From the 9th to the 7th century BC, Assyrian kings launched a programme of visualization of their military deeds and achievements on wall panels in the rooms of the royal residences in the main capital cities of the empire, Nimrud, Dur Sharrukin and Nineveh. Therefore, Assyrian bas-reliefs represent an important source for the study and analysis of ancient Assyrian warfare: in fact, bas-reliefs have been largely used to investigate the Assyrian military techniques, the composition of the army, the type of weapons and the contexts of the battles as they are related to in the royal official inscriptions of the Annals. Images, however, are not the automatic translation of words into pictures: indeed, images and texts are complementary sources, keeping a certain degree of independence in the way they refer to, narrate and present the events of the battles of the Assyrian army. Instead of focusing on what images represent (the type of battle – open field fight or siege –, the weapons used by the Assyrian army, the composition and arrangement of the troops on the battlefield), thus using bas-reliefs as a kind of catalogue of circumstances, the present paper seeks for the analysis of how images are represented and organized on the wall panels to tell the complexity of a one-year military campaign or the sequences of a single battle: in this respect, battle visual narratives select moments and places to be depicted as the most representative aspects of an entire military campaign or a specific fight, either an open field battle or a siege. Through the process of selection, visual narratives emphasize some details while, conversely, they are silent and hide others: as a consequence, due to the need of the visual representation, battle visual narratives even reinvent the event based on the need of space and time of narration. Reinvention depends on two factors: first, sculptors need to reinvent the battle adapting the story to the available space for sculptures on a limited number of slabs (the needs of narration prevail over the possibility of representing all details and aspects, but a certain degree of truthfulness of the real event must be respected); second, reinvention is the result of a deliberate operation and choice to represent something that occurred differently in the reality thus presenting an ex-post elaboration of problematic battles. In the end, the paper intends to open a reflection on how and if the effect of the reinvention affected the historical accuracy of battles and how this choice can be attributed to the precepts of the Assyrian political ideology: as a consequence, is the real battle the one represented and narrated onto the bas-reliefs or the one physically fought in the field? In this vein, representations of battles sometimes revisited the facts with modification and alteration of the reality as to comply with ideological strategies, on the one hand, and to conform to a visual canon and model of visualizing the war (the Assyrian army reaches the battlefield, the Assyrian army wins, enemies and prisoners are killed and deported with the booty), on the other. In fact, as a result of the interplay process in the visualization of battle narratives, representations of sieges, in particular, are built upon a model where only the environmental and landscape details change: this repetitiveness actually reflects the strategy the Assyrian army usually employs to conquer fortified enemy cities. At the same time, however, the repetitiveness results from the adoption and modelling of visual archetypes that define the Assyrian sculptors’ ways to see and encode battle narratives from the 9th to the 7 century BC. The identification of this process of repetition and quotation of old pictures into new reinterpreted visual forms is named intericonicity; the repetition of codes and canons has a double function and origin: on the one hand, it can be the explicit intention of the maker to refer to and quote old pictures with the aim of replicating shapes, contents and even context; on the other, it can be the result of an embedded intention, that is replica of old pictures, with the imitation or quotation of shapes, gestures, content and context in a kind of automatic process based on an inner mnemonic background and relationships. The contextualization of the visual battle narratives within the Assyrian royal palaces can be the correct key to interpret the social, cultural and political value of the phenomenon of visualizing war in the Assyrian society beyond the too simplistic speculations of propaganda implications.
Assyrian stories of war: The Reinvention of battles through visual narratives / NADALI, Davide. - In: STATE ARCHIVES OF ASSYRIA. BULLETIN. - ISSN 1120-4699. - :XXV(2020), pp. 47-72.
|Titolo:||Assyrian stories of war: The Reinvention of battles through visual narratives|
NADALI, Davide [Writing – Original Draft Preparation] (Corresponding author)
|Data di pubblicazione:||2020|
|Citazione:||Assyrian stories of war: The Reinvention of battles through visual narratives / NADALI, Davide. - In: STATE ARCHIVES OF ASSYRIA. BULLETIN. - ISSN 1120-4699. - :XXV(2020), pp. 47-72.|
|Appartiene alla tipologia:||01a Articolo in rivista|