This stone relief measures 269.2 centimeters high and 180.3 centimeters wide. It was created, probably with slave labor, by chiseling into the stone. Originally, the wall with the reliefs would have inscriptions describing the event depicted in the relief. These were meant to remind visiting dignitaries of what the Assyrian kings could do to other However, when the Palace at Nineveh was destroyed and the palace was burned, most of the descriptions were destroyed [see Smith, 46].
One thing that the reliefs at Sennacherib's palace show that is different from other Assyrian stone carvings is the narrative structure of the reliefs. Before the discovery of the palace at Nineveh, the majority of Assyrian stonework depicted the figure with a human head and winged-lion body. Sennacherib's reliefs instead depict an event, with more human figures and action. This practice of depicting people, particularly military victories, would become commonplace with later Assyrian rulers [see Smith, 49].
Local Historical ContextEdit
Sennacherib became king of Assyria following the death of his father, Sargon II, in 705 BCE [see Encyclopedia Britannica, online]. One of his greatest achievements was the rebuilding of the city of Nineveh. Using slave labor, he enlarged the city, built defensive walls, and built a grand palace, which he named Shanina-la-ishu. He had the walls of the palace decorated with stone reliefs such as the one pictured [see Encyclopedia Britannica, online]. The events depicted in the stone relief occurred around 701 BCE. There are two primary written sources of the siege of Lachish. In the second book of Kings, chapter 18, verse 13-16, it is mentioned that "Sennacherib, King of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them." It is not until the Assyrian army is besieging Lachish that Hezekiah sends a message to Sennacherib that reads "I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me." King Sennacherib demanded a tribute, which Hezekiah paid [see Bible, 2 Kings 18, 13-16, .
The other textual source comes from the Taylor Prism. Discovered in Sennacherib's palace in NIneveh, the same location of the stone relief, the prism was one of the first Assyrian documents found, and it is currently at the British Museum [see British Museum, online]. The text on the six-sided clay document includes accounts of Sennacherib's third campaign, in which Sennacherib invaded Judah, where it is claimed he and his armysacked forty-six cities (including Lachish) and deported 200,150 people [see Edelman, 88-89]. Sennacherib began this campaign because Hezekiah did not, in his words "submit to my yoke" and refused to pay tribute to the Assyrian king [see Edelman, 89]. Interestingly, the Taylor Prism makes no specific reference to Lachish. The name of a town, Lakisu, can be seen on the stone relief. Scholars believe that Lakisu refers to Lachish [see Fenton and Oded, 83].
The stone relief found in Sennacherib's palace depicts the aftermath of the siege- the massive deportation of the inhabitants of the city. The number of people supposedly deported (200,150) is probably, as Terry Fenton and Bustenay Oded write, "a clearly propagandistic exaggeration" [see Fenton and Oded, 86]. However, the practice of deporting inhabitants of occupied lands was commonplace during the Assyrian Empire, and continued all the way into the Persian Empire. These captives were likely taken to work on other Assyrian projects or land.
World Historical ContextEdit
While Sennacherib's third campaign into the rebellious Judah did succeed in quelling the area of Palestine, they were not the only rebellious area of the empire. Rebellions strained the already fledging empire, and in 609, they were eventually conquered by the invading Persians [see Encyclopedia Britannica, online]. The stone relief found in Sennacherib's palace is crucial to our understanding of Assyrian military history. Both the Taylor Prism and the Bible have conflicting dates of Sennacherib's campaign into Judah, with the Bible giving a date of 712 BCE, and the Assyrian account saying 701 BCE [see Edelman, 90]. By having a stone structure that can be dated, scholars can scientifically determine the approximate date of the Third Campaign and the Siege of Lachish, which is determined to be 701 BCE. This validates the given accounts of the event, and aids historians studying both Assyrian and Biblical history.
The relief also gives us a depiction of Assyrian military practices. This portion of the relief, along with the others, show the typical actions taken by Sennacherib when attacking a city- use of siege weapons, torture of rebels, and the deportation and enslavement of the residents of the city. These methods were common among many Assyrian kings, and continued into the Persian empire, as well.
The Bible. 2 Kings, ch. 18, verse 13-16. New International Version. 2011. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Kings%2018&version=NIV
British Museum. Online. "Assyria: Siege of Lachish (Room 10b)." Apr. 20, 2011. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/galleries/middle_east/room_10b_assyria_siege_of_la.aspx
British Museum. Online. "The Taylor Prism." Apr. 20, 2011. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/t/the_taylor_prism.aspx
Edelman, Diana. "WHAT IF WE HAD NO ACCOUNTS OF SENNACHERIB'S THIRD CAMPAIGN OR THE PALACE RELIEFS DEPICTING HIS CAPTURE OF LACHISH?." Biblical Interpretation 8.1/2 (2000): 88-103. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.
"history of Mesopotamia." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/376828/Mesopotamia>.
Review: The Invention of "Ancient Palestinians:" Silencing of the History of Ancient IsraelTerry Fenton, Bustenay OdedReviewed work(s): The Mythic Past. Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel by Thomas L. ThompsonVol. 17, No. 1 (2003), pp. 77-96Published by: SpringerStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20101488
"Sennacherib." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/534613/Sennacherib>.