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The accounts concerning four brothers who became Kings of Cilician Armenia towards the end of the 13th century tell a tale of murder, usurpation and treachery, but who betrayed who and when is far from clear from the Wikipedia pages. Cilician Armenia was a key ally of Christian crusaders but surrounded by Muslim states (see map below).

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The four brothers were Hethum II (reigned 1289–1293, 1295–1296, 1299–1303), Thoros III (reigned 1293 to 1296?), Sempad (reigned 1296 to 1298) and Constantine I (reigned 1298 to 1299). Although it is clear that Hethum and Thoros were 'allies' and that Sempad was their 'enemy', the role of Constantine is unclear.

This much seems consistent:

  • 1293 Hethum abdicates in favour of Thoros
  • 1295 Thoros invites Hethum to return (maybe as co-King - this not clear)
  • 1296 Hethum and Thoros journey to Constantinople, apparently leaving Sempad as regent.
  • 1296 Sempad usurps the throne with Constantine's help and imprisons his brothers upon their return. Hethum is then blinded while Thoros is killed.

So, Sempad rules for two years. Then, in 1298, it gets confusing. The article on Hethum II says:

Constantine turned against Sempad, usurped the throne for himself, imprisoned Sempad and freed Hethum

In 1299, Hethum, recovered at least partially from his blindness, ousted Constantine and once again resumed the crown.

The article on Constantine has a different version, saying Constantine

turned against him [Sempad] two years later in 1298 to restore his older brother Hethum II. He assumed the throne for a year while Hethum recovered from his imprisonment.

The article on Sempad says:

Constantine turned traitor again and helped Hethum overthrow Sempad, assuming the throne while Hethum's blindness healed.

In short, the first account basically says Constantine usurped the usurper (Sempad) as well as Hethum while the other two accounts imply Constantine was simply looking after the throne for Hethum. Also, the page on Constantine says nothing about him being a usurper while the page on Hethum clearly states that he was.

As Hethum had already abdicated once (and was to do so again in 1303), the latter two accounts seem plausible. On the other hand, Constantine changed sides again in 1299 in an attempt to restore Sempad (it failed and they were imprisoned). Mack Chahin's book The Kingdom of Armenia: New Edition might clear this up but a key page is not available for viewing.

Did Constantine rule as a usurper or was ruling legitimately in Hethum's place, with the latter's consent?

  • Just looking thru different language WP pages gets really colourful. But what I do not understand: in this fraticidal struggle for power, how would you define "legitimacy"? (Claimed, acknowledged, supported by others, according to 'xx-law' in modern view…) – LangLangC Sep 9 '18 at 17:58
  • @LangLangC In this case, Hethum would appear to be the legitimate ruler as he's the eldest son of Leo II. Unless, that is, he let Constantine rule with his consent (as happened with Thoros, whose legitimacy does not appear to be in question). – Lars Bosteen Sep 9 '18 at 18:55

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