Montesquieu
 

XVI.2 That in southern countries there is a natural inequality between the two sexes

Women in warm cli­ma­tes are nubile at eight, nine or ten years of age1 : thus child­hood and mar­riage almost always go toge­ther. They are old at twenty : rea­son and beauty the­re­fore never coha­bit in them. When beauty wants domi­na­tion, rea­son sees that it is denied ; when rea­son could obtain it, beauty is past. Women must be depen­dent, for rea­son can­not pro­vide them in old age with an influence which beauty had not gran­ted them even in youth. It is the­re­fore no sur­prise that, when reli­gion does not oppose it, a man should leave his wife to take ano­ther, and that poly­gamy should come into being.

In tem­pe­rate coun­tries, where the charms of women are bet­ter pre­ser­ved, where they become nubile later, and have chil­dren at a more advan­ced age, the aging of their hus­band in a sense fol­lows their own ; and since they have more rea­son and know­ledge when they marry, if only because they have lived lon­ger, a kind of equa­lity must have natu­rally come into being in the two sexes, and conse­quently the law of a sin­gle wife.

In cold coun­tries, the almost neces­sary consump­tion of strong drinks esta­bli­shes intem­pe­rance among men. Women, who have some natu­ral res­traint in this regard because they always have to defend them­sel­ves, the­re­fore also have the advan­tage of rea­son over them.

Nature, which has dis­tin­gui­shed men by strength and rea­son, has pla­ced no limit on their power other than the limits of that strength and that rea­son. She has given charms to women, and made things so that their ascen­dency ends with those charms ; but in warm coun­tries they are pre­sent only in the early sta­ges, and never over the full course of their life.

Thus the law that allows only one wife conforms to the phy­si­cal cli­mate of Europe, and not to the phy­si­cal cli­mate of Asia. That is why Mohammedanism found it so easy to esta­blish itself in Asia, and so dif­fi­cult to spread to Europe ; why Christianity has main­tai­ned itself in Europe, and been des­troyed in Asia ; and finally, why the Mohammedans are making such pro­gress in China and Christians so lit­tle.

Some rea­sons par­ti­cu­lar to Valentinian2 led him allow poly­gamy in the empire. That law, vio­lent for our cli­ma­tes, was sup­pres­sed3 by Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius.

Mohammed married Cadigha at age five and slept with her at eight. In the hot countries of Arabia and the Indies, the girls are nubile at eight and bear children the next year (Prideaux, Life of Mohammed). Women in the realms of Alger are known to bear children at nine, ten and eleven years of age (Laugier de Tassy, Histoire du royaume d’Alger, p. 61).

See Jordanes, De regno et tempor. succes., and the ecclesiastical historians.

See law 7 in the Cod. De Judæis et Cælicolis, and Novella 18, ch. v.