Montesquieu

Usbek to the same


I can­not say enough about the vir­tue of the Troglodytes. One of them would say one day : My father is to plow his field tomor­row ; I will rise two hours before him, and when he goes to his field, he will find it already plo­wed.

Another would say to him­self : My sis­ter seems to have taken a liking to a young Troglodyte who is rela­ted to us : I must raise this mat­ter with my father, and get him to arrange for this mar­riage.

One came to tell ano­ther that rob­bers had abs­conded with his herd. This is very disap­poin­ting, he said, for there was an all-white hei­fer which I meant to offer to the gods.

Another could be heard to say : I must go to the tem­ple to thank the gods : for my bro­ther, whom my father loves so, and who is so dear to me, has reco­ve­red his health.

Or else : There is a field adjoi­ning my father’s, and those who farm it are expo­sed every day to the heat of the sun : I must go plant two trees in it, so those poor folk can some­ti­mes go rest in their shade.

One day when seve­ral Troglodytes were assem­bled, an old man spoke of a young man he sus­pec­ted of com­mit­ting some foul deed, and reproa­ched him for it. We do not think he com­mit­ted this crime, said the young Troglodytes ; but if he did it, may he die the last of his family.1

One Troglodyte was told by someone that stran­gers had pilla­ged his house, and taken eve­ry­thing : If they were not unjust, he replied, I would wish the gods let them use it lon­ger than I have.

Such mul­ti­ple pros­pe­ri­ties were not obser­ved without envy. The neigh­bo­ring peo­ples got toge­ther, and on some vain pre­text resol­ved to make off with take their flocks. As soon as this inten­tion was known, the Troglodytes sent ambas­sa­dors to meet with them, who spoke to them as fol­lows :

What have the Troglodytes done to you ? Have they abduc­ted your wives, sto­len your live­stock, laid waste your coun­try­si­des ? No, we are just, and we fear the gods. So what do you want from us ? Do you want wool to make your­sel­ves clo­thing ? Do you want milk for your flocks, or the fruits of our fields ? Put down your arms, come among us, and we will give you some of all those things. But we swear by what is most sacred that if you enter our ter­ri­tory as ene­mies, we will regard you as an unjust peo­ple, and will treat you as wild beasts.

These words were rejec­ted with contempt ; these savage peo­ples ente­red armed into the ter­ri­tory of the Troglodytes, whom they thought were defen­ded by nothing but their inno­cence. But they were well pre­pa­red for defense. They had pla­ced their women and chil­dren in the midst of them. They were sur­pri­sed by their ene­mies’ injus­tice, but not by their num­ber. A new ardor had taken com­mand of their hearts : one wan­ted to die for his father, ano­ther for his wife and chil­dren, this one for his bro­thers, that one for his friends, and all for the Troglodyte peo­ple. The place of someone who expi­red was swiftly taken by ano­ther who, besi­des the com­mon cause, fur­ther had ano­ther indi­vi­dual’s death to avenge.

Such was the com­bat of injus­tice and vir­tue. Those cowardly peo­ple who sought nothing but plun­der were not even asha­med to flee ; and they yiel­ded to the vir­tue of the Troglodytes, though it had no effect on them.

Erzerum this 9th day of the moon of Gemmadi II, 1711

It other words, may he have no progeny to bury him : a Roman imprecation (see My Thoughts, no. 325).