Picture the scene: in the second millennium, an elder Hittite potentate writes to a young Assyrian despot. That’s Tudhaliya to Tukulti-Ninurta, who has just assumed power.

It is true, you defeated with your weapons (the Hurri despot), and you have now become a great king. But why do you speak to me in terms of brotherhood?

And why are you always writing to me?

I imagine some poor scribe, pressing this message into wet clay, and looking up: you want me to put that drivel on a clay tablet?

Tudhaliya goes on:

By the way, my boy, among us kings, one writes to another for aid.

To which Tikulti-Ninurta responds:

I will never write to another king for aid [that is: up yours, you old fart]

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