XVIII.1 How the nature of the terrain influences the laws

The qua­lity of a coun­try’s lands natu­rally esta­bli­shes depen­dency. Rural peo­ple, who make up most of the popu­la­tion, are not so jea­lous of their free­dom ; they are too busy with, and too preoc­cu­pied by, their pri­vate concerns. A coun­try­side aboun­ding in wealth fears pillage, and fears an army. “Who makes up the good party ?” said Cicero to Atticus. “Will it be mer­chants and coun­try folk ? Not unless we ima­gine they are oppo­sed to the monar­chy, those to whom all govern­ments are equal, as long as they are tran­quil.”1

Thus, govern­ment by one man alone is more often found in fer­tile coun­tries, and govern­ment by seve­ral in coun­tries which are not fer­tile, which is some­ti­mes a com­pen­sa­tion.

The ari­dity of the Attic ter­rain esta­bli­shed popu­lar govern­ment there, and fer­ti­lity of Lacedæmon’s ter­rain, aris­to­cra­tic govern­ment. For in those times Greece wan­ted nothing to do with govern­ment of one man alone, and aris­to­cra­tic govern­ment is most like that of one man alone.

Plutarch says that after the Cylonian sedi­tion was put down in Athens the city rever­ted to its for­mer dis­sen­sions, and divi­ded itself into as many par­ties as there were kinds of ter­ri­to­ries in Attica. The moun­tain peo­ple insis­ted on a popu­lar govern­ment ; the peo­ple of the plain wan­ted a govern­ment by the prin­ci­pals ; those near the sea favo­red a mix­ture of the two.2

Book VII.

Life of Solon.