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Region, SE France, comprising the departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Var, and Bouches-du-Rhône and parts of the departments of Vaucluse and Alpes-Maritimes. Provence is bordered on the E by Italy, on the S by the Mediterranean Sea, and on the W by the Rhône R. The area abounds with flower fields, vineyards, orchards, and olive and mulberry groves. Along the seacoast is the French Riviera and the ports of Marseille and Toulon. The modern inhabitants of Provence preserve a distinct regional character, as well as their own language 

The region originally formed part of a Roman province, Provincia Romana, constituted about 120 BC. It passed successively into the possession of several ancient Germanic peoples, the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths, and the Frankish kings. In AD 879 the area was incorporated into the kingdom of Provence, sometimes called Cisjurane Burgundy, and in the 10th century into the kingdom of Arles. After being ruled by the house of Anjou from about 1245 to 1482, the region came into the possession of King Louis XI of France, and in 1486 it was annexed to the French Kingdom. Provence was a province of France until the French Revolution, after which the area was distributed among several departments. 


Also Occitan or Languedoc, Romance language spoken in the southern third of France, used by about one-fourth of the French population. Provençal developed an eminent literature in the 11th to 15th centuries, including the poems of the troubadours. It extended significantly north of its present speech region, and its standard literary dialect bridged many local dialects. This literary language began to wane after France established dominion over the south in the 14th century. In the 19th century the poet Frédéric Mistral led a movement to establish a modern standard literary Provençal. In a move to preserve regional heritage and culture, the French government in 1993 instructed state schools to start teaching Provençal and other indigenous languages. 

Provençal dialect groups include Limousin and Auvergnat in south-central France, Languedoc and Provençal proper in the Mediterranean area, and Gascon (sometimes considered a separate language) in southwest France. Settled by the Romans earlier than the rest of France, their Latin-derived speech was less influenced than northern French by Frankish and other Germanic languages. Although Provençal has been increasingly influenced by French, its structure is closer to that of Spanish and Catalan. The term Franco-Provençal refers to a distinctive group of dialects spoken northeast of the Provençal area, extending slightly into Switzerland and Italy. 


Vernacular Latin literature written in southern France from about the 9th to the 15th century. 

The earliest attempts at composition in the Provençal language probably were made by priests and monks in the 9th century. To arouse the religious sympathies of the people, they composed, or translated from the Latin into the vulgar idiom, prayers, hymns, pious tales, allegories, and legends of saints. At the end of the 11th century Provençal poetry was greatly stimulated by the religious wars of the Crusades and the introduction of the institution of chivalry. 

Provençal literature was essentially poetic. Its prose works are of little importance; later, in the 14th and 15th centuries, prose works became more numerous and included scientific, juridical, philological, and other works. Drama was not cultivated. The only productions that might come under drama are pieces on pious subjects in dramatized form, such as the Mystery of the Passion and the Marriage of the Virgin. 

Poetry of the Provençal troubadours began appearing in the early 12th century and reached its fullest expression in three poets writing at the end of the century: Bertran de Born (c. 1140–1215), Arnaud Daniel (c. 1150–1210), and Guiraut de Bornelh (1150?–1220). Within just a few generations this poetry developed into a complicated art form so perfect technically that in the 13th century Provençal was considered by some to be the most suitable language for lyric poetry. 

In this poetry the lady, usually aristocratic and married, is separated from her lover (the poet) for various social, geographic, or even psychic reasons; the poet, in singing of his love, tries to reach an overwhelming sentiment, which he calls joie ("joy, happiness"). Provençal poetry expresses a sensuous love quite opposed to the traditional Christian concept. 

The two distinguishing characteristics of Provençal versification are the rhyme and the syllabic accent. The great number of final syllables of the same sound in the declensions and conjugations of the language offered great ease of rhyming. With the war against the Albigenses in the 13th century and the establishment of French domination in the south, Provençal poetry began to decline. In the following centuries few Provençal works were worthy of notice. In the 19th century, however, a new poetic activity grew up, beginning with the poet Jacques Jasmin (1798–1864), and after him Frédéric Mistral, a poet of great genius and one of the founders of the Félibrige, a society dedicated to reviving the use of Provençal; Théodore Aubanel (1829–86); and others. Poetic festivals have been introduced to aid the movement, and in 1993 the French government, recognizing the importance of regional culture, instructed state schools to begin teaching Provençal and other regional languages.


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