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Chronicle of Morea

The Chronicle of Morea, a text that narrates important events in the history of the Latin presence in the Outremer, survives in eight different manuscripts, one of which is written in French prose. Prose versions of the Chronicle also exist in Aragonese and Italian, along with a Greek version composed in verse.

By most estimates, the French text was written between 1331 and 1346, and now remains in only one manuscript, currently housed in Brussels. The work is believed to be an abridgement of an earlier text since the scribe who copied it states that he was transcribing parts of the Chronicle from an exemplar that belonged to Bartolommeo Ghisi, a castellan who lived near Thebes in the early fourteenth century.

The text opens with a brief chronological table that records the major events in the Latin East, with a special interest in the Peloponnes.The first entry records the sack of Jerusalem by the armies of First Crusade in 1099, and the last makes reference to the conquest of several Frankish castles by Byzantine forces under Andronicus Asen in 1333. A narrative section follows, with brief accounts of the Fourth Crusade, the capture of Constantinople, and the ensuing take-over of the Peloponnese by Frankish knights under William of Champlitte.

The author pays particular attention to the establishment of the fiefs in the realm; following his narrative of the conquest, he records the names of each fief-holder in the newly-created Principality of Morea. The text also includes an epic recounting of the battle of Pelagonia in 1259, focusing on the heroic deeds of several French knights in spite of their defeat by the Byzantine army.

The later sections of the Chronicle occasionally stray outside of the geographical boundaries of the Morea to follow the exploits of Charles of Anjou, who advanced into Italy after winning the battles of Benevento and Tagliacozzo, and who ultimately came to rule over his own Southern Italian Kingdom. Some scholars believe that the French version of the Chronicle was reworked at the Angevin court of Naples in the early fourteenth century during the reign of Robert I, at whose court literature was vigorously promoted and patronized, and whose sister-in-law, Catherine de Valois, held the title of regent of the Principality of Morea.

Representative MSS
Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique 15702.

Longnon, Jean, ed. Livre de la conqueste de la Princeìe de l’Amoreìe. Paris: Socieìteì de l’Histoire de France, 1911.

Van Arsdall, Anne, and Helen Moody, ed. The Old French Chronicle of Morea: An Account of Frankish Greece after the Fourth Crusade. Crusade Texts in Translation. Vol. 28. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2015.

Secondary Literature
Lurier, Harold E. Crusaders as conquerors: The Chronicle of Morea. London: Columbia University Press, 1964.

Shawcross, Teresa. The Chronicle of Morea: Historiography in Crusader Greece. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.