Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook- Cilicia

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The road from Gesaria to Cilicia crosses the Taurus Mountain Chain at a pass called the "Cilician Gates". Cilicia was the last Armenian kingdom, and a crusader ally state. It fell in ?. It remained a large center for Armenians until the genocide and its aftermath. After the genocidal massacres and deportations, the area was included as part of Syria and a French Cilician mandate. The forces of Mustafa Kemal attacked and while the French negotiated a retreat for themselves, the Armenians fought, and in Marash and Aintab defeated the Turks. French diplomacy annulled these victories and the Armenians were forced to leave once again, with those in Marash and Aintab being massacred one last time mercilessly as revenge. The new names of Marash (Kahramanmarash - "Heroic Marash"), Urfa (Shanliurfa - "Glorious Urfa") and Aintab (Gaziantep - "Victorious Aintab") were changed by the Turks after taking the cities, though the new names do not reflect what actually happened.

Zeitun (Suleymanli)

In 1862 the Armenians of Zeitun (Զեյթուն) sent a delegation to Napoleon III to ask for help against the governor of Marash who was attacking them. Zeitun always maintained autonomy from the Ottoman Empire. Zeitun continued its tradition of independence until the summer of 1921, when the French retreated from Marash and they stood alone against the Turkish forces. Here, the destruction of people and city was complete. The city was renamed Suleymanli after a Turkish officer who fell to the Turks.

Marash (Kahramanmarash)

Gesaria (Kayseri)

Hajin (Saimbeyli)

Hajin always maintained autonomy from the Ottoman Empire. In 1920, the Armenians of Hajin resisted a seige by Kemalist troops for eight months without any help from the outside. Only a handful of Armenians survived this seige, and the Turks renamed the city Saimbeyli in tribute to Sayib Bey, who was one of those responsible for this destruction of Armenians.


Site of 1909 massacres.

Musa Dagh

The resistance of the Armenians in Musa Dagh was legendary, captured in the famous fictional international bestseller by Franz Werfel, "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh". The actual resistance in fact lasted 53 days, until French ships unexpectedly arrived and rescued the survivors. Today, just one tiny Armenian village survives on this mountain, in fact the only Armenian village remaining in all of Turkey.

Sis (Kozan)

Sis was the seat of the Catholicossate of Cilicia. When Sis fell to the Turks, the Catholicossate moved to Antelias, in Lebanon, following many of the Armenian refugees from the area.

Aintab (Gaziantep)

On the fringes of Cilicia lies Gaziantep (W Arm: Aintab). Gaziantep had an Armenian Church called St. Mary's. St. Mary's Church was converted into a prison for a period, before being turned into Kurtulus Mosque.

Urfa (Shanliurfa)

Fortress of Hromkla

Virtually the only remaining Armenian monument in Cilicia after the invasion by Mustafa Kemal's Republican forces is the Hromkla Fortress, overlooking the Euphrates River. The name Hromkla is Arabic for "the Fortress of the Romans" (actually referring to the Byzantines). The Turks call it "Rumkale", a name with the same etymology. Hromkla was an Armenian pricipality of sorts for a century and half, which was ruled by the Catholicossate, and was completely surrounded by Muslim territory. Heads of the Armenian Church undertook religious, political, diplomatic, literary and artistic activities. Nerses Shnorhali (Ներսէս Շնորհալի) was coadjutor to his brother from 1113-1166, then Catholicos himself until 1173 when he died. Toros Roslin (Թորոս Ռոսլին) worked here in the second half of the XIIIth century. Roslin is considered by most to be the best ever painter of illuminated manuscripts. The fortress is also where the reliquary of Skevra - one of the finest examples of Armenian goldsmith art - was made. It was lost for centuries before being rediscovered in Italy in the XIXth century and is now at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The Catholicossate moved from here to Sis.