Chronicle of the Morea

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File:Text from the Chronicle of Morea.png
Text from the Chronicle of the Morea [1]

The Chronicle of the Morea (Greek: Τὸ χρονικὸν τοῦ 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 Greek text is the only text written in verse. The French, Italian and Aragonese texts are written in prose.[2]

Greek text

The verses of the Greek text are written in a 15-syllable political verse. The verses are accented but not rhymed.[3] 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.[4]

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.

French text

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"

Information in this text reaches until the year 1304.

Italian text

  • 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.

Aragonese text

  • Libro de los fechos et conquistas del principado de la Morea, was compiled at the end of the 14th century, in 1393, 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.[5] 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.[2] 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.[6][7][8][9]

The Author

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[2] 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.[10]

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.[11][12][13][14] 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. [13][15]

The first editions in print

The first printed edition of the Chronicle was published in 1840 by J.A. Buchon. It contained the Greek text from Paris.[1][16]

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.[17] In 1889 John Schmitt published both texts of the Copenhagen and Paris manuscripts side by side. [18] [19]


A 1964 translation of the Greek text by Harold E. Lurier.[9]

The first text

The book begins with a prologue of 1302 verses. The first three verses are:[3]

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


  1. 1.0 1.1 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.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jean-Claude Polet, Patrimoine littéraire européen, De Boeck Université, 1995, ISBN 2-8041-2077-5
  3. 3.0 3.1 William Smith, A History of Greece, R. B. Collins, 1855, p. 579
  4. P. Kolonaros, Το Χρονικόν του Μορέως (The Chronicle of Moreas), Athens 1940, page η'
  5. Encyclopedic Dictionary, entry on "Χρονικόν Μωρέως", Eleftheroudakis ed., 1931 (in Greek)
  6. M. Jeffreys, The Chronicle of the Morea: Priority of the Greek version, BZ 68 (1975) 304-350
  7. A. Panagiotis, Study Medieval Greek, Museum Tusculanum Press, 1992, ISBN 87-7289-163-7
  8. Cyril A. Mango, The Oxford History of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-814098-3
  9. 9.0 9.1 Topping, Peter (October 1965). "Crusaders as Conquerors: The Chronicle of Morea (book review)". Speculum. 40 (4): 737. doi:10.2307/2851426. JSTOR 2851426.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 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
  11. R. Browning Medieval and modern Greek
  12. G. Horrocks Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers, London & New York 1997, p. 276-81
  13. 13.0 13.1 H. Tonnet Histoire du grec modèrne, chapter “la langue médievale” )
  14. Kriaras in the Dictionary of Greek Medieval Vernacular Literature includes the Chronicle in his sources "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-04-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. N. Andriotes - History of the Greek language
  16. J.A. Buchon, Chroniques etrangères relatives aux expéditions françaises pendant le xiii siécle, 1840
  17. J.A. Buchon, Recherches historiques sur la principauté française de Morée et ses hautes baronies (1845)
  18. John Schmitt, Die Chronik von Morea, Munich, 1889
  19. 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


Further reading