Is this the oldest ever complaint letter?
Have you ever written a stern letter of complaint? Imma take a guess that a small fraction of people reading this have ABSOLUTELY beaked off on social media about a place, person, product, that let you down 😉 *Maybe*
Well, a clay tablet is being displayed at The British Museum, having been unearthed in Ur, an important Sumerian city-state located modern southern Iraq. The tablet measures 4.6-inches tall, 2-inches wide and 1-inch thick, and dates from 1,750 BC!
Supposedly a merchant named Ea-nasir journeyed to the Persian Gulf to buy copper to sell in Mesopotamia. This included a number of copper ingots for Nanni, who repeatedly sent his servant to pay for them. The ancient Babylonians were skilled metalworkers and made bronze by mixing tin and copper.
According to a translation from Leo Oppenheim’s book, ‘Letters from Mesopotamia,’ the copper ordered by Nanni was sub-standard and wasn’t accepted, but was paid for. Nanni composed the cuneiform text to make his bitter feelings known, with the intention of getting his money back.
The translation reads: ‘Tell Ea-nasir: Nanni sends the following message:
‘When you came, you said to me as follows “I will give Gimil-Sin 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 and said “If you want to take them, take them, if you do not want to take them, go away!”‘
He then says the remarkably modern phrase, ‘what do you take me for?’ and asks why he has been treated with such disrespect.
‘I have sent as messengers gentlemen like ourselves to collect the bag with my money but you have treated me with contempt by sending them back to me empty-handed several times, and that through enemy territory.’
The tablet complains Nanni’s servant was treated badly too.
‘On account of that one 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.’
Nanni concludes his complaint by saying he will not accept any more copper from the rude merchant 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,’ he says, according to the translation.
Thanks for stopping by,