But what made this Assyrian relief stand out? It was a small detail, a lioness to be exact. The hunt depicted did not take place in the wild but in a controlled environment, ensuring the king would be victorious. The king is in his chariot with his attendants. He is throwing a spear into a lion, which already has several fatal wounds on its body.
All around the chariot are the bodies of dead lions littering the ground, most overkilled with far more arrows and spears necessary to kill the beasts. The artist does a fantastic job of showing the rippling muscles and facial wrinkles in all of the lions. But there is one lioness that is different from the other lions. She is pictured holding herself up with her front two legs while dragging the back two on the ground. Her muscles are tense and her face is full of emotion. Even though the multiple wounds she has sustained will inevitably be the death of her she still holds herself up to let out one last roar. Her roar is a roar that suggests defiance against the cruel game that is being played against her and her fallen feline comrades. The artist was obviously not re-creating exactly what happened during this “hunt”, suggesting that he would have had to feel sorrow or sadness for these animals to depict them this way.
Large palace complexes were built and decorated to show the power and importance of the King. Art was used as propaganda to support the political power of the ruling classes. Reliefs and murals were used to decorate buildings and streets to declare the ruler strong, invincible, just, and empowered by the gods. A favorite image used in art was that of conquered dignitaries coming to pay tribute to the king, showing the vastness of his kingdom.
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