The Assyrian Dalek
The famous Lachish reliefs are carved stone panels discovered in Nineveh (in present-day Iraq) in 1845-7 CE by 28-year-old adventurer…Read more...
The famous Lachish reliefs are carved stone panels discovered in Nineveh (in present-day Iraq) in 1845-7 CE by 28-year-old adventurer and archaeologist Austen Henry Layard, a 19th century version of Indiana Jones. The scenes depicted in the reliefs show the wartime exploits of King Sennacherib against the Jewish citadel of Lachish. They were carved around the year 700 BCE to decorate his palace. Twenty miles south of Nineveh, Layard helped excavate another Assyrian royal domain in Kalhu (also known as Nimrud). Here was unearthed a set of panels showing violent battles from an earlier era. One of these images depicts a bizarre siege engine that has come to be referred to by laymen as the Assyrian Dalek because of its resemblance to the villainous aliens from Dr. Who. Depicted as smaller than actual scale by the artisans who created it, the siege engine would have been over 20-feet-tall with fireproof plates and an iron ram. The Assyrian Dalek relief is in the collection of the British Museum (London).
The first Assyrian armies were peasant spearmen. Following a series of military reforms around 800 BCE, however, they employed a standing army of conscripts and professionals. This force was better armed, armored, and supplied than the armies of most of its enemies, giving it important advantages. The New Empire armies benefited from cheap iron used for improved swords and armor. The Assyrians were among the first to adopt the concept of the integrated army made up of an infantry core for shock, supported by light missile troops and a mobile wing of chariots, camelry, and cavalry.
Illustration of the Assyrian army attacking Jerusalem
The army was capable of fighting on the plains where chariots and then cavalry were critical, as well as in rough terrain where horses and chariots had little use. They campaigned regularly to the north and east against any neighbor that posed a threat. For many years, the elite of the army were the charioteers, followed by the cavalry after chariots became obsolete. The Assyrians were accomplished at the art of capturing walled cities. Their historical records recount numerous city assaults and the brutality that followed. Citadels that did not submit were often wiped out, their inhabitants either killed or sent to another corner of the empire to live out their miserable lives as abject slaves.