Montesquieu

Lands are not culti­va­ted in pro­por­tion to their fer­ti­lity, but in pro­por­tion to their liberty ; and if we ima­gine a divi­sion of the land, we will be sur­pri­sed most of the time to see wil­der­ness in the most fer­tile parts, and large popu­la­tions in parts where the land seems to yield nothing.

It is natu­ral for a peo­ple to leave a bad region to seek a bet­ter one, and not to leave a good region to seek a worse one. Most inva­sions the­re­fore occur in coun­tries which nature had made to be pros­pe­rous ; and as nothing is clo­ser to devas­ta­tion than inva­sion, the best coun­tries are the most often depo­pu­la­ted, whe­reas the awful nor­thern coun­try conti­nues always to be inha­bi­ted for the rea­son that it is almost unin­ha­bi­ta­ble.

We see from what his­to­rians tell us about the pas­sage of Scandinavian peo­ples to the banks of the Danube that it was not a conquest, but merely a trans­mi­gra­tion into unoc­cu­pied lands.

These happy cli­mes had the­re­fore been depo­pu­la­ted by other trans­mi­gra­tions, and we do not know what tra­gic events have taken place there.

“A num­ber of ves­ti­ges tes­tify,” says Aristotle, “that Sardinia is a Greek colony. It was once very rich, and Aristæus, whose love of agri­culture has been so vaun­ted, crea­ted its laws. But it has greatly decli­ned since ; for after the Carthaginians had taken over, they des­troyed eve­ry­thing that could ena­ble it to pro­vide men with food, and for­bade culti­va­tion of the land on pain of death.”1 Sardinia had not reco­ve­red in Aristotle’s time, and still has not today.

The most tem­pe­rate parts of Persia, Turkey, Muscovy, and Poland have been una­ble to reco­ver from the devas­ta­tions of the grea­ter and les­ser Tartars.

Or whoever wrote the book De mirabilibus [auscultationibus].