roman emperor, came to the city of Mamistra with 12,000 cavalry against Thoros. And he boasted, shouting out to Thoros: «Behold your father's iron chains. I will take you bound in them to Constantinople, like your father.» When valiant Thoros heard this, he was unable to bear the insult. Instead, placing his trust in God, he assembled his forces, breached Mamistra’s walls at night, and attacked /the Byzantine troops/ like a lion, putting them to the sword. Among those who died in the great battle before the city gates was Sempad, lord of Barbaron. Among those captured were the lord of Lampron, Oshin, the lord of Partzepert, Vasil, and the lord of Prakan, Tigran /all of whom were/ on the side of the emperor. /Thoros’/ troops seized and despoiled the weak Roman forces and then let them go.
Smbat Sparapet: Chronicle[7]

Wars with the Seldjuks and Antioch

Emperor Manuel I Comnenus persuaded the Seljuk Sultan of Iconium, Masud I, to attack Thoros and demand his submission to the Sultan’s suzerainty.[1] However, the ensuing Seljuk attack, which in fact was provoked by an Armenian raid into Seljuk lands in Cappadocia in the winter of 1154, was routed successfully by Thoros in collaboration with a contingent of the Knights Templar.[1]

In the year 603 AE /1154/ once again the Byzantine emperor Manuel sought to stoke Masud and he sent him twice the amount of treasure as previously, saying: «Quench the burning of my heart toward the Armenian people, destroy their fortresses, and exterminate them.» So the sultan came to Anazarbus with many troops, but he was unable to accomplish anything. He sent one of his grandees, named Yaqub, to ravage the territory of Antioch. When they had crossed the gate, the Brothers /the Knights Templar/, as though sent by God, swooped upon them at that place and slaughtered all of them, including their chief. When those in the sultan’s army heard about this, they were horrified. This was not all, for the wrath of God was visited upon them. Their horses perished from tapax /diarrhea/ and they themselves turned to flight, brother not waiting to help brother, nor comrade, comrade. They hamstrung many of the horses and fled on foot through difficult, marshy places, as though they were persecuting themselves. For at that time Thoros was not in his country. Rather, he had gone to Tsets. When he returned and saw what had unfolded everyone thanked God, for they had been defeated without the use of weapons and without a physical battle.
Smbat Sparapet: Chronicle[7]

Then the emperor turned to Antioch for help;[1] he offered to recognize the new Prince, Raynald of Châtillon, if the Franks of Antioch would fight for him against Thoros; he also promised a money-subsidy if the work were properly done.[2] Raynald willingly complied as the Armenians had advanced into the district of Alexandretta (now İskenderun in Turkey) which the Franks claimed as part of the Principality of Antioch.[2]

After a short battle near Alexendretta, Raynald drove the Armenian back into Cilicia; and he presented the re-conquered country to the Knights Templar.[2] Other view is that after the battle Raynald was forced to return home, covered with humiliation; and later on, Thoros voluntarily surrendered to the brethren the fortresses in question, and the Knights in turn took oath “to assist the Armenians on all occasions where they needed help.”[4] In 1156, the Jacobites were allowed to build a new cathedral in Antioch, at whose dedication the Princess Constance and Thoros assisted.[2]

Having secured the land that he wanted, Raynald demanded his subsidies from the Emperor who refused them, pointing out that the main task had yet to be done.[2] Raynald quickly sided with Thoros and conspired to attack Cyprus; and the Armenians attacked the few remaining Byzantine fortresses in Cilicia.[1]

The sack of Cyprus

In the spring of 1156, Raynald of Châtillon and Thoros made a sudden landing on Cyprus.[2] Thoros and Prince Raynald both conducted widespread plundering of the island:[1] the Franks and Armenians marched up and down the island robbing and pillaging every building that they saw, churches and convents as well as shops and private houses.[2] The corps were burnt; the herds were rounded up, together with all the population, and driven down to the coast.[2]

