Michel de Montaigne
Translated by John Florio (1603)

Book 1 Chapter 30
Of the Caniballes

At what time King Pirrhus came into Italie, after he had survaide the marshalling of the Armie, which the Romaines sent against him: I wot not, said he, what barbarous men these are (for so were the Græcians wont to call all strange nations) but the disposition of this Armie, which I see, is nothing barbarous. So said the Græcians of that which Flaminius sent into their countrie: And Phillip viewing from a Tower the order and distribution of the Romaine campe, in his kingdome under Publius Sulpitius Galba. Loe how a man ought to take heed, lest he over-weeningly follow vulgar opinions, which should be measured by the rule of reason, and not by the common report. I have had long time dwelling with mee a man, who for the space of tenne or twelve yeares had dwelt in that other world, which in our age was lately discovered in those partes where Villegaignon first landed, and surnamed Antartike France. This discoverie of so infinite and vast a countrie, seemeth worthie great consideration. I wot not whether I can warrant my selfe, that some other be not discovered hereafter, sithence so many worthie men, and better learned than we are, have so many ages beene deceived in this. I feare me our eyes be greater then our bellies, and that we have more curiositie then capacitie. We embrace all, but we fasten nothing but winde. Plato maketh Solon to reporte, that he had learn’t of the Priests of the Cittie of Says in Ægypt, that whilom, and before the generall Deluge, there was a great Iland called Atlantides, situated at the mouth of the straite of Gibralterre, which contained more firme land than Affrike and Asia together. And that the Kings of that countrie, who did not onely possesse that Iland, but had so farre entred into the maine-land, that of the breadth of Affrike, they held as farre as Ægypt; and of Europes length, as farre as Tuscanie: and that they undertooke to invade Asia, and to subdue all the nations that compasse the Mediterranean Sea, to the gulfe of Mare-Maggiore, and to that end they traversed all Spaine, France and Italie, so farre as Greece, where the Athenians made head against them; but that a while after, both the Athenians themselves, and that great Iland, were swallowed up by the Deluge. It is very likely this extreame ruine of waters wrought strange alterations in the habitations of the earth: as some holde that the Sea hath divided Sicilie from Italie,

Hæc loca ui quondam, & uasta conuulsa ruina Dissiluisse ferunt, cùm protinus utraque tellus Vna foret.

Men say, sometimes this land by that forsaken, And that by this, were split, and ruine-shaken, Whereas till then both lands as one were taken.

Cypres from Soria, the Iland of Negroponte from the maine land of Beotia, and in other places joyned landes that were sundred by the Sea, filling with mudde and sand the chanels betweene them.

sterilísque diu palus aptáque remis Vicinas urbes alit, & graue sentit aratrum.

The fenne long barren, to be row’d in, nowe Both feedes the neighbour townes, and feeles the plowe.

