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Thread: Has he no shame? Ea-Nasir should just pony up and pay Nanni what he owes him. What an ass!

  1. #1
    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Has he no shame? Ea-Nasir should just pony up and pay Nanni what he owes him. What an ass!



    That's my judgment of the copper merchant Ea-Nasir from this complaint tablet sent to him c. 1750 BC, in the oldest known complaint letter in history. It was sent to him by Nanni, his customer, after Ea-Nasir bought ingots of copper in the Persian Gulf and returned to Mesopotamia to sell it there. The copper was of a very poor quality, though, so Nanni rejected it. Let's all hope Ea-Nasir provided the right grade of copper, because Nanni was kind enough to pay him anyway in expectation of better quality copper. Nanni's servant was sent through enemy territory just to retrieve the copper, yet he was treated rudely. I think Ea-Nasir needs to wise up, otherwise Nanni can just bypass him with the far more courteous merchants of Telmun.

    The letter reads as follows:

    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.
    The cuneiform tablet in question:



    Hope you enjoyed that.

  2. #2
    Abdülmecid I's Avatar ¡Ay Carmela!
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    Default Re: Has he no shame? Ea-Nasir should just pony up and pay Nanni what he owes him. What an ass!

    Excellent story, I owe you some rep, Roma. I remember reading it in the Birth of Writing, of Time-Life magazines.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I always recommend to every student interested in ancient history of the near/middle east to go and learn Aramaic or at least, ancient greek. Inscriptions, tablets, papyri, all of them present a very vivid image of the ancient life, not only interesting, but quite amusing as well. Of course, there are the official inscriptions, informing us of the torturing preferences of the average Assyrian king or how a random greek town used to elect officials with the task of supplying of extra virgin oil to the town's gym. The funniest ones, however, are the tablets and the Oxyrhynchus papyri of Fayum (Arsinoitis prefecture), because they lack the prose and the neutral tone of the official documents, like that poor Egyptian peasant who lost everything, because of the free market of the Ptolemies.
    I would like to appeal to your authority, because it is universally known how magnanimous and benevolent you are. Please, take some of your valuable time to correct the injustice I suffer from, as long as, of course, you are not too busy correcting other injustice things. I am a poor and humble peasant that used to cultivate lentils, which I sold them in the local market of Crocodilopis and with the money I gained, I fed my family and took care of my house and farm. Suddenly, everyone stopped cultivating lentils and changed to gourds. Now I am the only one that cultivates lentils, but the others don't let me sell them and I cant sell them, because everyone buys and sells gourds.
    Times change, gourds are trendy now and lentils are sooo yesterday! At least, he found and paid a scribe to write down his problems. Being a scribe was much easier than a farmer, as a papyrus fragment of 2,000 B.C. Egypt testifies:
    Quote Originally Posted by Dauf to his son, Pepy
    Set your heart upon writing, love it as your mother, for there is nothing that surpasses it. Behold, there's no profession that is not under rule. Only the man of writing himself rules. I have seen the smith at his work, behind his furnace. His fingers are like crocodile skin and he stinks worse than fish roe. I have seen the farmer who wears the same clothes for all seasons. His voice is raucous as a crow's. His fingers are always busy, his arms are dried up in the wind. He gets his rest, when he gets any, in the mud.
    Therefore, stay in school kids.

  3. #3
    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Re: Has he no shame? Ea-Nasir should just pony up and pay Nanni what he owes him. What an ass!

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Therefore, stay in school kids.
    Hear, hear.

    You are quite right; the life of a scribe would have been better than that of anyone around them (minus the pharoahs and later Roman governors, sultans and royal family, etc.) in ancient times, and in virtually every historical period of Egypt before the modern age. It's astonishing that in ancient Egypt only about 1% to 2% of the entire population was literate! At least that's the estimate made by present-day Egyptologists.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Has he no shame? Ea-Nasir should just pony up and pay Nanni what he owes him. What an ass!

    Scribes - ancient communications service providers.
    Eats, shoots, and leaves.

  5. #5
    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Re: Has he no shame? Ea-Nasir should just pony up and pay Nanni what he owes him. What an ass!

    Quote Originally Posted by Condottiere 40K View Post
    Scribes - ancient communications service providers.
    Can you read me now? Good!


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