Armies in battle

Like other Assyrian kings, Sargon decorated his palaces with depictions of his military successes. Reliefs on military themes were used to both decorate the royal residence and as a form of propaganda to assert the sovereign's authority. Galloping horses transport chariots and horsemen armed with spears and swords (Room V) capturing enemy cities. Their defeated foe are shown no mercy. Some are trampled under foot, and one, grabbed by the beard, has his throat cut. The king, positioned slightly apart in his chariot but armed with a bow, shelters under a parasol.


Military victories provided the Assyrian king with an opportunity to increase his wealth by plundering conquered cities. The capture of Musasir during Sargon's eighth campaign is depicted in Room XIII. The land of Urartu is depicted as a hilly landscape. Soldiers carry away precious objects such as shields and cauldrons. Officials with a tablet and scroll appear to be keeping a record of the looted goods while others weigh them on a scale.


The king's victory is celebrated with a parade of prisoners (Rooms II and V). Men, women and children are led by soldiers, carrying their meagre belongings. As often in Assyrian art, the figures are heavily stylised to make it easier to tell the difference between them. The captives in one scene are dressed in sheepskins and large boots. Others are presented to the king on a rope looped through a ring in their lips (Room VIII). These prisoners were often deported to discourage rebellion and work as labourers in Assyria.