But there is no great apparence, the said Iland should be the new world we have lately discovered; for, it well-nigh touched Spaine, and it were an incredible effect of inundation to have removed the same more than twelve hundred leagues, as we see it is. Besides, our moderne Navigations have now almost discovered, that it is not an Iland, but rather firme land, and a continent, with the East Indias on one side, and the countries lying under the two Poles on the other; from which if it be divided, it is with so narrowe a straite, and intervalle, that it no way deserveth to be named an Iland: For, it seemeth there are certaine motions in these vast bodies, some naturall, and other-some febricitant, as well as in ours. When I consider the impression my river of Dordoigne worketh in my time, toward the right shoare of hir descent, and how much it hath gained in twentie yeares, and how many foundations of divers houses it hath overwhelmed and violently carried away; I confesse-it to be an extraordinarie agitation: for, should-it alwaies keepe one course, or had-it ever kept the same, the figure of the world had ere this beene overthrowne: But they are subject to changes and alterations. Sometimes they over-flowe and spreade themselves on one side, sometimes on another; and other times they containe themselves in their naturall beds or chanels. I speake not of sodaine inundations, whereof we now treate the causes. In Medoc alongst the Sea-coast, my brother the Lord of Arsacke, may see a towne of his buried under the sands, which the Sea casteth-up before it: The toppes of some buildings are yet to be discerned. His Rents and Demaines have bin changed into barren pastures. The inhabitants thereabouts affirme, that some yeares since, the Sea encroacheth so much upon them, that they have lost foure leagues of firme land: These sandes are hir fore-runners. And we see great hillokes of gravell moving, which march halfe a league before-it, and usurpe on the firme land. The other testimonie of antiquitie, to which some will referre this discoverie, is in Aristotle (if at least that little booke of unheard-of wonders be his) where he reporteth that certaine Carthaginians having sailed athwart the Atlantike Sea, without the straite of Gibralterre, after long time, they at last discovered a great fertill Iland; all replenished with goodly woods, and watred with great and deepe rivers, farre-distant from all land, and that both they and others, allured by the goodnes and fertilitie of the soyle, went thither with their wives, children, and household, and there began to habituate and settle themselves. The Lords of Carthage seeing their countrie by little and little to be dispeopled, made a lawe, and expresse inhibition, that upon paine of death no more men should goe thither, and banished all that were gone thether to dwell, fearing (as they said) that in successe of time, they would so multiply, as they might one day supplant them, and overthrowe their owne estate. This narration of Aristotle, hath no reference unto our new-found countries. This servant I had, was a simple and rough-hewen fellow: a condition fit to yeelde a true testimonie. For, subtile people may indeede marke more curiously, and observe things more exactly, but they amplifie and glose them: and the better to perswade, and make their interpretations of more validitie, they cannot chuse but somewhat alter the storie. They never represent things truely, but fashion and maske them according to the visage they saw them in; and to purchase credit to their judgement, and drawe you on to beleeve them, they commonly adorne, enlarge, yea, and Hyperbolise the matter. Wherein is required either a most sincere Reporter, or a man so simple, that he may have no invention to builde-upon, and to give a true likelyhoode unto false devices, and be not wedded to his owne will. Such a one was my man; who besides his owne reporte, hath many times shewed me divers Mariners, and Marchants, whom he had knowne in that voyage. So am I pleased with his information, that I never enquire what Cosmographers say of-it. We had neede of Topographers to make us particular narrations of the places they have beene in. For some of them, if they have the advantage of-us, that they have seene Palestine, will challenge a privilege, to tell-us newes of all the world besides. I would have every man write what he knowes, and no more: not onely in that, but in all other subjects. For one may have particular knowledge of the nature of one river, and experience of the qualitie of one fountaine, that in other things knowes no more then another man: who neverthelesse to publish this little scantling, wil undertake to write of all the Phisickes. From which vice proceede divers great inconveniences. Now (to returne to my purpose) I finde (as farre as I have beene informed) there is nothing in that nation, that is either barbarous or savage, unlesse men call that barbarisme which is not common to them. As indeede, we have no other ayme of truth and reason, then the example and Idea of the opinions and customes of the countrie we live-in. Where is ever perfect religion, perfect policie, perfect and compleate use of all things. They are even savage, as we call those fruites wilde, which nature of hir selfe, and of hir ordinarie progresse hath produced: whereas indeede, they are those which our selves have altered by our artificiall devices, and diverted from their common order, we should rather terme savage. In those are the true and most profitable vertues, and naturall properties most livelie and vigorous, which in these we have bastardized, applying them to the pleasure of our corrupted taste. And if notwithstanding, in divers fruites of those countries that were never tilled, we shall finde, that in respect of ours they are most excellent, and as delicate unto our taste; there is no reason, arte should gaine the point of honour of our great and puissant mother Nature. We have so much by our inventions, surcharged the beauties and riches of hir workes, that we have altogether over-choaked hir: yet where-ever hir puritie shineth, she makes our vaine, and frivolous enterprises wonderfully ashamed.

Et veniunt hederæ sponte sua melius, Surgit & in solis formosior arbutus antris, Et volucres nulla dulcius arte canunt.

