Ancient Mesopotamia 9 memorialize great victories, they also served as warnings to visiting diplomats—that they and their cities should behave, or else. These pieces of artwork are remarkable for a geographic rea- son as well. Often, they depicted the natural landscape of the location of battle, showing an awareness of the natural world around them. It was not uncom- mon for lilies, pomegranate, fig, and olive trees, mandrake, as well as coniferous trees to be intricately carved into the reliefs. The Lachish reliefs depict a battle that happened about 500 miles from the Assyrian home- land. Lachish was a walled city about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, second in import­ ance only to Jerusalem. King Hezekiah of Judah took advan- tage of the death of Assyrian king Sargon II to revolt. He refused to pay tribute to the Assyrian Empire. Sargon II’s son, Sennacherib, however, took the throne and began a military campaign to bring Hezekiah to heel. They attacked the town of Lachish in 701 BCE using a siege ramp, battering rams, shields, and archers. Following the attack, many survivors were tortured and killed. Families were forced to relocate. Scenes from the battle and its aftermath were recorded on reliefs carved into slabs of gyp- sum that decorated Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh. One section of the relief depicts King Sennacherib (704–681 BCE) sitting on a throne, outside the walls of Lachish. Surrounded by guards, he presides over a line of prisoners, some who beg for mercy. Above his head hang the familiar outline of grape leaves and, scattered among them, bunches of grapes. The vines are pruned to look like small trees, and they’re interspersed with fig trees. Lachish was located in a major wine-producing region during Hezekiah’s time. Vineyards stretch beyond the ruins of the ancient city even today. Sennacharib, like Assyrian kings before him, had a great garden outside his palace filled with local and imported plants, which were often collected on mili- tary campaigns. Some archaeologists think that grapes were brought from outside the area and domesticated in Mesopotamia around 2500 BCE. Before that, wine The Lachish reliefs are a set of bas-reliefs carved into gypsum around 700 BCE that depict Assyrian king Sennacherib’s attack on the walled city of Lachish, near present-day Jerusalem. This detail shows a post-battle scene of prisoners lined up in front of King Sennacherib. The grapes and grapevines that hang above Sennacherib’s head are indicative of the region’s winemaking industry. (Werner Forman Archive/Bridgeman Images)
Previous Page Next Page