Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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What Laws reveal.

One makes a great mistake when one studies the penal laws of a people as if they were an expression of its character.  The laws do not reveal what a people is, but what appears to them foreign, strange, monstrous, and outlandish.  The laws deal with the exceptions to the accepted morality and the severest punishments fall on acts which relate to the customs of the neighbouring people.  Among the Wahabites, there are only two mortal sins: having another God than the Wahabite God, and smoking (it is designated by them as "the disgraceful kind of drinking".  And how is it with regard to murder and adultery?"  - asked the Englishman with astonishment on learning these things.  "God is gracious and merciful!"  answered the old chief.  Thus among the ancient Romans there was the idea that a woman could only sin mortally in two ways: by adultery on the one hand, and by wine drinking on the other.  Old Cato pretended that kissing among relatives had only been made a custom in order to keep women in control on this point; a kiss meant: did her breath smell of wine?  Wives had actually been punished by death who were discovered taking wine: and certainly not merely because women under the influence of wine sometimes unlearn altogether the art of saying No.  The Romans were afraid above all things of the orgiastic and Dionysian spirit with which the women of Southern Europe at that time (when wine was still new in Europe) were sometimes visited, as by a monstrous foreignness which subverted the basis of Roman sentiments; it seemed to them treason against Rome, as the embodiment of foreignness.  

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