Ivies spring better of their owne accord, Un-hanted plots much fairer trees afford, Birdes by no arte much sweeter notes record.

Al our endeavours or wit, cannot so much as reach to represent the neast of the least birdlet, it’s contexture, beautie, profit and use, no nor the webbe of a seelie spider. All things (saith Plato) are produced, either by nature, by fortune, or by arte. The greatest and fairest by one or other of the two first, the least and imperfect by the last. Those nations seeme therefore so barbarous unto mee, because they have received very-little fashion from humane wit, and are yet neere their originall naturalitie. The lawes of nature do yet commaund them, which are but little bastardized by ours. And that with such puritie, as I am sometimes grieved the knowledge of it came no sooner to light, at what time there were men, that better than we could have judged of-it. I am sorie, Licurgus and Plato had it not: for me seemeth that what in those nations wee see by experience, doth not onelie exceede all the pictures wherewith licentious Poesie hath prowdly imbellished the golden age, and al hir quaint inventions to faine a happy condition of man, but also the conception and desire of Philosophie. They could not imagine a genuitie so pure and simple, as we see it by experience; nor ever beleeve our societie might be maintained with so little arte and humane combination. It is a nation, would I answere Plato, that hath no kinde of traffike, no knowledge of Letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politike superioritie; no use of service, of riches, or of poverty; no contracts, no successions, no dividences, no occupation but idle; no respect of kinred, but common, no apparell but naturall, no manuring of lands, no use of wine, corne, or mettle. The very words that import lying, falshood, treason, dissimulation, covetousnes, envie, detraction, and pardon, were never heard-of amongst-them. How dissonant would hee finde his imaginary common-wealth from this perfection?

Hos natura modos primùm dedit.

Nature at first uprise, These manners did devise.

