Southern France (or the south of France), colloquially known as le Midi, is defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Gironde, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy. The Midi includes:





Provence-Alpes-C™te d'Azur


the Southern parts of Rh™ne-Alpes


This area corresponds in large part to Occitania; the territory in which Occitan (langue d'oc—as distinct from the langues d'o•l of northern France) was historically the dominant language. The regions of Auvergne and Limousin are also a part of Occitania but are not normally referred to as southern France.


The terms used in this musical essay series for the region of Southern France of the Middle Ages (especially the 12th century) can be confusing. During the Middle Ages, what we know today as France was actually two separate cultural, linguistic, and political territories—France, or Gaul, in the north and Occitania in the south, which are roughly divided by the great river Loire. Today, the home of the troubadours is called Provence (thus the popular term Ņthe Troubadours of the ProvenceÓ). But this is largely for convenience sake, since the first troubadours were, for the most part, natives of provinces farther north; Poitou, Auvergne, and Limousin. The confusion is compounded by the fact that the southern provinces are also separate linguistic areas, so that such provinces as, for instance, Limousin and Provence are also designations of dialects; Lemosin and Provencal, both dialects of the Occitan (or Langue d'oc) language.


Lengad˜c (Occitan word) is a former province of France, now continued in the modern-day regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-PyrŽnŽes in the south of France, and whose capital city was Toulouse, now in Midi-PyrŽnŽes. The province of Languedoc (bordering the Mediterranean Sea on the south and the Rh™ne River) covered an area of approximately 16,490 sq. miles in the central part of southern France, roughly the region between the Rh™ne River (border with Provence) and the Garonne River (border with Gascony), extending northwards to the CŽvennes and the Massif Central (border with Auvergne). The province of Languedoc took its name from the Romance Provenal language widely spoken in Southern France in the Middle Ages and known as Langue d'oc (oc is Provenal for ŌyesÕ). Again, the use of the geographical designation Languedoc (separate from the language) can be confusing, since at the time of the troubadours Languedoc was a southeastern province in the political territory or country of Toulouse. But Languedoc is also synonymous with Occitania, the special culture of all of Southern France.

Occitan language  is a Romance language ... The French spoken north of the Loire and in France today was known as langue d'o•l (o•l also meaning ŌyesÕ). Occitan, also called Provenal or Langue d'oc (lenga d'˜c), is a Latin-based Romance language in the same way as Spanish, Italian or French. There are six main regional varieties with easy intercomprehension among them: Provenal, Vivaroalpenc, Auvernhat, Lemosin, Gascon and Lengadocian. All these varieties of the Occitan language are written and valid. Standard Occitan is a synthesis which respects soft regional adaptations.


As for the Provence in the time of the troubadours, it covered a larger area than today. Thus, it should be kept in mind that when the Provence is used for the home of the troubadours, it is not a designation that is completely accurate, but has come to represent their geographic and linguistic (Provenal) identity. (See maps on this ŅPlaylist & ImagesÓ webpage.) 


The following is a brief history of the geographical term Occitania.


From the Middle Ages onward the French rulers believed their kingdoms had natural borders: the mountains of the Pyrenees and the Alps; the rivers of the Rhine and Loire.


Occitania (or Languedoc) has been recognized as a linguistic and cultural concept since the Middle Ages, but has never been a legal nor a political entity under this name, although the territory was united in Roman times as the Septem Provinci¾ and the early Middle Ages (Aquitanica or the Visigothic Kingdom of Toulouse), before the French conquest started in the early 1200s. Occitania is the name given to the area where Occitan, the langue d'oc, was traditionally the first language. It covers almost half of modern France (the Midi–the southern part excluding the Basque Country and the Roussillon which is Catalon speaking), along with parts of what are now Italy and Spain.


Under later Roman rule (after 355), most of Occitania was known as Aquitania, itself part of the Seven Provinces with a wider Provence, while the northern provinces of what is now France were called Gallia (Gaul). Gallia Aquitania (or Aquitanica) is thus also a name used since medieval times for Occitania (i.e. Limousin, Auvergne, Languedoc and Gascony), including Provence as well in the early 6th century. Thus the historic Duchy of Aquitaine must not be confused with the modern French region called Aquitaine: this is the main reason why the term Occitania was revived in the mid-19th century. The names "Occitania" and "Occitan language" (Occitana lingua) appeared in Latin texts from as early as 1242-1254 to 1290 and during the following years of the early 14th century; texts exist in which the area is referred to indirectly as "the country of the Occitan language" (Patria Linguae Occitanae).