A Jilted Babylonian Scribe Wrote This Heartbreaking Love Letter 4,000 Years Ago

Happy Valentine's Day from the Popular Science archives.

"Modern science deciphers ancient love letters" September 1939
Popular Science archives

Thousands of years ago, a hurt and confused Babylonian man used a triangular stylus to jab a message to his lover into a small piece of wet clay:

To Bibea: May the gods for my sake preserve your health. Tell me how you are. I went to Babylon but I did not see you. I was greatly disappointed. Write my the reason for your leaving, and let me be cheered. For my sake keep well always. Gimil.

The story of how three unlikely fellows--a bookkeeper, a chemist, and a scholar--teamed up to decipher this ancient love letter appeared in the September 1939 issue of Popular Science. But the more romantic story of Gimil and Bibea remains buried by more than four millennia. Why didn't Bibea meet Gimil in Babylon as planned? Had she rejected him, or did some accident or illness keep two soulmates apart?

You can read the rest of the story, and more emotional messages from long-dead Babylonians, over in the archives.