Montesquieu

To consi­der poly­gamy in gene­ral, inde­pen­dently of the cir­cum­stan­ces which can make it somew­hat accep­ta­ble, it is not use­ful to the human race, nor to either of the two sexes, to the one that abu­ses nor to the one that is abu­sed. Neither is it use­ful to chil­dren, and one of its great draw­backs is that the father and mother can­not have the same affec­tion for their chil­dren : a father can­not love twenty chil­dren as a mother loves two. It is much worse yet when a woman has mul­ti­ple hus­bands, for then pater­nal love hangs only on this opi­nion : that a father may believe, if he wishes, or that the others may believe, that cer­tain chil­dren are his.

A plu­ra­lity of wives – who would have thought it ? – leads to that love which nature disowns ; for one degra­da­tion always brings ano­ther with it. I remem­ber that in the revo­lu­tion that took place in Constantinople when the sul­tan Ahmed was depo­sed, accounts of it said that when the peo­ple had ran­sa­cked the house of of the kehaya, they had found not a sin­gle woman there. We are told that in Algiers the point has been rea­ched where there are none at all in most sera­glios.1

Moreover, the pos­ses­sion of many wives does not always pre­clude desi­res for ano­ther’s wife ; lust is like ava­rice, which gets thirs­tier from the acqui­si­tion of trea­su­res.

In the time of Justinian, seve­ral phi­lo­so­phers cons­trai­ned by Christianity with­drew to Persia with Khosrow. What struck them the most, says Agathias,2 was that poly­gamy was per­mit­ted to men who did not even abs­tain from adul­tery.

Laugier de Tassy, Histoire du royaume d’Alger.

De la vie et des actions de Justinien, p. 403.