The park at Khorsabad provided Sargon with an ideal setting in which to relax, while at the same time enjoying the spectacle of the world he had conquered. The “banquet beneath a vine” relief from Nineveh shows Ashurbanipal, grandson of Sargon, and his wife, sharing a meal under an arbour of vines. Surrounded by scents and perfumes, the king could also enjoy music and the company of exotic animals and domesticated lions.

Hunting in the gardens

The park at Khorsabad was also inhabited by animals the king could hunt. Hunting was one of the favourite pastimes of Assyrian kings. Reliefs in Room VII of the palace at Khorsabad depict the hunting of hares and birds, perhaps with falcons. Eunuchs armed with bows and arrows catch the game. Some are engaged in target practice.

Striking performance

The king might travel there in a chariot under a parasol, surrounded by guards armed with spears, archers, and galloping horsemen. Lion-hunting scenes from Nineveh show King Ashurbanipal in action, standing in a chariot drawn by galloping horses, killing lions released from a cage. This highly supervised and ritualised form of hunting was also organised in the royal park as a performance attended by the court.