Library IndexArchitecture LibraryPalaces → Palace of Sargon II at Khorsabad


Map 1-Dur-sharrukin & Topography Plans
In the closing days of his reign - it was dedicated in 706 B C, less than a year before his death - Sargon II built a great city that he called Dur-sharrukin, a name that means “Sargon City". “At that time I built a city with the labor of the peoples of the lands which my hands had conquered, people which Assur, Nabu and Marduk had brought in submission to my feet so that they bore my yoke. At the foot of Mount Musri, above Nineveh, in obedience to the command of the god and the prompting of my heart I built it and I called its name Dur-Sharrukin.

Ea, Sin, Shamash, Nabu, Adad and Ninurta and their consorts who were born in E-hursag-kalamma, all took up their joyous residence in brilliant temples and artistic shrines in the midst of Dur-Sharrukin. Perpetual offerings and all kinds of priests I established for them.

Palaces of ivory, maple, boxwood, muskannu-wood, cedar, cypress, juniper, pine and pistachio, a “Palace without Rival” as my royal house I built in that city. On tablets made of silver and gold, lapis lazuli, jasper, alabaster, bronze, lead, iron, magnetite, and on boughs of evergreens I laid each palace’s foundation platforms. I built their brick-work. With great beams of cedar I roofed them. Door-leaves of cypress and maple I bound up with a sheathing of shining bronze and set them up in the palaces’ gates. A portico, patterned after the Hittite palace, which in the language of Amurru they call a bit-hilani, I built in front of the palaces’ gates. Eight lions, in pairs, weighing 4,1610 talents, made of shining bronze and four cedar columns, exceedingly high, each 1 GAR in thickness, products of Mount Amanus, I placed on top of the colossal lions. I set them up as posts to support the palaces’ doors. Mountain sheep, as mighty protecting deities, I cunningly constructed out of great blocks of mountain stone, and, setting them towards the four winds of heaven, I adorned the palaces’ entrances. On great slabs of limestone, the enemy towns which my hands had captured, I sculptured thereon. I had those slabs of limestone sculpted with the defeated enemy towns set up around the interior walls of the palaces. I made them objects of astonishment. Reliefs of the towns of the enemy lands which I had captured through the might of Assur, my lord, I used as adornments in these palaces, thanks to the art of the sculptors.


Map 2-Palace
Plan of the palace as drawn by the original excavator about l852.


Map 3-Sargon's Palace
In Sargon’s palace, just as in Assur-nasir-pal’s and Sennacherib’s palaces, the main arrangement of the most important rooms is around courtyards. Sargon’s throne room, a long narrow room with throne placed on one of the short walls, opens onto courtyard n. The throne room had three major entrances, each enhanced with huge human-headed bulls. Only two of these doorways have been excavated.


Facade n-NE Wall A-B
The longest exterior wall of the palace was called facade n by the original excavators. This facade encircles a large public courtyard from which one enters the throne room which probably stood directly behind the large pair of winged bulls and guardian figures with lion to the top left of the drawing.

The courtyard was covered with reliefs showing tribute being brought to the king from different parts of his empire. The outside of the palace, those areas that faced onto the courtyard,were covered with peaceful scenes. We find tribute bearers, religious scenes and high ranking officials bringing beautifully decorated furniture to the king.


Winged Bull 1 & Winged Bull 2
If you compare these winged bulls from the main entrance to Sargon’s throne room to those of Assur-nasir-pal you will see subtle differences. These differences will help you understand Assyrian palaces are deeply traditional in content and convention they are, nevertheless, still unique to each individual ruler.

Notice, for instance, that the Sargonid winged bulls have feathers(?) emerging from their horned crowns. Those in Assur-nasir-pal’s palace have no such embellishment. Here also you can see the multiple flower shaped studs with which the head piece is richly decorated. This too is a change in what at first sight seems like a duplicate of Assur-nasir-pal’s works.


Human Headed Bull & Head Close-up
To the left and right of the main entrance to the throne room , facing into courtyard n is this human headed bull with his face turned toward the viewer.


Guardian 1 & Guardian 2
Directly to the left and right of the winged bulls we find elegantly dressed guardian figures grasping an animal handled weapon in one hand and a hissing young lion in the other.


Winged Guardians
To the right of a subsidiary door stands a four winged guardian figure bearing a date spathe in his right hand and a bucket in his left. . Notice the fleur- de- lis top- knot on his headpiece. This, along with the wavy hairline, distinguish him from the similar guardians at Nimrud.

Human Figure
To the right of the winged genius stands a human figure also carrying a fruited branch. Both head towards the minor entrance to the throne room.

These courtiers of the king are all that remain of the long wall of tribute bearers that can be seen in Flandin’s reconstruction. The original wall showed tribute bearers being introduced to the king from the right. The image of the king appears to have just stepped out of his throne room. The tribute bearers approach him led by the king’s own courtiers.


Facade n-SE Wall A-B
As you turn towards the north wall of the courtyard and away from the throne room you see another wall full of decoration.
This wall has one relatively small doorway flanked by comparatively small winged, human-headed bulls with horned crowns and six wingless genii carrying date spathes. The doorway leads to room X, a corridor that connects this courtyard to another courtyard to the north.


Sargon, carrying his sword encased in its lion embellished scabbard meets a high official who stands at the head a group of court officials. These men appear to introduce or report on the scenes directly to their right along the wall. A eunuch whisking away flies stands behind the king.

Boats 1
The bas reliefs to the right of the king and towards which he is turned show seascapes. We see Phoenicians ferrying lumber, probably cedar, over water for the Assyrian king. The men doing the work are recognizable as Phoenicians by their head-gear. The boats, too. are characteristically Phoenician in shape with their horse- headed prows.. Notice that no Assyrians are shown doing any of this work, neither rowing nor dragging the cedar logs. The scene on the right includes fish, crabs, eels or snakes, turtles lizards (?) and some sort of horned crowned merman.To the left men pile up the timber in front of what was probably a schematic view of mountain with a river flowing down it.

Boats 2
Phoenician boats, loaded down with logs row towards a ramparted island “city” towing additional cedar beams along behind them. Fish, sea snakes and a winged bull accompany the exercise. The galleys towing the logs are greeted by a Phoenician boat fitted out with mast and sail although the sail is apparently reefed.

Boats 3
Phoenician boats and seamen tow logs past another island city on a hill. Tyre and Arvad are two Phoenician cities known to have been built on small islands off the coast of Palestine in the Mediterranean sea. The Phoenicians are accompanied by fish, crabs and a human headed winged bull with horned crown.

Findspot Men
In this slab from an unknown findspot men, apparently Phoenicians, walking on bare feet. if we may judge by their headdress, hoist the beams with ropes stretched over their shoulders and carry them through mountainous territory on bare feet.


King & Courtier
To the right of the doorway, next to the small winged bulls stands the king as if he had just appeared from around the corner and out of the doorway. He greets four courtiers exactly as he did on the other side of the door-way. Here we show only one high ranking Assyrian official as an example.

Behind these four men march tribute bearers. Notice the shoes on the king and courtier. They are different from those used by Assur-nasir-pal and their style may be used to date items to the reign of Sargon II when encountered elsewhere.

The elegance of the king’s dress is also noticeable. His outer garment is covered with gold flowers and his inner dress a richly embroidered. His turban is also covered with golden flower shaped studs like those of the winged bulls at the doorway to the throne room. His scabbard is of a more elaborate design than that of Assur-nasir-pal. It retains the double lion heads at its tip but has add another open mouthed lion to the wide entry area of the sheath.

Tribute Bearers
Here are the first of a dozen tribute bearers approaching the king from the left. We show only three here. There are actually twice that number on the facade of Khorsabad.

