Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XVI.: An excellent Custom of the Samnites. - Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. XVI.: An excellent Custom of the Samnites. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 1.
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An excellent Custom of the Samnites.
THE Samnites had a custom, which, in so small a republic, and especially in their situation, must have been productive of admirable effects. The young people were all convened in one place, and their conduct was examined. He that was declared the best of the whole assembly had leave given him to take which girl he pleased for his wife; the second best chose after him; and so on† . Admirable institution! The only recommendation, that young men could have on this occasion, was their virtue and the services done their country. He who had the greatest share of these endowments chose which girl he liked out of the whole nation. Love, beauty, chastity, virtue, birth, and even wealth itself, were all, in some measure, the dowry of virtue. A nobler and grander recompence, less chargeable to a petty state, and more capable of influencing both sexes, could scarce be imagined.
The Samnites were descended from the Lacedæmonians; and Plato, whose institutes are only an improvement of those of Lycurgus, enacted nearly the same law.*
[† ]Fragment of Nicolaus Damascenus, taken from Stobæus, in the collection of Constantine Porphyrogenitus.
[* ]He even permits them to have a more frequent interview with one another.