Were ancient scribes merely secretaries? In some cases–probably; in other cases–probably not. A Leo Oppenheim describes instances in which scribes seem to control the flow of information that the king/high official recieves. In a few postscripts of letters we see that the author either flattered or gently manipulated the scribes that would recieve the letter on behalf of the king/high official. The authors of the letters seem to realize that the recieving scribe will be the one who decides if the letter is read to the king. Some scribes were engaged in mundane tasks like recording basic economic transactions, while other scribes might have had the ability to impact foreign policy.

A. Leo Oppenheim. “A Note on the Scribes in Mesopotamia.” in Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger. edited by Hans G. Güterbock and Thorkild Jacobsen. Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1965 (253-256).

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Charles Halton

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