A letter written by a student to his mother in Babylon about 3,800 years ago shows that children’s behavior has not changed much, as Silvia S., demonstrates on Quora.

Babylonian letter | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Can you imagine you are the archeologist who unearthed this tablet, wondering what marvelous secrets it may hold, only to find that it’s a letter written by a student called Iddin-Sin to his mother Zinû, in which he complains about his untrendy clothes. The letter presents an amusing cross-section of life in the 21st century 18th century BC Mesopotamia — i.e. some 4,000 years ago.

At the time the letter was written, Iddin-Sin was away from his mother on studies. Instead of writing a letter to his mother telling her how his lessons were going, perhaps even saying that he missed her, Iddin-Sin is complaining about the condition of his clothes:

Tell the lady Zinû, Iddin-Sin sends her the following message:

May the gods Shamash, Marduk, and Ilabrat keep you forever in good health for my sake.

From year to year, the clothes of the young gentlemen here become better, but you let my clothes get worse from year to year. Indeed, you persisted in making my clothes poorer and more scanty.

At a time when in our house wool is used up like bread, you have made me poor clothes.

The son of Adad-iddinam, whose father is only an assistant of my father, has two new sets of clothes, while you fuss even about sending a single set of clothes for me. Even though you bore me and his mother only adopted him, his mother loves him, while you, you do not love me!

It’s a shame that Zinû’s response is lost to time. Perhaps, after being chastised like this, she sent poor Iddin-Sin the clothes he so desperately needed. Or, more likely, a suitably pointed response suggesting he gets a job and buys his own bloody clothes!

If nothing else, this letter proves that 4,000 years later not much has changed when it comes to kids’ behavior — and perhaps even serves as a writing prompt concerning ancient Babylonia!

Update: a thousand-years-old business complaint

Miami Magus left a comment with the equivalent of the oldest one-star review — a business complaint that took place in the same period. The Akkadian Tablet to Ea-Nasir (1750 BC) describes how a copper merchant called Ea-Nasir swindled a customer out of his money and failed to deliver the promised copper ingots. Imagine being such a poor businessman that you’re still notorious some 4,000 years later!

You can read all about it here: