Battle scene of Assyrians storming a citadel


Not on view

This relief fragment dates to the time of Sennacherib (r. 704–681 B.C.), and comes from the great Southwest Palace, called by Sennacherib the "Palace Without Rival," at Nineveh. It depicts several groups of Assyrian soldiers attacking a large fortified city. At left, kneeling archers shoot volleys of arrows toward defenders, not preserved in this fragment, on the battlements, while at right archers advance up a siege ramp, using tall curved shields as cover. Behind them on the ramp are soldiers using slings to hurl projectiles up at the defenders. At far right can be seen traces of a second group of soldiers advancing up a ramp, in this case spearmen with distinctive crested helmets; other reliefs show they would also have held circular shields. In the foreground, some men carry on their backs what appear to be large slabs for building siege ramps, while others lay down layers of palm fronds as matting in the ramp’s construction. Although there are many depictions of Assyrian sieges, this is the only known depiction of a siege ramp being constructed. Assyrian siege ramps could be massive structures, as the surviving remains of one ramp at the city of Lachish in Judah show. The use of palm fronds may indicate that the campaign being depicted was a southern one, in a region where date palms grew. A completed ramp with the same feature appears in another relief showing a campaign against Elam in southwestern Iran, and it is likely that the two were originally part of the same series.

The Assyrian army, the great military power of its time in the Near East, was extremely effective in siege warfare and the taking of cities. Multiple depictions of sieges in reliefs such as this capture many of the technologies and tactics they employed. Other Assyrian reliefs feature examples of battering rams and siege engines, the undermining of walls, and even actions taken by the defenders such as pouring hot water or oil or attempting to sabotage siege engines.

Battle scene of Assyrians storming a citadel, Gypsum alabaster, Assyrian

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.