Hethum I, King of Armenia

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Hethum I
Հեթում Ա
Hetoum and Zabel.jpeg
Hethum I with Queen Zabel on a coin
King of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia
Reign1226 – 1270
SuccessorLeo II
Died21 October 1270(1270-10-21) (aged 56–57)
Leo II
DynastyHouse of Lambron
FatherConstantine of Baberon
MotherPrincess Alix Pahlavouni of Lampron

Hethum I (1213 – 21 October 1270) (also transliterated Hethoum, Hetoum, Het'um, or Hayton from Armenian: Հեթում Ա) ruled the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (also known as "Little Armenia") from 1226 to 1270. He was the son of Constantine, Lord of Baberon (d. 1263) and Princess Alix Pahlavouni of Lampron (a third-cousin of Leo I) and was the founder of the dynasty which bears his name: the Hetoumids. Due to diplomatic relations with the Mongol Empire, Hethum himself traveled to the Mongol court in Karakorum, Mongolia,[1] which was recorded in the famous account The Journey of Haithon, King of Little Armenia, To Mongolia and Back by Hetoum's companion, the Armenian historian Kirakos Gandzaketsi.


Hethum's father Constantine had been regent for the young Isabella, Queen of Armenia.[2] Isabella originally married Philip (1222–1225), son of Bohemond IV of Antioch.[2] However, Constantine had Philip disposed of, and instead forced Isabella to marry his own son, Hethum, on June 14, 1226, to make Isabella and Hethum co-rulers.[2] The couple had six children:

  1. Leo II (died 1289)
  2. Thoros (died at the Battle of Mari in 1266 fighting the Mamluks) - Thoros had one child: Melkum.
  3. Sibylla (died 1290), who married Bohemond VI of Antioch[3]
  4. Euphemie (died 1309), who married to Julian Grenier, Lord of Sidon[3]
  5. Rita of Armenia, married Constantine of Servantikar [3]
  6. Maria, who married Guy of Ibelin,[3] son of Baldwin of Ibelin, Seneschal of Cyprus
  7. Rouben
  8. Vasak.

Armenian-Mongol relations[edit]

Hethum I (seated) in the Mongol court of Karakorum, "receiving the homage of the Mongols".[4] Miniature from "Histoire des Tartars", Hayton of Corycus, 1307.

Hethum was a major player in the political struggles and shifting alliances around the Crusader states, as the Armenians had ties with all sides. They were primarily aligned with the Europeans, but during Hethum's reign, the rapidly expanding Mongol Empire became a concern. As the Mongols approached the borders of Cappadocia and Cilicia, King Hethum made a strategic decision to submit to Mongol suzerainty,[5][6][7][8] and sent his brother Sempad to the Mongol court in Karakorum. There, Sempad met Great khan Güyük, and made a formal agreement in 1247 in which Cilician Armenia would be considered a vassal state of the Mongol Empire. In 1254, Hethum himself traveled through Central Asia to Mongolia to renew the agreement, passing through the Turkish states of eastern Asia Minor, the Mongol camp at Kars in Greater Armenia, the Iron Gates of Derbent at the western shore of the Caspian Sea, and from there across Asia to Karakorum.[9] He brought many sumptuous presents, and met with Möngke Khan (Güyük's cousin). The account of his travels was recorded by a member of his suite, Kirakos Gandzaketsi as "The Journey of Haithon, King of Little Armenia, To Mongolia and Back". The Journey of Hethoum was later translated into Russian, French, English,[10] and Chinese. The narrative is important for its observations of Mongol, Buddhist, and Chinese culture, geography, and wildlife.

On his way back from Karakorum, Hethum passed through Samarkand and northern Persia, also visiting the Mongol leader Bayju, where he was present in his camp to witness Bayju's victory in Asia Minor against the Seljuq Turks.[11]

Hethum strongly encouraged other Frankish rulers to follow his example and submit to Mongol suzerainty, but the only one who did so was Hethum's son-in-law, Bohemond VI of Antioch, who submitted around 1259. Armenian troops were with the Mongol army that captured Baghdad in 1258, and both Armenians and Antiochenes fought in the Mongol Army under Hulagu at the Siege of Aleppo and Fall of Damascus in 1260.[12][13] Historical accounts, quoting from the writings of the medieval historian Templar of Tyre, often give a dramatic account of the three Christian rulers (Hethum, Bohemond, and the Mongol general Kitbuqa) entering the city of Damascus together in triumph,[13][14] though modern historians have questioned this story as apocryphal.[15][16][17]

Despite the Mongol's territorial gains, in September 1260, the Egyptian Mamluks rallied, defeating the Mongols at the historic battle of Ain Jalut and driving them back across the Euphrates River. The Mongols would not again capture Syria until 1299–1300, when again they would hold it only for a few months.


