Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid
+ Your AuthorsArchive @Moudhy postdoc @WolfsonCollege. assyriologist. historian. writing a book about an ancient Babylonian princess and her museum at Ur. she/her. Jun. 17, 2020 3 min read

What survives of the past is things, so it's easy to forget the people behind them whose lives, loves, worries, and wants might not have been so different from ours.

Thread of letters from ancient Mesopotamia as a random reminder of our shared humanity

Work anxiety is nothing new.

In the 7th century BCE, a physician named Nabu-tabni-usur found himself an outcast in the king's court and lamented to his royal patron, "If the king knows a fault committed by me, let the king not keep me alive...I am dying of a broken heart!"

An exorcist named Urad-Gula in the court of king Esarhaddon was "dying of a broken heart" after falling out of favour.

The head exorcist, who was Urad-Gula's father, wrote to the king to ask that the "shattered" scholar be reinstated. A 3,000-year-old diplomatic, fatherly moment

If you’ve ever reached the end of your tether with a frustrating colleague, spare a thought for Balasi, a 7th century astronomer in Nineveh who twice had to call out colleagues for mistaking Mercury for Venus.

“He is a vile man, an ignoramus, a cheat!…Venus is not yet visible!”

The Neo-Assyrian astronomer Balasi was 3000% done with his colleagues btw

“Why have I not seen your messenger before today? Now, if you are alive, I wish to forgive you your deficient character...”

How’s that for sibling sass circa the 8th century BCE? A woman named Data writes to her brother about the death of none other than the lady Gaga.

That’s right, folks. There was a lady Gaga in 8th century BCE Babylonia, and this is her name in cuneiform.

“Why do you not write on your clay tablet? Why do you not rehearse your exercise tablet?”

Sherua-etirat, a Neo-Assyrian princess, writes to her sister-in-law to scold her for not doing her homework in the 7th century BCE. A tale as old as time...

Speaking of sass, let's not forget this 4,000-year-old business letter from Sîn-magir to Sîn-eribam that begins with the cuneiform equivalent of "per my last e-mail".

"Good behaviour it is, that I write to you again and again, and you pay no attention to me."

  \\ my
   \( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
    > ⌒ヽ
   /   へ\
   /  / \\last
   レ ノ   ヽ_つ
  / /
  / /|
 ( (ヽ
 | |、\cuneiform tablet
 | 丿 \ ⌒)
 | |  ) /
ノ )  Lノ

No one had mastered the art of throwing shade like Babylonian kings writing to Egyptian Pharaohs.

Featuring such albums as "oh you sent me gold tbh looked like silver" and "you didn't check on me when I was sick but I guess I forgive you"

The diplomatic correspondence of the Late Bronze Age between Egypt, Babylonia, and elsewhere -- aka the "Amarna Letters" -- deserve their own thread honestly. They are brilliant.

Letters from Assyria and Babylonia also describe anguish, loss, and misfortune.

In the ancient city of Mari, a servant woman named Dabitu pleads for help with a difficult pregnancy, a king is desperate to contain an epidemic, and doctors prescribe medicine to their patients

Of course I "reorganised" my books yesterday to procrastinate and now cannot find my book of translations of Mari letters, so those will have to wait 🙃

Cuneiform letters from ancient Mesopotamia are full of humanity. They remind us that while the medium and context may have changed, some of the things we worry about, get frustrated about, and get sassy about have very much stayed the same.

Also Babylonian Lady Gaga.

You can follow @Moudhy.


Tip: mention @threader_app on a Twitter thread with the keyword “compile” to get a link to it.

Threader is an independent, ad-free project created by two developers. Our iOS Twitter client was featured as an App of the Day by Apple. Sign up today to compile, bookmark and archive your favorite threads.

Follow Threader