The nightmare lasted about three weeks; then, on the rumor of an imperial fleet in the offing, Raynald gave the order for re-embarkation.[2] The ships were loaded up with booty; and every Cypriot was forced to ransom himself.[2]

In the meantime, Thoros quickly established a friendly rapport with Kilij Arslan II, the new Seljuk sultan of Iconium; and in 1158 a peace treaty was concluded.[1]

In the year 606 AE /1157/ Thoros’ brother, Stephen, Leo’s son, motivated by his wicked nature and without his brother Thoros’ knowledge, arose with his brigade of troops and started to successfully retake /certain/ districts. He took Kokison and Berdus. Sultan Kilij Arslan and Thoros had friendly relations with each other and Stephen, as we said, took these /areas/ without Thoros’ consent. Owing to this disturbance, Kilij Arslan came to the district of Kokison and pacified everyone, in no way blaming the inhabitants. Thence he went to Berdus, while Thoros, out of affection for the sultan, tricked his brother and surrendered Berdus to the sultan, against Stephen’s wishes. The sultan in turn, because of his affection for Thoros, freed the inhabitants of the fortress unharmed. Then Stephen attempted to steal Marash /today Kahramanmaraş in Turkey/, but could not. (…) Now it happened that Sultan Kilij Arslan had a genuine fondness for Thoros. He sent an emissary to Jerusalem and Antioch to Thoros, and again strengthened that friendship with an oath.
Smbat Sparapet: Chronicle[7]

The second Byzantine attack against Cilicia

In the summer of 1158, Manuel I Comnenus launched his second assault on Thoros; at the head of an army, he marched down the usual routes leading to Seleucia.[1] There, with a small rapid deployment force of horsemen and Seleucian troops, he launched a surprise attack on Thoros.[1] Thoros was at Tarsus, suspecting nothing, when suddenly, one day in late October, a Latin pilgrim whom he had entertained came rushing back to his Court to tell him that he had seen Imperial troops only a day’s march away.[2] Thoros collected his family, his intimate friends and his treasure and fled at once to the mountains.[2]

Next day the Emperor Manuel entered the Cilician plain; within a fortnight all the Cilician cities as far as Anazarbus were in his power.[2] But Thoros himself still eluded him: while Byzantine detachments scoured the valleys he fled from hill-top to hill-top and at last found refuge on a crag called Dadjog, near the sources of the river Cydnus; only his two most trusted servants knew where he lay hidden.[2] Thus much of Cilicia was restored back to Byzantine control, but Thoros still held the mountainous regions in the north.[1]

Eventually, King Baldwin III of Jerusalem intervened and successfully brokered a peace treaty between the Emperor and Thoros:[1] Thoros had to walk barefoot and bareheaded to the camp of the emperor; there he prostrated himself in the dust before the imperial platform.[2] Then pardon was accorded to him[2] for his transgressions both in Cilicia and Cyprus, and still allowed to hold partial possession in Cilicia.[1]

The murder of his brother

Thoros’s brother, Stephen, ignoring Thoros’s official pledges to Manuel, with the help of a few of his supporters continued attacking Greek garrisons thus giving Andronicus Euphorbenus, the Byzantine governor stationed in Tarsus, the opportunity to sabotage the treaty.[1] Stephen was invited to a banquet held in the governor’s residence where he was seized upon arrival, and his mutilated corpse was flung over the gates of Tarsus.[1]

Thoros, who had his own reasons for desiring Stephen’s murder, accused of Andronicus Euphorbenus of complicity and swept down on Mamistra, Anazarbus and Vahka, surprising and murdering the Greek garrisons.[2] Eventually, reconciliation with the emperor was negotiated through the mediation of King Amalric I of Jerusalem: Andronicus Euphorbenus was recalled and replaced by Konstantinos Kalamanos as the new Byzantine governor in Tarsus.[1]

