Chronicle of the Morea
The Chronicle of the Morea (Greek: Το χρονικόν του Μορέως) is a long 14th-century history text, of which four versions are extant: in French, Greek (in verse), Italian and Aragonese. More than 9,000 lines long, the Chronicle narrates events of the Franks' establishment of feudalism in mainland Greece. West European Crusaders settled in the Peloponnese (called Morea at the time) following the Fourth Crusade. The period covered in the Chronicle was 1204 to 1292 (or later, depending on the version). It gives significant details on the civic organization of the Principality of Achaia.
The extant texts of the Chronicle of the Morea
The verses of the Greek text are written in a 15-syllable political verse. The verses are accented but not rhymed. It is written in the spoken Greek of the time, with the inclusion of several French words.
There are two parallel Greek texts, as well as three copies:
- Ms Havniensis 57 (14th–15th century, in Copenhagen) 9219 verses
- Ms Taurinensis B.II.I, library of Turin, closely related to the Copenhagen text
- Ms Parisinus graecus 2898 (15th–16th century, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris) 8191 verses
- Ms Parisinus graecus 2753 and
- Ms Bern 509 grec, both copies of the Paris version.
The oldest text is that held in Copenhagen, the language of which is more archaic. The Parisian, more recent, text is simpler in language and has fewer foreign words. The transcriber omitted several anti-Hellenic references, so the overall text expressed less contempt of Greeks.
The difference of about one century between the Copenhagen and Parisian version shows a considerable number of linguistic differences due to the rapid evolution of the Greek language. The text of the Copenhagen version describes events until 1292.
- Royal Library of Belgium No 15702
This text is known under the title: "The Book of the Conquest of Constantinople and the Empire of Roumania and the country of the Principality of Morea", since in the incipit, it is indicated "C'est le livre de la conqueste de Constantinople et de l'empire de Romanie, et dou pays de la princée de la Morée"
There are also other copies of the French text:
Information in this text reaches until the year 1304.
- Cronaca di Morea, is a summary that was compiled later than the previous texts and contains several mistakes. Its source is the text found in the Greek manuscript held in Turin.
- Libro de los fechos et conquistas del principado de la Morea, was compiled at the end of the 14th century (around 1395), from the Greek version and other later sources, at the request of the Grand Master Jean Fernandez de Heredia of the Knights of St. John. It covers events to 1393.
Which text is the original? Which version came out first?
It appears that the original text of the Chronicle of the Morea has been lost. Although the Aragonese and Italian texts have been clearly identified as later texts, there is no widely accepted consensus on the priority of the Greek or French text.
The author of the original text of the chronicle appears to be a Franc or a gasmoule (a French-Greek, born from a mixed French-Greek marriage, the word seems to have an etymology from garçon (boy) and mule). He appeared to admire the Franks (Crusaders) and have contempt of the local population and the Roman Empire. Notably, the author respects the citizenship of the Byzantine Greeks, calling them Romans (Ρωμαῖοι) (especially in verses 1720-1738).
The significance of the Chronicle
The Chronicle is famous in spite of certain historical inaccuracies because of its lively description of life in the feudal community and because of the character of the language which reflects the rapid transition from Medieval to Modern Greek.
Polet explains that since the author admired the Franks and had contempt for the Byzantine culture, the Chronicle of Morea did not become part of popular culture and history after the Franks left the Peloponnese.
Numerous administrative laws and practices of the Principality of Achaia are mentioned in the Chronicle, making it a significant source on the Frankish period in Greece.
Language of the Chronicle
Since the year of the Fall of Constantinople, 1453, marks the symbolic boundary between Medieval and Modern Greek, the Chronicle of the Morea is generally classified under Medieval Greek. However, the Chronicle of the Morea, along with the Ptochoprodromic poems and acritic songs are considered as the beginnings of modern Greek literature. They are classified as part of both "Byzantine / medieval vernacular" and "(early) modern Greek" literature.
