Erich Lessing

A hail of torches, thrown down by the defenders of Lachish, fall upon a wheeled battering ram, lower left, that ascends a ramp to assault the fortified city. Concealed within the ram, an Assyrian soldier aims an arrow, while a soldier beside him pours water over the ram to protect it from the fiery torches. One of 12 slabs that adorned Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh, in Assyria, this relief freezes for posterity a moment from the raging battle that gave Sennacherib his most-prized victory from his campaign against Judah in 701 B.C. The relief also dramatically juxtaposes the outcome of the battle, as it depicts the defeated Lachishites, lower right, marching away to exile.

Numerous decorative reliefs such as this one—found in the cities of Nineveh, Nimrud and Khorsabad—display vivid details about the methods of ancient Assyrian warfare. Together they constitute a virtual primer on how to conquer a fortified city.