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Several historians, in mentioning the ancient Persians, have dwelt with
peculiar severity on the manner in which they treated their women.
Jealous, almost to distraction, they confined the whole sex with the
strictest attention, and could not bear that the eye of a stranger
should behold the beauty whom they adored.
When Mahomet, the great legislator of the modern Persians, was just
expiring, the last advice that he gave to his faithful adherents, was,
"Be watchful of your religion, and your wives." Hence they pretend to
derive not only the power of confining, but also of persuading them,
that they hazard their salvation, if they look upon any other man
besides their husbands. The Christian religion informs us, that in the
other world they neither marry, nor are given in marriage. The religion
of Mahomet teaches us a different doctrine, which the Persians
believing, carry the jealousy of Asia to the fields of Elysium, and the
groves of Paradise; where, according to them, the blessed inhabitants
have their eyes placed on the crown of their heads, lest they should see
the wives of their neighbors.
To offer the least violence to a Persian woman, was to incur certain
death from her husband or guardian. Even their kings, though the most
absolute in the universe, could not alter the manners or customs of the
country, which related to the fair sex.
Widely different from this is the present state of Persia. By a law of
that country, their monarch is now authorized to go, whenever he
pleases, into the harem of any of his subjects; and the subject, on
whose prerogative he thus encroaches, so far from exerting his usual
jealousy, thinks himself highly honored by such a visit.
A laughable story, on this subject, is told of Shah Abbas, who having
got drunk at the house of one of his favorites, and intending to go into
the apartment of his wives, was stopped by the door-keeper, who bluntly
told him, "Not a man, sir, besides my master, shall put a mustachio
here, so long as I am porter." "What," said the king, "dost thou not
know me?" "Yes," answered the fellow, "I know that you are king of the
men, but not of the women."
Woman, in ancient Greece, seems to have been regarded merely in the
light of an instrument for raising up members of the state. And surely
it may be said of them that they nobly fulfilled this duty. The
catalogue of heroes and sages which shine in Grecian history bright and
numerous as stars in the firmament, are so many testimonials to the
faithfulness of Grecian women in this respect.
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