The history of French-speaking settlers and settlements in the area previously known as the Byzantine Empire begins in 1204, with the Fourth Crusade and the capture of Constantinople by French and Venetian crusading forces. The original goal of these conquerers was to recapture territiories that had been lost to the Muslims in the Holy Land, but a diversion of the crusade led to the eventual division of eastern Christian lands among the invading western Christian forces, documented in a treaty called the Partitio Romaniae. The most famous French-language sources for this enterprise are the Chronique de la prise de Constantinople par les Francs, written by Geoffrey Villehardouin while he was still living in the East, and the Conquete de Constantinople, written in France by Robert de Clari. A third French-language history, Les Estoires de Venise by Martin da Canal, also features a lengthy description of the capture of Constantinople during the fourth crusade, although it was written in Venice, not Outremer.
In the initial years after the Crusade, western forces, and the French in particular, claimed dominion over a vast expanse of territory. Over time, French influence over many of these areas waned, but in others the French culture French language flourished. French language texts were produced in many areas, but the bulk of the evidence comes from the island of the Morea and its dependancies.
Click here for an introduction to the Morea and the texts produced there.
Bibliography to come: