These panels are part of a series of wall reliefs excavated from the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s (ruled 705–681 BCE) palace at Nineveh. The panels records the Assyrian siege and eventual capture of the city of Lachish. Lachish was one of the most important cities in Judah, perhaps second only to Jerusalem, and it played an important role in the administration and military strength of the kingdom. Sennacherib’s army's siege of Lachish is reported in 2 Kings 18–19 (cf. Isaiah 36–37). These panels depict the aftermath of the siege, with particular interest in the population of the city which is being deported to Assyria. Deportation of a defeated city's or country's leadership was a very common part of Assyrian—and to a lesser degree Babylonian—military policy, and was designed to reduce the chance of future rebellions. Elsewhere in the series Sennacherib's soldiers are shown plundering the city's cultic items.
This panel is part of a series of wall reliefs excavated from the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s (ruled 705–681 BCE) palace at Nineveh. The panels records the Assyrian siege and eventual capture of the city of Lachish. The panel shown here depicts Assyrian soldiers carrying away cultic items from the city. Lachish was one of the most important cities in Judah, perhaps second only to Jerusalem, and it played an important role in the administration and military strength of the kingdom. Sennacherib’s army's siege of Lachish is reported in 2 Kings 18–19 (cf. Isaiah 36–37). On the upper left hand side of the relief the besieged city of Lachish is shown, with archers and siege engines (perhaps spiked battering rams) attacking the walls. On the upper level there are various trees, which probably represent the journey to Assyria on which the deportees in the bottom two registers are embarking. In the middle register Neo-Assyrian soldiers can be seen carrying away the spoils of war. These include a chariot and shields and, to the right of those pulling the chariot, two figures are shown carrying incense stands or burners. These are cultic (religious) items that have been looted from the city, either from its main shrine or from private homes. Cultic items were a prized spoil of war, because they symbolised the defeat of the god associated with them, and the power of the god of the attacking forces. A similar practice may be seen on one of Tiglath-pileser III's wall reliefs. The Bible does not record the Assyrians plunder of cultic items during Sennacherib's invasion (perhaps because Hezekiah was supposed to have destroyed them, according 2 Kings 18:4), but it does report that the Babylonians took cultic items away from the Temple of Yhwh when they attacked Jerusalem in 597 BCE and when they destroyed it in 586 BCE (2 Kings 24:13; 25:13–17).
This Anglo-Saxon casket is covered with scenes from Jewish, Christian, German and Classical mythology and history and provides one of the earliest examples of a medieval depiction of the fall of Jerusalem—in this instance, its fall to the Romans in 70 CE. On the back of the casket, Titus’ attack on the city is carved out to dramatic effect. The whole panel is densely populated, with Roman soldiers on the left and fleeing Jewish inhabitants of the city under siege on the right. In the centre of the work is the Jerusalem Temple, with the Ark of the Covenant within it. The inscription on this part of the casket reads: ‘Here Titus and a Jew fight: here its inhabitants flee Jerusalem’. For an eighth century CE Christian artist, the fall of Jerusalem signified the end of the Jewish era and the beginning of a superior Christian Empire. This would have been particularly resonant in Anglo-Saxon England, which had only very recently been converted to Christianity.