In alliance with the crusaders

In 1164, when Nur ed-Din, the emir of Aleppo knew that King Amalric I had left for Egypt, he struck at the Principality of Antioch and laid siege to the key-fortress of Harenc.[2] Prince Bohemond III of Antioch called upon Count Raymond III of Tripoli, Thoros and Konstantinos Kalamanos to come to his rescue.[2] At the news of their coming, Nur ed-Din raised the siege; as he retired, Bohemond decided to follow in pursuit.[2] The armies made contact on 10 August, near Artah.[2] Ignoring a warning from Thoros, Bohemond attacked at once, and when the Moslems feigned flight rushed headlong after them, only to fall into an ambush.[2] Thoros and his brother, Mleh who had been more cautious, escaped from the battlefield.[2]

Around that time (in 1164 or in 1167) Thoros visited Jerusalem and suggested the colonization of a large number of Armenians;[5] but the Latin prelates forced King Amalric I to refuse the offer by their insistence that they should pay the dime (a special tax).[2]

The third Byzantine attack against Cilicia

Intermittent fighting erupted everywhere, harassing the Greek forces throughout Cilicia.[1] In 1168, Emperor Manuel I, obsessed with his dilemma with Thoros, marched his armies into Cilicia for the third time under the command of Konstantinos Kalamanos.[1] But Konstantinos Kalamanos was able to produce only limited successes which in the end induced Byzantium to renounce its right of possession of the whole of Cilicia so long as it had access to the ports of the Gulf of Alexandretta.[1] Byzantium also disclaimed all rights to direct government of Cilicia and accepted in settlement only Thoros’s recognition of Byzantine suzerainty.[1]

His last years

Thoros quarreled with his brother Mleh who attempting to assassinate him fled to Nur ed-Din and became a Moslim.[2]

Now his brother, Mleh, was a malicious and treacherous man, and planned to kill his brother, Thoros. Getting together some others of the same tendency, one day while they had gone out to hunt deer, Mleh wanted to slay his brother there /at a place/ between Mamistra and Adana. But Thoros had been forewarned. He furiously seized Mleh and interrogated him before the troops and the princes as to what he was hoping to accomplish. They reproached Mleh in their presence and he was shamed. Then /Mleh/ gave /to T'oros/ much of the inventory of his authority, horses, mules, weapons, and treasures. And they removed him from his district. Thus he received nothing in exchange for his wickedness. So /Mleh/ arose and went to Nur ed-Din, lord of Aleppo, and entered into his service.
Smbat Sparapet: Chronicle[7]

Thoros, weary after nearly quarter of a century of rule and warfare, abdicated in favor of his young son Roupen, who was placed under the guardianship of Thoros’s father-in-law,[3] the Regent Thomas.[1] After his abdication, Thoros became a monk.[3]

He died in 1169.[1] He was buried in the monastery of Drazark.[3]

Marriages and children

  1. c. 1149[3] An unnamed daughter of Simon of Raban[1][2] (or, according to other views, Isabelle, daughter of Count Joscelin II of Edessa[3])
  2. c. 1164[3] An unnamed daughter of the future Regent Thomas


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 Ghazarian, Jacob G. The Armenian Kingdom in Cilicia during the Crusades: The Integration of Cilician Armenians with the Latins (1080–1393).
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades – Volume II.: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East: 1100–1187.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Cawley, Charles (2009-04-01), Lords of the Mountains, Kings of (Cilician) Armenia (Family of Rupen), Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy,
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Vahan M. Kurkjian (2005-04-05). "A History of Armenia". Website. Bill Thayer. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
  5. 1 2 Baldwin, Marshall W. The Latin States under Baldwin III and Amalric I, 1143–1174.
  6. 1 2 Vahram (2008-09-10). "Chronicle". Text Archive. Internet Archive. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Smbat Sparapet (Sempad the Constable) (2005). "Chronicle". History Workshop: Armenian Historical Sources of the 5th–15th Centuries (Selected Works). Robert Bedrosian’s Homepage. Retrieved 2009-07-20.


Thoros II, Prince of Armenia
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Leo I
(until 1137)
Lord of Armenian Cilicia
Succeeded by
Roupen II
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