The Fourth Crusade and the Problem of Food Provision in The Accounts of Robert De Clari and Geoffroy De Villehardouin

The Fourth Crusade and the Problem of Food Provision in The Accounts of Robert De Clari and Geoffroy De Villehardouin

By Zdzisław Pentek

Studia historiae oeconomicae, Vol.32:1 (2014)

Abstract: This text provides the analysis of two texts, written by Robert de Clari and Geoffroy de Villehardouin, two chroniclers at the times of the Fourth Crusade. The analysis discusses their account of food provision and how Crusaders managed to provide for themselves during their journey from Venice to Constantinople in the period between June 1202 and May 1204.

Introduction: The problem of army provisions in the Middle Ages has, to a large extent, remained ignored in reference books. However, it does not mean that this problem was not of a crucial importance. The problem becomes even more obscure when we consider the Crusades to Palestine in the years 1096-1291. When we read solely publications written by western and oriental writers who took part in this enterprise, we realize that the description of food eaten by both people and animals, and the ways food was obtained is not only fragmented and incomplete, but sometimes completely absent. In this article I would like to analyse the accounts of two participants of the Fourth Crusade: Robert de Clari and Geoffroy Villehardouin. These accounts are written in the dialects of the Old French language: Picard and Champenois.

The problem of hunger – and, on the odd occasion, prosperity – is discussed in very little detail by the authors of the narratives that describe the Fourth Crusade. These are the accounts of the participants of a Crusade not to the Holy Land, but to Constantinople. The first author is a high official and a knight, a marshal from the Champenois region, Geoffroy from Villehardouin (ca. 1148- ca. 1212). His experiences include negotiations with Venetians and envoy to Byzantine Emperors in 1203. When he eventually decided to settle in the newly formed state, the Latin empire, he was the marshall of Romania. His account, La conquête de Constantinople, is considered to be the official account of the mission, but, to a large extent, it is very incomplete.

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