Furthermore, they live in a country of so exceeding pleasant and temperate situation, that as my testimonies have told me, it is very rare to see a sicke-body amongst-them; and they have further assured me, they never saw any man there, either shaking with the palsie, toothlesse, with eyes dropping, or crooked and stooping through age. They are seated alongst the sea-coast, encompassed toward the land with huge and steepie mountaines, having betweene both, a hundred leagues or there-abouts of open and champaine ground. They have great abundance of fish and flesh, that have no resemblance at all with ours, and eate them without any sawces, or skill of Cookerie, but plaine boiled or broyled. The first man that brought a horse thither, although he had in many other voyages conversed with them, bred so great a horror in the land, that before they could take notice of him, they slew him with arrowes. Their buildings are very long, and able to containe two or three hundred soules, covered with barkes of great trees, fastned in the ground at one end, enterlaced and joyned close together by the toppes, after the manner of some of our Granges; the covering whereof hangs downe to the ground, and steadeth them as a flancke. They have a kinde of wood so hard, that ryving and cleaving the same, they make blades, swords, and grid-yrons, to broile their meate with. Their beddes are of a kind of cotten cloth, fastened to the house-roofe, as our shippe-cabbanes: every one hath his severall cowch; for the women lie from their husbands. They rise with the Sunne, and feede for all day, as soone as they are up: and make no more meales after that. They drinke not at meate, as Suidas reporteth of some other people of the East, which dranke after meales, but drinke manie times a day, and are much given to pledge carowses. Their drinke is made of a certaine roote, and of the colour of our Claret wines, which lasteth but two or three dayes; they drinke it warme: It hath somewhat a sharp taste, wholsome for the stomake, nothing headie, but laxative for such as are not used unto it, yet verie pleasing to such as are accustomed unto it. Instead of bread, they use a certain white composition, like unto Corianders confected. I have eaten some, the taste whereof is somewhat sweete and wallowish. They spend the whole day in dancing. Their yong men goe a hunting after wilde beasts with bowes and arrowes. Their women busie themselves therewhil’st with warming of their drinke, which is their chiefest office. Some of their old men, in the morning before they goe to eating, preach in common to all the householde, walking from one end of the house to the other, repeating one selfe-same sentence many times, till he have ended his turne (for their buildings are a hundred paces in length) hee commends but two things unto his auditorie; First, valour against their enemies, then lovingnesse unto their wives. They never misse (for their restraint) to put men in minde of this duetie, that it is their wives which keepe their drincke luke-warme and well-seasoned. The forme of their beddes, cordes, swordes, blades, and woodden bracelets, wherewith they cover their handwrists, when they fight, and great Canes open at one end, by the sound of which they keepe time and cadence in their dauncing, are in many places to be seene, and namely in mine own house. They are shaven all-over, much more close and cleaner than wee are, with no other Razers than of wood or stone. They beleeve their soules to be eternall, and those that have deserved well of their Gods, to be placed in that part of heaven where the Sunne riseth; and the cursed toward the West in opposition. They have certaine Prophets and Priests, which commonly abide in the mountaines, and very seldome shew them-selves unto the people; but when they come downe, there-is a great feast prepared, and a solemne assembly of manie towneships together (each Grange as I have described maketh a village, and they are about a French league one from an other.) The Prophet speakes to the people in publike, exhorting them to embrace vertue, and follow their duetie. All their morall discipline containeth but these two articles; first an undismayed resolution to warre, then an inviolable affection to their wives. Hee doth also prognosticate of things to come, and what successe they shall hope-for in their enterprises: hee either perswadeth or disswadeth them from warre; but if hee chance to misse of his divination, and that it succeede other-wise than he fore-told them, if hee be taken, hee is hewen in a thousand peeces, and condemned for a false prophet. And therefore he that hath once mis-reckoned him selfe is never seene againe. Divination is the gift of God; the abusing whereof should be a punishable imposture. When the Divines amongst the Scithians had foretolde an untruth, they were couched along upon hurdles full of heath or brush-wood, and so manicled hand and foote, burned to death. Those which manage matters subject to the conduct of mans sufficiencie, are excusable, although they shew the utmost of their skill. But those that gull and coni-catch-us with the assurance of an extraordinarie facultie, and which is beyond our knowledge, ought to be double punished; first because they performe not the effect of their promise, then for the rashnes of their imposture and unadvisednes of their fraude. They warre against the nations, that lye beyond their mountaines, to which they goe naked, having no other weapons, then bowes, or woodden swords, sharpe at one ende, as our broaches are. It is an admirable thing to see the constant resolution of their combates, which never ende but by effusion of bloud and murther: for they know not what feare or rowts are. Every Victor brings home the head of the enimie he hath slaine as a Trophey of his victorie, and fastneth the same at the entrance of his dwelling-place. After they have long time used and entreated their prisoners well, and with all commodities they can devise, hee that is the Maister of them, summoning a great assembly of his acquaintance; tieth a corde to one of the prisoners armes, by the end whereof hee holdes him fast, with some distance from him, for feare he might offend him, and giveth the other arme, bound in like maner, to the dearest friend he hath, and both in the presence of all the assemblie kill him with swordes: which doone, they roste and then eate him in common, and send some slices of him to such of their friendes as are absent. It is not, as some imagine, to nourish themselves with-it, (as anciently the Scithians wont to do,) but to represent an extreame, and inexpiable revenge. Which we prove thus; some of them perceiving the Portugales, who had confederated themselves with their adversaries, to use another kinde of death, when they tooke them prisoners; which was, to burie them up to the middle, and against the upper part of the body to shoote arrowes, and then being almost dead, to hang them-up; they supposed, that these people of the other world (as they who had sowed the knowledge of many vices amongst their neighbours, and were much more cunning in all kindes of evilles and mischiefe then they) under-tooke not this maner of revenge without cause, and that consequently it was more smartfull, and cruell then theirs, and thereupon began to leave their olde fashion to followe this. I am not sory we note the barbarous horror of such an action, but grieved, that prying so narrowly into their faults, we are so blinded in ours. I think there is more barbarisme in eating men alive, then to feede upon them being dead; to mangle by tortures and torments a body full of lively sense, to roast him in peeces, and to make dogges and swine to gnawe and teare him in mammockes (as we have not onely read, but seene very lately, yea and in our owne memorie, not amongst ancient enemies, but our neighbours and fellow-citizens; and which is worse, under pretence of piety and religion) then to roast and teare him after he is dead. Chrysippus and Zeno, Arch-pillars of the Stoicke sect, have supposed that it was no hurt at all, in time of neede, and to what end soever, to make use of our carrion bodies, and to feede upon them, as did our forefathers, who being besieged by Cæsar in the Cittie of Alexia, resolved to sustaine the famine of the siege, with the bodies of old men, women, and other persons unserviceable and unfit to fight.

