Here’s what I hope my husband gives me for Valentine’s Day: a replica of a 4,000 year old Sumerian tablet, about the size of a cell phone, that is inscribed with what’s been identified as the world’s oldest love poem. The New York Times reported today that the tiny tablet, which had been tucked, unnoticed, in a corner of the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient, contains a ballad in which a priestess professes her love for a king, in surprisingly frisky language. “You have captivated me,” she writes, “Let me stand trembling before you. Bridegroom, I would be taken to the bedchamber.”
Reading on, you discover that the bridegroom did just that.
But here’s what I found most intriguing about this story: the only reason the tablet has come to light is that a Turkish shirt company, Bisse, which is known for its support for archeological studies, funded a special display of the artifact, and promoted the exhibit by giving away replicas of the love poem at its stores.
Talk about a branding opportunity! The museum is happy, the shirtmaker is happy, and thousands of lovers are getting a rare opportunity to express their affection in words penned long before Hallmark cornered the valentine market. And that’s a product promotion that even a curmudgeon could love.