VII.9 On the condition of women under the various governments

Women show lit­tle dis­cre­tion in monar­chies because, the dis­tinc­tion of ranks cal­ling them to the court, they go there and adopt the spi­rit of free­dom which is the only one allo­wed. Everyone uses their charms and pas­sions to advance his for­tune ; and as their weak­ness allows them not pride but vanity, luxury always rei­gns there with them.

In des­po­tic sta­tes women do not intro­duce luxury, but are them­sel­ves a luxury item. They must be extre­mely ensla­ved. Everyone fol­lows the spi­rit of the govern­ment, and brings home with him what he sees esta­bli­shed elsew­here. As the laws are severe, and are swiftly exe­cu­ted, there is fear lest the free­dom of women cause trou­ble. Their squab­bles, their indis­cre­tions, their anti­pa­thies, pen­chants, jea­lou­sies, piques, and the art of petty souls for entan­gling great ones, can­not be without conse­quence.

Moreover, as in these sta­tes the prin­ces make sport of human­kind, they have seve­ral wives, and a thou­sand consi­de­ra­tions oblige them to lock them up.

In repu­blics, women are free by law, and cap­ti­va­ted by the morals ; luxury is ban­ned, and with it cor­rup­tion and vice.

In the Greek cities, which did not live under the reli­gion that esta­bli­shes that even for men moral purity is part of vir­tue ; in the Greek cities, where a blind vice ran wild, where love had only one form which one dare not name while friend­ship only had taken sanc­tuary in mar­riage,1 the vir­tue, sim­pli­city, and chas­tity of women were such that there has hardly ever been a peo­ple which was more regu­lar in this regard.2

“As for true love,” says Plutarch, “women have no part in it.” (Moralia, Amatorius, p. 600.)

In Athens there was a particular magistrate to oversee the conduct of women.