During the last years of Hethum's reign, largely as a result of Hethum's active support of the Mongols,[18] the Kingdom came under increasing attack by the Mamluks, who invaded in 1266. The heavily outnumbered Armenians were unable to hold off the Mamluks at the Disaster of Mari, during which Hethum's son, Leo, was captured and imprisoned. Following the disaster, the cities of Adana, Tarsus, and Ayas were assaulted and the capital of Sis was sacked and burnt. Thousands of Armenians were massacred and 40,000 taken captive.[19] Hethum was able to ransom his son by conceding territory to the Egyptians. In May 1268, the allied Principality of Antioch was overrun by the Egyptians.

Hethum abdicated in 1270 in favor of his son Leo, and lived out the rest of his life in a monastery, as a monk.


  1. ^ Morris Rossabi (28 November 2014). From Yuan to Modern China and Mongolia: The Writings of Morris Rossabi. BRILL. pp. 670–. ISBN 978-90-04-28529-3.
  2. ^ a b c Stopka 2016, p. 151.
  3. ^ a b c d Der Nersessian 1969, p. 652.
  4. ^ "Hethoum I receiving the homage of the Tatars: during his voyage to Mongolia in 1254, Hethoum I was received with honours by the Mongol Khan who "ordered several of his noble subjects to honour and attend him"" in Le Royaume Armenien de Cilicie Claude Mutafian, p.58, quoting Hayton of Corycus.
  5. ^ Grousset, Empire, p. 263, "Hethum I (1226-69) was clever enough to place himself voluntarily under Mongol suzerainty in 1244."
  6. ^ Claude Mutafian in Le Royaume Arménien de Cilicie describes "the Mongol alliance" entered into by the king of Armenia and the Franks of Antioch ("the King of Armenia decided to engage into the Mongol alliance, an intelligence that the Latin barons lacked, except for Antioch"), and "the Franco-Mongol collaboration" (Mutafian, p.55).
  7. ^ Claude Lebedel in Les Croisades describes the alliance of the Franks of Antioch and Tripoli with the Mongols: (in 1260) "the Frank barons refused an alliance with the Mongols, except for the Armenians and the Prince of Antioch and Tripoli".
  8. ^ Amin Maalouf in The Crusades through Arab eyes is extensive and specific on the alliance (page numbers refer to the French edition): "The Armenians, in the person of their king Hetoum, sided with the Mongols, as well as Prince Bohemond, his son-in-law. The Franks of Acre however adopted a position of neutrality favourable to the muslims" (p.261), "Bohemond of Antioch and Hethoum of Armenia, principal allies of the Mongols" (p.265), "Hulagu (…) still had enough strength to prevent the punishment of his allies [Bohemond and Hethoum]" (p.267).
  9. ^ Bournotian, p. 101
  10. ^ Emil Bretschneider tr., "The Journey of Haithon, King of Little Armenia, To Mongolia and Back", Mediaeval Researches Vol 1, Trubner Oriental Series 1888 London, facsimile reprint 2005 Elibron Classics ISBN 1-4021-9303-3
  11. ^ Claude Cahen, Pre-Ottoman Turkey, pp. 275–276
  12. ^ Grousset, p. 581
  13. ^ a b "On 1 March Kitbuqa entered Damascus at the head of a Mongol army. With him were the King of Armenia and the Prince of Antioch. The citizens of the ancient capital of the Caliphate saw for the first time for six centuries three Christian potentates ride in triumph through their streets", Runciman, p.307
  14. ^ Grousset, p.588
  15. ^ David Morgan, The Mongols (2nd ed.)
  16. ^ Peter Jackson, "Crisis in the Holy Land in 1260", English Historical Review 376 (1980) 486
  17. ^ "While this report cannot be taken literally, it may contain a grain of truth. Armenian troops were part of Ketbuqa's force, while some time during the Mongol occupation Bohemond visited Baalbek and even intended to ask Hulegu for possession of the town. (...) If this prince reached as far as Baalbek, it is most probable that he also passed through Damascus." De Reuven Amitai-Preiss, Mongols and Mamluks, p.31
  18. ^ Amitai-Preiss refers to the Armenians as "active allies of the Mongols" and speaks of "the subsequent retribution that Baybars exacted from them" (p. 106).
  19. ^ Mack Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia: A History, p. 253


External links[edit]

Hethum I, King of Armenia
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Armenia
Succeeded by