Judith Dekel

“I besieged and conquered,” Sennacherib tells us in his annals. Drawn here are exquisitely detailed wall reliefs from the Assyrian king’s palace at Nineveh that bring those words powerfully to life. The drawings are copied from 12 slabs that covered three of the four walls of a ceremonial room in the palace, commemorating Sennacherib’s conquest of the Judean city of Lachish.

The scenario progresses from left to right, with great momentum and vitality, and with what appears to be a “cast of thousands.” The figures to the far left and those to the far right are disproportionately larger than those directly involved in the attack, creating the visual illusion of a panorama. In movie terms, we would say that the “camera” starts with a close up, dollies back, then zooms in again as it continually pans across all the action.

Slab 1, shown here, depicts infantry attacking the city with arrows and slingstones.