Ancient Babylonians Were Just Like Us, Complained About Poor Service From Retailers
They were into Yelp before it was cool.
You millennials today have it so easy, you know. Time was if you wanted your local copper ore salesman to know you were unsatisfied with his merchandise, you had to painstakingly chisel out your frustrations onto a clay tablet, send it along with your messenger through a part of town where he might get jumped by one of your family’s various enemies, and hope the guy on the other end even knew how to read.
Just such a complaint was actually registered in 1750 BC during the Old Babylonian period, and the tablet on which it was carved now resides in the British Museum’s collection in London. The above picture by tcb34 has been making the rounds on Reddit for the past few days, but it gets even better—according to another user in the Reddit thread, labarna, distinguished Assyriologist Leo Oppenheim translates this exact tablet in his 1967 book Letters from Mesopotamia. It reads thusly:
Tell Ea-nasir: Nanni sends the following message:
When you came, you said to me as follows : “I will give Gimil-Sin (when he comes) fine quality copper ingots.” You left then but you did not do what you promised me. You put ingots which were not good before my messenger (Sit-Sin) and said: “If you want to take them, take them; if you do not want to take them, go away!”
What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt? I have sent as messengers gentlemen like ourselves to collect the bag with my money (deposited with you) but you have treated me with contempt by sending them back to me empty-handed several times, and that through enemy territory. Is there anyone among the merchants who trade with Telmun who has treated me in this way? You alone treat my messenger with contempt! On account of that one (trifling) mina of silver which I owe(?) you, you feel free to speak in such a way, while I have given to the palace on your behalf 1,080 pounds of copper, and umi-abum has likewise given 1,080 pounds of copper, apart from what we both have had written on a sealed tablet to be kept in the temple of Samas.
How have you treated me for that copper? You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore (my money) to me in full.
Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.
If it pleases the Internet, I would like to suggest “What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt?” as a possible new memetic replacement for “I came out to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now.” Think about it, friends. It would look great on t-shirts, possibly in Babylonian
Ready for it to get more better? According to labarna, who studies Babylonian astronomy, “Ea-nasir was a pretty big player in Ur at the time. This tablet itself was found in a building which was probably his house. Nanni shows up in a handful of other texts but he’s never really in charge of stuff. Tellingly the places where he does show up, it’s his sons receiving wages for work (using his name as a patronymic). So it sounds like he was a minor player, without even enough wealth to set his sons up in the family business.”
Guys, why do we ever only visit the BC era in movies and TV shows for stories of epic proportions like Spartacus or The Odyssey or 300? I kinda want to just watch two dudes arguing about copper, y’know? It would be like that episode of Doctor Who where they go to Pompeii, but without all the explosions—just that guy trying to buy blue boxes off of passersby for 45 minutes every week.I’d watch that, wouldn’t you?