Judith Dekel

The relief of the Siege of Lachish from Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh commemorates one of the Assyrian king’s greatest victories. The storming of the city gate, shown here, illustrates the powerful Assyrian war machine described in Sennacherib’s annals. Preserved in several cuneiform accounts, these annals boast that Sennacherib “laid sedge to 46 … strong cities … by means of well-stamped (earth) ramps, and battering rams brought (thus) near (to the walls) (combined with) the attack by foot soldiers, (using) mines, breaches as well as siege engines.”

On the far left, the relief depicts soldiers from Lachish standing on the city’s crenelated walls; the wall is reinforced with a series of round shields (top). Below the walls (on the far left), we see the Judean hilly terrain depicted as rows of scallops. On the bottom from the far left can be seen Assyrian archers scaling the first of seven wooden log tracks leading to the city gate. These tracks were laid on beaten earth siege ramps and were used to roll battering rams toward the walls. These battering rams, which are being pushed up each set of log tracks, are encased in a four-wheeled siege engine which not only protects the soldiers pushing inside but provides a platform for Assyrian warriors as well. Judean soldiers fighting from the walls above the Assyrian siege ramp hurl torches, slingstones, and arrows at their attackers.

Note the battering ram along the diagonal of the second track from the left. As a safety measure against the flaming torches which the Lachishites fling toward them, an Assyrian soldier pours water over the battering ram facade with a large ladle. Directly in front of this battering ram is the main city gate of Lachish. Through it a line of Judean women leave the city. Above the heads of the Lachish soldiers on the gate are the walls of what may be the Palace-Fort. To the right of the city gate five battering rams breach the city walls; below them (bottom center) three Judean defenders impaled on posts are displayed by Assyrian soldiers.