National Geographic : 1951 Jan
A Huge Guardian Statue Is Hauled Up the SlopesofNineveh SARGON'S SON and successor, Sennacherib, left a record of a vivid, versatile, and vindictive personality. Many proud cities felt the curse of his wrath, among them Babylon and Jerusalem. The echo of his Judaean campaign still rings in our ears, thanks to the eloquence of Isaiah. Because his relations with his stern father had been less than cordial, Sennacherib lost little time, on receipt of the news of Sargon's death, in abandoning Dur Sharrukin and erecting a new capital at Nineveh. The result was a spacious center in which temples and palace were flanked by exotic parks. Although the Tigris flowed by the walls of Nineveh, Sennacherib got a steady supply of fresh mountain water for his capital by having his engineers construct an aqueduct from mountain springs 30 miles away. The monumental buildings of Assyria were often guarded by gigantic sculptured demons. Set up in pairs against the side walls of the main entrance, these figures protected the building from all manner of evil influence. Earlier types, from Ashurnasirpal's time to Sargon's, were shown in two views; from the front they appeared to be standing, but the side view showed them in motion. This dual position was achieved by means of a fifth leg. Sennacherib's demons, as depicted on contemporary re liefs, reflect for the first time a more realistic treatment in dispensing with the fifth leg. Our scene attempts to sum up the story told by these reliefs. At the foot of the Nineveh mound, near the confluence of the Khosar and the Tigris, is a large raft fastened to the right bank by long ropes. Asledge supporting ahuman headed bull is being moved offtheraftanduptheslope. Men standing on theraft pull atahuge wooden lever. Its lower end is wedgedunder thesledge bylarge rollers which are constantly being adjusted. The sledge itself is also on rollers. A bucket gang keeps thetrack wet. Four long chains of captives arepulling themonstrous load of 40 tons up the slope. Each chain gang isdirected by a supervisor and goaded byaman with upraised whip. From the front of theraft theworkers areurged onby one officer who claps hishands rhythmically, andanother who employs a sort of speaking horn. The richgarb ofthe Assyrians contrasts sharply with thedress ofthechain gangs. Near the top of the slope stands thewheeled throne from which Sennacherib watches. The movable throne, held up by two beardless servants, isprotected from thesunby a richly embroidered parasol attachment. Abearded official stands on one side, as twoattendants with flywhisks areready to act. All the Assyrians wear laced half-boots. The king's guard consists ofGreek shieldmen who can be identified by their helmets. They arearmed either with lances or with bows and arrows. The lancers wear half boots, but the archers have thesandals ofearlier times. Along the upper partofthe slope moves aline ofcarts carrying props, spare rolls ofrope, and other towing equip ment. Down by the riverbank, water forthebucket gang is supplied by irrigationengines ofatype still common. The entire operation has attracted visitors from theoppo site bank, who are usinginflated skins togetacross.