Ruben, a noble from the Bagratid court, under the threat of the Seljuk Turks,
established the Rubenids dynasty of Cilicia. Lesser Armenia was the region where the Rubenids had
created a strong, independent state in the 12th century AD.
Leo the Great of Lesser Armenia received the blessing of pope Celestine III in 1199,
along with a crown sent by the German Emperor, with still another crown sent by the Emperor of Byzantium.
Over a period of 200 years, the Armenians were to aid the Crusaders and play an important role in the march
of the Crusaders towards the Holy Land.
It was from the port of Ayas in Lesser Armenia that Marco Polo made his historic journey to China.
By treaty arrangement, Lesser Armenia was the principal trade center for the East of the Genoese,
Venetian, Pisan, Florentine, Silician and Catalan merchants.
There was a strong French influence in the port as well, with merchants from Montpellier and Marseille.
At the same time, a considerable number of Armenians established themselves in European trade centers such as Italy,
France and Austria. Others went on to the East, in China and later into many cities of India and Indonesia.
The Cilician bride