The Morea

The Morea, also known as the Principality of Achaea, was an important locale for the production and proliferation of French language texts in the years after the Fourth Crusade, when Frankish leaders expanded outwards from Constantinople into other Greek lands, and established themselves in the northern part of the region of Southern Greece now called the Peleponnese. The Principality of Aachea was founded in 1205 by William of Champlitte and Geoffrey I of Villehardoin, nephew of the famous chronicler. William of Champlitte ruled Achaea until he departed for France to assume an inheritance, but died on the way in 1209 and was succeeded by Geoffrey I of Villehardouin. Under Villehardouin and his heirs, the Principality grew to encompass most of the Peloponnese.

Authors working in the Principality of Achaea produced a number of French-language works during this period, including narrative histories as well as diplomatic and legal texts. Unlike in the Crusader Kingdoms and in Cyprus, however, French was not the only western vernacular language at work in the region. Instead, French speakers vied with other vernacular language groups active in the region, including those who wrote and spoke Catalan, Aragonese, Italian, and Greek. The author Ramon Muntaner, for example, arrived in the Aegean in 1304 with the Catalan Company, and composed his Cronica in Catalan during the course of the early fourteenth century. A strong and persistent Venetian presence in the region encouraged the production of works in Italian, including translations of works originally written in French but which now survive only in Italian, such as the Assises de Romanie. A number of Byzantine historians from the Morea wrote their histories in Greek, which was also the language used in several versions of the Chronicle of Morea. Although writers in the west often portrayed the Principality of Morea as a quasi nova Francia, (so termed by Pope Honorious III), the Morea was instead an area where diverse cultures and  languages, including French, interacted within the shifting political climate of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries.

Among the political forces which played a role in the Morea were the Angevins of Naples, who were allied to Frankish nobility in the region through family relationships and marriage alliances. For a clearer picture of the production of French language texts within the Italian Angevin courts, see the French of Italy, with special reference to pages on the Italian Angevins.


Antoine Bon. La Morée Franque; recherches historiques, topographiques et archéologiques sur la Principauté d’Achaïe (1205-1430). Paris: Boccard, 1969.

Viewing the Morea: Land and People in the Late Medieval Peloponnese.  Edited by Sharon E.J. Gerstel. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Peter Lock. The Franks in the Aegean, 1204-1500. London: Longman, 1995.

I. Ortega. Les lignages nobiliaires dand La Morée latine (XIIIe-XVe siècle). Permanences et mutations. Turnhout: Brepols, 2012.