Montesquieu

Our inti­macy with women is based on the delight atta­ched to the plea­su­res of the sen­ses, on the charm of loving and being loved, and also on the desire of plea­sing them, because they are very enligh­te­ned jud­ges of some of the things that cons­ti­tute per­so­nal merit. This gene­ral desire to please pro­du­ces gal­lan­try, which is not love, but the deli­cate, the light, the per­pe­tual illu­sion of love.

According to the dif­fe­rent cir­cum­stan­ces in each nation and in each cen­tury, love incli­nes more towards one of these three things than the other two. Now I say that in the times of our com­bats, it was the spi­rit of gal­lan­try that must have been gai­ning in strength.

I find in the law of the Lombards1 that if one of the two cham­pions had on his per­son herbs used in charms, the judge made him remove them, and made him swear he had no others. This law could only be based on com­mon opi­nion : it is fear, which as we have said has inven­ted so many things, that made peo­ple ima­gine these sorts of enchant­ments. Since in indi­vi­dual com­bats the cham­pions were fully armed, and since with heavy wea­pons, offen­sive and defen­sive, those of a cer­tain tem­per and a cer­tain strength confer­red infi­nite advan­ta­ges, the opi­nion that some com­ba­tants had enchan­ted wea­pons must have made many peo­ple cre­du­lous.

Hence arose the mar­ve­lous sys­tem of chi­valry. Every mind ope­ned to these ideas. Romances were peo­pled with knights errant, necro­man­cers, fai­ries, win­ged or intel­li­gent hor­ses, invi­si­ble or invul­ne­ra­ble men, magi­cians who atten­ded the birth or edu­ca­tion of great per­so­na­ges, enchan­ted and disen­chan­ted pala­ces : a new world in our world, and the ordi­nary course of nature left to com­mon peo­ple.

Knights-errant, ever armed, in a part of the world filled with châ­teaux, for­tres­ses, and bri­gands, found honor in puni­shing injus­tice and defen­ding the vul­ne­ra­ble. Whence again, in our roman­ces, the gal­lan­try based on the idea of love, com­bi­ned with those of strength and pro­tec­tion.

Thus gal­lan­try was born, when they ima­gi­ned extra­or­di­nary men who, seeing vir­tue allied with beauty and dis­tress, were impel­led to expose them­sel­ves to dan­gers for her, and to please her in the ordi­nary acts of life.

Our chi­val­ric roman­ces flat­te­red this desire to please, and gave to part of Europe that spi­rit of gal­lan­try that we can say was lit­tle known to the Ancients.

The pro­di­gious luxury of that immense city of Rome flat­te­red the notion of plea­su­res of the sen­ses. A cer­tain notion of tran­qui­lity in the Greek coun­try­side ins­pi­red des­crip­tions2 of the sen­ti­ments of love. The idea of knights errant, pro­tec­tors of the vir­tue and beauty of women, led to that of gal­lan­try.

That spi­rit was conti­nued by the prac­tice of tour­neys, which com­bi­ning the rights of valor and love, added fur­ther to the great impor­tance of gal­lan­try.

Book II, tit. 55, §11.

One can look at the Greek novels of the Middle Ages.