Vascones (fama est) alimentis talibus usi Produxere animas.

Gascoynes (as fame reportes) Liv’d with meates of such sortes.

And Phisitians feare not, in all kindes of compositions availefull to our health, to make use of it, be it for outward or inward applications: But there was never any opinion found so unnaturall and immodest, that would excuse treason, treachery, disloyalty, tyrannie, crueltie, and such like, which are our ordinary faults. We may then well call them barbarous, in regarde to reasons rules, but not in respect of us that exceede them in all kinde of barbarisme. Their warres are noble and generous, and have as much excuse and beautie, as this humane infirmitie may admit: they ayme at nought so much, and have no other foundation amongst them, but the meere jealosie of vertue. They contend not for the gaining of new landes; for to this day they yet enjoy that naturall ubertie and fruitefulnesse, which without labouring-toyle, doth in such plenteous aboundance furnish them with all necessary things, that they neede not enlarge their limites. They are yet in that happy estate, as they desire no more, then what their naturall necessities direct them: whatsoever is beyond it, is to them superfluous. Those that are much about one age, doe generally enter-call one another brethren, and such as are yonger, they call children, and the aged are esteemed as fathers to all the rest. These leave this full possession of goods in common, and without individuitie to their heires, without other claime or title, but that which nature doth plainely imparte unto all creatures, even as she brings them into the world. If their neighbours chance to come over the mountaines to assaile or invade them, and that they get the victory over them, the Victors conquest is glorie, and the advantage to be and remaine superiour in valour and vertue: else have they nothing to doe with the goods and spoyles of the vanquished, and so returne into their countrie, where they neither want any necessary thing, nor lacke this great portion, to know how to enjoy their condition happily, and are contented with what nature affordeth them. So doe these when their turne commeth. They require no other ransome of their prisoners, but an acknowledgement and confession that they are vanquished. And in a whole age, a man shall not finde one, that doth not rather embrace death, then either by word or countenance remissely to yeeld one jot of an invincible courage. There is none seene that would not rather be slaine and devoured, then sue for life, or shew any feare. They use their prisoners with all libertie, that they may so much the more hold their lives deare and precious, and commonly entertaine them with threates of future death, with the torments they shall endure, with the preparations intended for that purpose, with mangling and slicing of their members, and with the feast that shall be kept at their charge. All which is done, to wrest some remisse, and exact some faint-yeelding speech of submission from them, or to possesse them with a desire to escape or runne away; that so they may have the advantage to have danted and made them afraide, and to have forced their constancie. For certainely true victory consisteth in that onely point.

Victoria nulla est Quàm quæ confessos animo quoque subiugat hostes.

No conquest such, as to suppresse Foes hearts, the conquest to confesse.

