The 4,000 Year Old Complaint

Courtesy of the Facebook page History Daily comes a pretty amusing and unusual photo:
Ur!!

Believe it or not, this is an actual exhibit in the British Museum, which was acquired in the 1950s following an excavation in the ancient city of Ur, in modern Iraq.

The four thousand year complaint is directed to a merchant named Ea-Nasir from a customer named Nanni. Forbes provides a rough translation:

When you came, you said to me as follows : “I will give [Nanni’s servant] 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.

Amusement aside, it is genuinely interesting to think that ancient humans, seemingly so far from us culturally, socially, and intellectually, in fact had many of the same banal issues, attitudes, disputes, and behaviors. Depending on how you look at it, that is either reassuring but also kind of dismaying.

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