Usbek, having stopped in Smyrna, writes to his friend of the corruption and decadence of the Ottoman Empire: "There you have it, my dear Rustan, a correct idea of this empire, which will be the scene of some conqueror's triumphs in less than 200 years." (Italics mine, not Montesquieu's.)
The Persian Letters appeared in 1721; the letter quoted above is dated 1711 in the book. Historians date the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire to 1908, and the empire fell in 1922. Montesquieu had a keen mind or perhaps good intelligence (or "intel," as today's jargon-worshiping newspapers would have it).
Later, bound for Marseilles and urgently eyeing Paris, Usbek writes to another friend that "Travelers always seek out the big cities, as they are a country common to all foreigners." As yesterday, so today, except for those travelers who always forgo the big cities to seek out the all-inclusive resorts.
(Read the Persian Letters free here. The Ottoman prediction is in Letter 19, the observation about cities in Letter 23.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2009