The Hungarians, a most warre-like nation, were whilome woont to pursue their pray no longer then they had forced their enemie to yeeld unto their mercie. For, having wrested this confession from-him, they set him at libertie without offence or ransome, except it were to make-him sweare, never after to beare armes against them. Wee get many advantages of our enemies, that are but borrowed and not ours: It is the qualitie of porterly-rascall, and not of vertue, to have stronger armes, and sturdier legs: Disposition is a dead and corporall qualitie. It is a tricke of fortune to make our enemie stoope, and to bleare his eyes with the Sunnes-light: It is a pranke of skill and knowledge to be cunning in the arte of fencing, and which may happen unto a base and worthelesse man. The reputation and worth of a man consisteth in his heart and will: therein consists true honour: Constancie is valour, not of armes and legs, but of minde and courage: it consisteth not in the spirit and courage of our horse, nor of our armes, but in ours. Hee that obstinately faileth in his courage, Si succiderit, de genu pugnat. If he slip or fall, he fights upon his knee. He that in danger of imminent death, is no whit danted in his assurednesse; he that in yeelding up his ghost beholdeth his enemie with a scornefull and fierce looke, he is vanquished, not by us, but by fortune: he is slaine, but not conquered. The most valiant, are often the most unfortunate. So are there triumphant losses in envie of victories. Not those foure sister-victories, the fairest that ever the Sunne beheld with his all-seeing eye, of Salamine, of Platea, of Mycale, and of Sicilia, durst ever dare to oppose all their glorie together, to the glory of the King Leonidas his discomfiture and of his men, at the passage of Thermopyles: what man did ever runne with so glorious an envie, or more ambitious desire to the goale of a combat, then Captaine Ischolas to an evident losse and overthrow? who so ingeniously or more politikely did ever assure him-selfe of his wel-fare, then he of his ruine? He was appointed to defend a certaine passage of Peloponensus against the Arcadians, which finding himselfe altogether unable to performe, seeing the nature of the place, and inequalitie of the forces, and resolving, that whatsoever should present-it selfe unto his enemie, must necessarily be utterly defeated: On the other side, deeming-it unworthy both his vertue and magnanimitie, and the Lacedemonian name, to faile or faint in his charge, betweene these two extremities he resolved upon a meane and indifferent course, which was this. The yongest and best disposed of his troupe, he reserved for the service and defence of their countrie, to which hee sent them backe; and with those whose losse was least, and who might best be spared, hee determined to maintaine that passage, and by their death to force the enemie, to purchase the entrance of it as deare as possibly he could; as in deede it followed. For being sodainely environed round by the Arcadians: After a great slaughter made of them, both himselfe and all his were put to the sword. Is any Trophey assigned for conquerours, that is not more duly due unto these conquered? A true conquest respecteth rather an undanted resolution, and honourable end, then a faire escape, and the honour of vertue doth more consist in combating then in beating. But to returne to our History, these prisoners, howsoever they are dealt withall, are so farre from yeelding, that contrariwise during two or three moneths that they are kept, they ever carry a cheerefull countenance, and urge their keepers to hasten their triall, they outragiously defie, and injure them. They upbray them with their cowardlinesse, and with the numbers of battels, they have lost against theirs. I have a song made by a prisoner, wherein is this clause, Let them boldly come altogether, and flocke in multitudes, to feede on him; for, with him they shall feede upon their fathers, and grandfathers, that heretofore have served his body for foode and nourishment: These muscles, (saith he) this flesh, and these veines, are your owne; fond men as you are, know you not that the substance of your forefathers limbes is yet tied unto ours? Taste them well, for in them shall you finde the rellish of your owne flesh: An invention, that hath no shew of barbarisme. Those that paint them dying, and that represent this action, when they are put to execution, delineate the prisoners spitting in their executioners faces, and making mowes at them. Verily, so long as breath is in their bodie, they never cease to brave and defie them, both in speech and countenance. Surely, in respect of us these are very savage men: for either they must be so in good sooth, or we must bee so indeede: There is a wondrous distance betweene their forme and ours. Their men have many wives, and by how much more they are reputed valiant, so much the greater is their number. The maner and beautie in their marriages is woondrous strange and remarkable: For, the same jealosie our