Archaeologists recently discovered the following text on a single shard of a priceless ceremonial vase buried among the ruins of the ancient city of Hazan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dated with exactitude using the radiocarbon process and by referencing the lunar-based calendar employed at that time, it is translated from the Aroyan cuneiform.
This was in the reign of Tabouli, the fierce dragon, king of rulers, protector of the world, in the fourteenth year of his reign, on the third feast day after the second new moon. There came from far and wide many peoples to the gathering place. No man save Shirazhi, a man of many flocks and wives, son of Chorizo, a man of many flocks and wives, had ever before won the great prize.
No one could believe what they witnessed with their own eyes. We went to the tribal chief, who said, indeed, he himself had never before seen or heard of such a thing, nor had his father, nor had his father’s father, nor his father’s father’s father. Going back through the generations to the great King Sargon.
Efem, from the country of the stiff-necked men, which lies 20 days march across the Scalding Desert beyond the Brown Mountains of Ramen came before Tabouli, conqueror of all lands, and addressed him, saying: Word has come to us of this prize and I have journeyed hither to the land of the Chimichurri along with my flocks and wives and much barley. And the king replied to Efem: You have wasted your steps, Efem, son of Ae-em, for you will return home empty-handed. Efem replied thusly to the King: I have been told the Chimichurri are fair and that all may contend for the prize.
So be it, the King Tabouli replied. On the second morning from the morrow, at the crowing of the cock, you shall climb to the top of the Sacred Mound, and from those heights contend as you will. But be aware, Efem, son of Ae-em, if you do not win the prize you will forfeit all among your company. We will bind your women and your flocks unto ourselves, and burn your tents and enslave the men with the most grievous hardships and slake ourselves on your wine, though it be filled with cork.
Remoulad came unto the tent of Ephem at night, weeping copious tears and rending her garments and she beseeched her husband. Come, prince, let us return home, while there is time, that your women and flocks will not be lost and your men not afflicted. And Ephem was greatly vexed and said to his wife, Lo, great deeds await me, yet you awaken me and have not the scribes already pressed their styluses upon the wet clay, and are not the birds already on the wing, and the foolish cast their lots 1 and the multitudes bring their barley, even from the mouths of their young 2, and, even you, my wife, beauteous Remoulad, fair of cheek, show fear and cast your eyes down upon your Payless sandals.
And so it came to pass on the crowing of the cock the multitudes gathered by the Sacred Mound, before the great throne of King Tabouli, conqueror of worlds, and also those among his retinue who took their places in the ghats 3 to either side of him where they partook of sweetmeats and wine and peanuts.
Then did come forth Ephem and the giant Sumerian Shirazi. And then the great ram’s horn was blown by Costas the Crier, and he proclaimed to the multitudes, If it please you 4 behold today Ephem, and his span is 180 years and he stands no taller than a whore’s cubit 5 and weighs one dozen bowls 6 and Shirazi who has a span of 320 years and stands 10 rods and weighs an hundred-bowl.
And Shirazi spoke thusly: Behold, proud Ephem, how many are my flocks, milk-white and great. I will want nothing to grind your bones into dust, thence take unto myself your women, even the beauteous Remoulad, and all else, even the youngest swineherd, and the smoke from your burning tents will blot out the sun. Tell me of your flocks before we battle, for I do not see them. Ephem replied: Bold Shirazi, I have brought but two rams this day, and they will suffice. At this, all of his retinue 7 found mirth, even Costas, even where the King sat and even among those in the ghats and among the scribes with their styluses.
At the blowing of the ram’s horn, Ephem betook himself and suffered himself to be tied to the blessed juniper post in the circle at the base of the Sacred Mound. Shirazi anointed himself with oil and one among his flock he made sacrifice as an offering and when all was ready he carried the lamb and ascended to the top of the Sacred Mound while all gaped at his great strength. Behold, Costas cried, after 30 days, Shirazi appears upon the summit, from where it is said no corner of the world remains unseen. And with a great cry, the Sumerian hurled down the lamb upon Ephem.
