March 1, 2024 | Jamie Hayes

These 5,000-Year-Old Proverbs Carved Into Clay Still Ring True Today


We Have A Lot To Learn

These proverbs are 5,000 years old: literally older than the pyramids. Paper wasn't invented yet, so people carved their words into clay—but tell me you don't think these still apply today.

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"A smart man does not transgress against his mother."

Don't think I need to explain this one.

Sumer civilizationMichel wal, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

"Putting unwashed hands to one's mouth is disgusting."

Wash your hands!

Sumer civilizationOsama Shukir Muhammed Amin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"He who possesses many things is constantly on guard."

Mo money, mo problems.

SumeriansJacktandy000, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"Ignoramuses are numerous in the palace."

You mean those CLOWNS in WASHINGTON?!

Sumer civilizationUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

"Talking endlessly is what humankind has most on its mind."

Social media.

Sumer civilizationLouvre Museum, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

"A man raising his hand in anger does not see clearly."

Don't do something you might regret.

Sumer civilizationMarie-Lan Nguyen, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"When present, it was considered a loincloth; when lost, it is considered fine clothing."

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got til it's gone.

Sumer civilizationFrans Vandewalle, Flickr

"A dishonest man chases after a woman's flower."

Players have always been and will always be.

Sumerian civilizationSteve Harris, Flickr

"The lion who lives a life of compassion will receive it."

Give a little, get a little.

Sumerian civilizationvirtusincertus, Flickr

"Hand added to hand, and a man's house is built up."

It takes a village...

SumeriansOsama Shukir Muhammed Amin, CC BY 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

"Tell a lie and then tell the truth: it will be considered a lie."

The boy who cried wolf.

SumeriansJuan Carlos Fonseca Mata, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"For his pleasure he got married. On his thinking it over he got divorced."

My WIFE, amirite?

Sumerian GirlArtem Mishukov, Shutterstock

"The rich man's heart is sick, it is very sick indeed."

Billionaires, they're the real heroes.

SumeriansMary Harrsch, Flickr

"Possessions are flying birds -- they never find a place to settle."

You can't take it with you!

Temple of Enlil, Sumerian templeDavid Stanley, Flickr

"He who insults is insulted. He who sneers is sneered at."

Hurt people hurt people.

Sumerian Male Worshiper From Diyala, IraqOsama Shukir Muhammed, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"While you still have light, grind the flour."

There's work to be done.

SumeriansMary Harrsch, Flickr

"What has submitted will exhibit resistance."

War never changes.

Assyrian warriorsKamira, Shutterstock

"A hand will stretch out towards an outstretched hand. A hand will open for an opened hand."

I get by with a little help from my friends.

SumeriansZ.g.eghtedar, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"He who shaves his head acquires ever more hair."

Every teenage boy has heard this lesson.

Sumerian rulerRichard Mortel, Flickr

"Let there be unused land adjacent to a house."

Not in MY backyard!

Sumerian remainsDavid Stanley, Flickr

"Something offered is not offered. Something finished is not finished. Nothing changes."

Nothing changes.

Sumerian textGary Todd, Flickr

"Wealth is far away, poverty is close at hand."

Are you closer to being billionaires or homeless?

Sumerian maleSteven Zucker, Smarthistory co-founder, Flickr

"A heart never created hatred; speech created hatred."

Twitter.

Portrait Statuette Of GudeaArchaiOptix, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"When battle approaches, when war arises, the plans of the gods, beloved by the gods, are destroyed."

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Sumeriansben bryant, Shutterstock

"By following craftiness, one learns how to be crafty. By following wisdom, one learns how to be wise."

Practise makes perfect.

Sumerian votive figureMary Harrsch, Flickr

"Fate is a dog, well able to bite."

Careful.

Dog in Sumerian sculptureOsama Shukir Muhammed Amin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"Pleasure is created. Sins are absolved. Life is rejuvenated."

We're here for a good time, not a long time!

Sumerian  artOsama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

"You should not cut the throat of that which has already had its throat cut."

Beating a dead horse.

SumeriansKamira, Shutterstock

"He who knows but does not speak is a fool."

With great power comes great responsibility.

Ancient Babylonia and Assyria bas reliefAndrea Izzotti, Shutterstock

"A palace will fall of its own accord."

Nothing lasts forever.

Sumerian kingdom of Lagash ruinsDavid Stanley, Flickr

"Your worthiness is the result of chance."

JK it's 100% hard work :)

Female Portrait Head Of A Neo-Sumerian StatuetteArchaiOptix, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"A loving heart builds houses. A hating heart destroys houses."

Build, don't destroy.

Sumerian city of KishDavid Stanley, Flickr

"Let the favour be repaid to him who repays a favour."

Pay it forward.

Sumerian textGary Todd, Flickr

"One should pay attention to an old man's words. One should submit oneself to his protection."

Listen to the wisdom of the elderly.

Sumerian  artAndrew Kuchling, Flickr

"Fate is a raging storm blowing over the Land."

The times they are a' changin,

Sumerian textAndrew Kuchling, Flickr

"If a singer knows only one song but makes the sound pleasant, he is indeed a singer! [...] When a singer's voice is sweet, he is indeed a singer."

Believe in yourself!

Sumerian Cuneiform Clay TabletGary Todd, Flickr

"The battle-club would not find out your name -- it would just find your flesh."

The sword is mightier than the pen.

Sumerian textGary Todd, Flickr

"Flies enter an open mouth."

Uhhhhhhhhhhh....

Sumerian prisonerALFGRN, Flickr

"The sun never leaves my heart, which surpasses a garden."

Love is all.

The archaeological site of Uruk , SumerianEssam al-Sudani, Shutterstock

"He could not overcome his fears, so he cut off what was fuelling them."

Try it sometime.

sumerian stone carvingFedor Selivanov, Shutterstock

"If a dog snarls, throw a morsel into his mouth."

You catch more flies with honey...

Babylonian glazed tile reliefStefan AQ, Flickr

"Whatever the man in authority said, it was not pleasant. Whatever the man in authority said, it was not right."

Facts.

Sumerian cuneiform tabletOregon State University, Flickr

"To be wealthy and demand more is an abomination to a god."

Hey, it's not me saying it...

Sumerian cuneiform tabletGary Todd, Flickr

"Who can compete with righteousness? It creates life."

Be nice for goodness sake.

Sumerian textGary Todd, Flickr

"The songs of a city are its diviners."

We look to art to understand the world. 

ancient UrHomo Cosmicos, Shutterstock

"One does not marry a three-year-old wife, as a donkey does."

What are we ANIMALS?

Sumerian Woman, 2700 BCGary Todd, Flickr

"As long as you live you should not increase evil by telling lies; for if you do, to succumb will be your lot."

It's a slippery slope.

Sumerian Banquet SceneGary Todd, Flickr

"Good is in the hands. Evil is also in the hands."

Where there is great light there is also great darkness.

Kish Sumerian ruinsOsama Shukir Muhammed Amin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

"The liar is quarrelsome. He always lies. He always slanders. Treacherous! Malicious! Shifty-eyed!"

Sound like anyone you know?

Detail Assyrian relief sculpture panelishtar.ro, Shutterstock

"The voice of the duck is the glory of the marshes."

As true today as the day it was written.

Early Writing Tablet Recording The Allocation Of BeerBabelStone, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons


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