wives have to keepe us from the love and affection of other women, the same have theirs to procure-it. Being more carefull for their husbands honour and content, then of any thing else: They endevour and apply all their industry, to have as many rivalls as possibly they can, forasmuch as it is a testimonie of their husbands vertue. Our women would count-it a wonder, but it is not so: It is vertue properly Matrimoniall; but of the highest kinde. And in the Bible, Lea, Rachel, Sara, and Jacobs wives brought their fairest maiden-servants unto their husbands beds. And Livia seconded the lustfull appetites of Augustus to her great prejudice. And Stratonica, the wife of King Deiotarus did not onely bring a most beauteous chamber-maide, that served her to her husbands bed, but very carefully brought-up the children he begot on her, and by all possible meanes ayded and furthered them to succeede in their fathers royaltie. And least a man should thinke, that all this is done by a simple, and servile, or awefull dutie unto their custome, and by the impression of their ancient customes authoritie, without discourse or judgement, and because they are so blockish, and dull- spirited, that they can take no other resolution, it is not amisse, wee alleadge some evidence of their sufficiencie. Besides what I have saide of one of their warlike songs, I have another amorous canzonet, which beginneth in this sense: Adder stay, stay good adder, that my sister may by the patterne of thy partie-coloured coate drawe the fashion and worke of a rich lace, for me to give unto my love; so may thy beautie, thy nimblenesse or disposition be ever preferred before al other serpents. The first couplet is the burthen of the song. I am so conversant with Poesie, that I may judge, this invention hath no barbarisme at all in-it, but is altogether Anacreontike. Their language is a kinde of pleasant speech, and hath a pleasing sound, and some affinitie with the Greeke terminations. Three of that nation ignoring how deare the knowledge of our corruptions will one day cost their repose, securitie, and happinesse, and how their ruine shall proceede from this comerce, which I imagine is already well advanced, (miserable as they are to have suffered themselves to be so cosoned by a desire of new-fangled novelties, and to have quit the calmenesse of their climate, to come and see ours) were at Roane in the time of our late King Charles the ninth, who talked with them a great while. They were shewed our fashions, our pompe, and the forme of a faire Cittie; afterward some demanded their advice, and would needes knowe of them what things of note and admirable they had observed amongst-us: they answered three things, the last of which I have forgotten, and am very sorie for-it, the other two I yet remember. They saide, First, they found-it very strange, that so many tall men with long beardes, strong and well armed, as were about the Kings person (it is very likely they meant the swizzers of his guarde) would submit themselves to obey a beardlesse childe, and that we did not rather chuse one amongst them to command the rest. Secondly (they have a maner of phrase whereby they call men but a moytie one of others.) They had perceived, there were men amongst us full gorged with all sortes of commodities, and others which, hunger-starven, and bare with neede and povertie, begged at their gates: and found it strange, these moyties so needie could endure such an injustice, and that they tooke not the others by the throte, or set fire on their houses. I talked a good while with one of them, but I had so bad an interpreter: and who did so ill apprehend my meaning, and who through his foolishnesse was so troubled to conceive my imaginations, that I could drawe no great matter from him. Touching that point, wherein I demaunded of him, what good he received by the superioritie hee had amongst his countriemen (for he was a Captaine and our Marriners called him King) he told me, it was to march formost in any charge of warre: further, I asked him, how many men did follow him: he shewed me a distance of place, to signifie, they were as many as might be contained in so much ground, which I guessed to be about 4 or 5 thousand men: moreover demanded if when warres were ended, all his authoritie expired? he answered, that hee had onely this left him, which was, that when he went on progresse, and visited the villages depending of him, the inhabitants prepared paths and high-wayes athwart the hedges of their woodes, for him to passe through at ease. All this is not very ill; but what of that? They weare no kinde of breeches or hosen.

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  • UpdatedFebruary 14, 2022
  • TranslationJohn Florio
  • LicensePublic domain
  • Source Montaigne, Michel de. Essayes of Morall, Politike, and Millitarie Discourses. Translated by John Florio. London: Edward Blount, 1603.

How to cite this page

  • Montaigne, Michel de. “Of the Caniballes.” Translated by John Florio. Last modified February 14, 2022.