The first editions in print
Buchon named the book Βιβλίον της κουγκέστας του Μωραίως (Book of the conquest of Morea), a different title than the text. The second printed edition of the Chronicle was that of the Greek text from Copenhagen, published by Buchon in 1845. In 1889 John Schmitt published both texts of the Copenhagen and Paris manuscripts side by side.
A 1964 translation of the Greek text by Harold E. Lurier.
The first text
- I will tell a tale to thee rehearse, a tale of import mighty
- And if attention you do lend, I hope the tale will please you
- T'is how the Frank by arms did gain the realm of fair Morea
- J.B. Bury, in page 386, Appendix of volume 9, Notes by the Editor, in the (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906) edition of Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776), ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky.
- Jean-Claude Polet, Patrimoine littéraire européen, De Boeck Université, 1995, ISBN 2-8041-2077-5
- William Smith, A History of Greece, R. B. Collins, 1855, p. 579
- P. Kolonaros, Το Χρονικόν του Μορέως (The Chronicle of Moreas), Athens 1940, page η'
- Encyclopedic Dictionary, entry on "Χρονικόν Μωρέως", Eleftheroudakis ed., 1931 (in Greek)
- M. Jeffreys, The Chronicle of the Morea: Priority of the Greek version, BZ 68 (1975) 304-350
- A. Panagiotis, Study Medieval Greek, Museum Tusculanum Press, 1992, ISBN 87-7289-163-7
- Cyril A. Mango, The Oxford History of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-814098-3
- Topping, Peter (October 1965). "Crusaders as Conquerors: The Chronicle of Morea (book review)". Speculum (journal). 40 (4): 737. doi:10.2307/2851426. JSTOR 2851426.
- P. Zepos, "Το δίκαιον εις το Χρονικόν του Μορέως (The Law in the Chronicle of the Morea)", Επετηρίς Εταιρείας Βυζαντινών Σπουδών (Annals of the Society for Byzantine Studies) 18(1948), 202-220, in Greek
- R. Browning Medieval and modern Greek
- G. Horrocks Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers, London & New York 1997, p. 276-81
- H. Tonnet Histoire du grec modèrne, chapter “la langue médievale” )
- Kriaras in the Dictionary of Greek Medieval Vernacular Literature includes the Chronicle in his sources
- N. Andriotes - History of the Greek language
- J.A. Buchon, Chroniques etrangères relatives aux expéditions françaises pendant le xiii siécle, 1840
- J.A. Buchon, Recherches historiques sur la principauté française de Morée et ses hautes baronies (1845)
- John Schmitt, Die Chronik von Morea, Munich, 1889
- John Schmitt, The Chronicle of Morea, [To Chronikon Tou Moreōs] A history in political verse, relating the establishment of feudalism in Greece by the Franks in the thirteenth century, Methuen & Co., London, 1904
- The original Greek text of the Chronicle of Morea
- Morel-Fatio, Alfred, ed. (1885). Libro de los fechos et conquistas del principado de la Morea compilado por comandamiento de Don Fray Johan Ferrandez de Heredia, maestro del Hospital de S. Johan de Jerusalem - Chronique de Morée aux XIIe et XIVe siècles, publiée & traduite pour la première fois pour la Société de l'Orient Latin par Alfred Morel-Fatio. Geneva: Jules-Guillaume Fick.
- Crusaders as Conquerors: the Chronicle of Morea translated from the Greek with notes and introduction by Harold E. Lurier, Columbia University Press, 1964. ISBN 978-0-231-02298-9.
- Peter Topping, Review of H.E. Lurier, Crusaders as Conquerors: the Chronicle of Morea, in Speculum, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Oct 1965), pp. 737–742.\
- Shawcross, C. Teresa, The Chronicle of Morea: Historiography in Crusader Greece (Oxford, OUP, 2009) (Oxford Studies in Byzantium).
- H. F. Tozer, "The Franks in the Peloponnese", Journal of Hellenic Studies, 4 (1883), pp. 165–236