We hear snippets of information and we read bits and pieces of them. Are there broader documentations with context? That is what we’ll be exploring in this new segment called Trivia-l Recommendations - literally, the recommendations of books borne out of happenstance trivia.
1 - The earliest complaint [History]
It’s probably of no debate that we would have, presumably, had complaints as long as we have existed. But how far back can we trace them? Do we know if somewhere there was Early man complaining in sign languages about a thorn on his foot to his friend? That doesn’t seem to be the case.
This, it seems was the translated text of the earliest recorded complaint -
“Speak to Ea-Nasir; thus says Nanni. Now when you had come you spoke saying thus: ‘I will give good ingots to Gimil-Sin’ this you said to me when you had come, but you have not done it: you have offered bad ingots to my messenger, saying ‘If you will take it, take it, if you will not take it, go away.’ Who am I that you are treating me in this manner—treat me with such contempt? and that between gentlemen such as we are! I have written to you to receive my purse but you have neglected it—who is there among the Dilmun traders who has acted against me in this way?”
Ea-Nasir, a copper dealer, who was initially a merchant for the king had gradually grown avaricious, resulting in many disgruntled creditors, one of who was Nanni. Out of frustration, the latter resorted to writing (well, dictating, as not many were well-versed in the skills of reading and writing) the first ever complaint, on a baked-clay tablet. And yet, it seems that the very first historically recorded complaint was extremely polite and almost helpless compared to fiery letters we write today as consumers.
This narrative finds its place in The Archaeology of the Arabian Gulf by Michael Rice (available on archive.org) and also in Letters from Mesopotamia(1967) by Leo oppenheim. It’s worth noting that the complaint was translated from the now-dead language - Akkadian, and therefore might be worded slightly differently in different texts.