But the lamb missed and Ephem was spared the blow. And there was great consternation among the Chimichurri, even among the scribes with their styluses, and among the crowds who cast their lots, that Ephem yet lived. And now Shirazi descended and took Ephem’s place and was bound to the juniper post. And then Ephem brought forth his two milk-white rams. His wives gnashed their teeth with woe. And Ephem anointed himself with oil and offered both rams up to sacrifice, whereupon the clouds grew dark in the sky and a wrathful wind swept the plain of the Chimichurri and even unto the Sacred Mound. And Ephem did take up one ram under his right arm and one in his left. And he bore both up the Sacred Mound to the very summit, only he alone, while below men writhed in the dirt and women wailed and scribes tore at their hair at such a wonderous sight, and even the King Tabouli, conqueror of worlds, was beset. And after 30 days and with a mighty cry Ephem hurled both milk-white rams from the very summit of the Sacred Mound down, and Shirazi cried out in woe as both rams fell upon him and smote him and drove the juniper post like a peg on a king’s tent deep into the earth, yea, so that he was swallowed up and no more.
Ephem came down from the Sacred Mound and made great offerings and proclaimed to the scribes with the styluses, Lo, all is as I said, and your great champion is driven into the earth like a peg on a king’s tent and the prize is mine to claim. And Costas put this to him for all to hear: Tell us, Ephem, who did smite the mighty Shirazi to the heart of the earth, how does it feel. And Ephem said, Praise be to the Lord. And the scribe Swa-mi did ask, Was there great agitation visited upon you before the cock crowed. And Ephem replied, I never worry about what the other guy is going to do, I just worry about what I gotta do. Whereupon the scribe Steven-A asked….8 And the other scribes tore at Ephem’s garments and all trembled before him and Ephem found the King Tabouli and took the prize of prizes 9 that day before the multitudes. And great bonfires were lit and there was great feasting and much barley consumed. And all the scribes with their styluses put aside their peanuts and took up fresh wet clay and inscribed, Nothing like this will ever happen again.
- Refers to the vigorous wagering that was a favorite pastime of the Chimichurri, among whom bookmaking was a flourishing trade (see, Roots of the Pick Six in the Fertile Crescent by Prof. Beth Gustafson, Oxford University Press, 2009). ↩
- In his famous “Ringling Lecture,” Prof. Roy Landers established that primitive forms of scalping are known to have existed in many Bronze Age settlements; indeed, it reached a fever pitch in ancient Babylon where one man was said to have sold his wife for a ringside seat to opening night at the Hanging Gardens. ↩
- Crude, raised mud enclosures; the earliest evidence of today’s Luxury Box. ↩
- It was a common practice to allow spectators time to relieve themselves before continuing proceedings at large public rites. ↩
- “Whore’s cubit” is an idiom invoking a prostitute’s scrupulously ungenerous judgment when measuring length. ↩
- Bowl is an ancient unit of measurement, roughly the amount of ground myrrh required to fill up the King’s giant Meerschaum bong. ↩
- Archaeologists have recovered pots of dried pigment used by spectators to paint their faces in the colors of their favorite competitors. ↩
- What the scribe Steven-A asked remained the Holy Grail of archaeology for millennia until Prof. Ernst Kindling’s ground-breaking So You Thought I was Crazy: the Lost Replica of the Victory Bowl (Heidleberg Press, 1910). Thankfully, we now know what Steven-A said following the contest: “I’m here to tell you something. Today we saw the real man. All that other stuff people like to say about him…the distractions…the failed drug tests…the size of his ego…how much he likes to party…the lawsuits…I’m not even gonna get into any of that. I won’t even comment on it, but what I am going to tell you is this…and I have absolutely no fear whatsoever that when you hear what I am about to say you will have a leg to stand on…because hear me out…” ↩
- A 1957 Chevy Corvette. ↩