The men are dressed in Phoenician head gear, short western beards, high, non-Assyrian boots and short sleeved, wrap-around, tasseled, toga-like dresses. The head-dress is Phoenician and we may assume that the rest of the attire is also. The man to the left carries a sack or skin full of grain or wine. The central figure carries two bowls, probably of gold and the figure closest to the king carries a model of the city. Remember where king Solomon sent for help when he wanted to build the first Temple in Jerusalem.

At the end of the procession come the horses, decked out in parade finery and led by a gentleman in Phoenician dress.

This entire enclosure wall of Court n, which we call Facade n, was decorated with the tribute from the Western Seacoast; special wood, probably cedar beams, is brought along the coast of Phoenicia by boat past Arvad and Tyre the famous cities surrounded by water. the wood is transported just as it was in the days of Pharaoh. Gold cups and models of cities as well as horses are brought too. Remember that the Phoenicians were known for their excellent artisans. Assyrian kings bragged about importing the artisans themselves into Assyria to beautify their palaces.


Map 3-Sargon's Palace
Notice the corridor marked X that connects the Southern courtyard (n) to the Northern (N).


Phoenicians & Medes
The corridor (X) connecting the Southern courtyard (Facade n) with the Northern courtyard, (Facade N) is lined with bas reliefs. On the northeast wall, in the upper register we see Phoenicians coming from the west bearing tribute to Asssyria, gold bowls, sacks of grain or wine and models of Sargon’s city to be. Behind the men in short dress is a rather more formally attired individual, with long beard, long skirt and slightly different head dress. Below, we see men who are probably Medes coming from the East and bringing to Assyria the horses for which they were famous. Among them and dressed in the same manner as the men who guide the horses are longer bearded persons carrying models of Sargon's city in their hands.

The procession continues with Phoenicians above and Medes below. Among the Phoenicians notice the long dress on all the tribute bearers and the bare feet. Below are more Medes dressed in short skirts, high boots with slightly upturned toes and two different types of fur wrappers. A man with Assyrian style boots leads the group to the right.

Also Arabs
This slab also shows Phoenicians above and Medes below. However, in addition to the Phoenicians we fine Arabs herding their camels. Moreover one of our Phoenicians may be a north Syrian as he wears a peaked cap and carries a differently shaped model building. Below the Medes and their horses move to the right followed by a Mede carrying a model of Sargon’s new city.

Final Scene
The final scene on the northeast wall shows the procession stopping as an Assyrian eunuch, recognizable by his dress, hair and lack of beard. gives the signal to stop. The horses, realistically, become skittish when their pace is changed.


Opposite Wall
On the opposite wall of the corridor, the southwest wall, once again we see Phoenicians above carrying models of the new city and Medes below herding horses toward the king’s man.

More Phoenicians
More Phoenicians, recognizable by the type of dress and the shoeless marching lead two horses toward the left. Great care has been taken to distinguish these horses from those below. Notice the difference in main, caparison and the way they are being handled.

Phoenicians & Medes & Phoenicians & Medes 2
The wall ends with more Phoenicians and Medes processing to the left. One Mede in each panel appears to wear a wrap of lion skin. It is spotted and shows a paw clearly hanging down the men’s side.


Facade N-NE Wall
NE Side-Door P M Q
NE & SE Walls
Facade N faces courtyard N. It has three doors that open to the west onto Room VIII, a room that the original excavators thought was the throne room because of its rectangular shape, three genii flanked doors opening onto Courtyard N and throne dais. Subsequent excavation has suggested that the throne room actually opened off Court n, to the south. Room VIII was probably an audience chamber of some sort.


Genius 1 & Genius 2
Facade N is almost entirely destroyed. However, these genii remains facing one of the minor doors to room VIII. Compare these to the genii in the palace of Assur-nasir-pal to get an idea of how the bas reliefs in this palace reflect the enormous growth in wealth in 8th century Assyria.


Room 8 Plan & Room 8 Elevations
From Courtyard N with its religious or court panels you walk directly into Room VIII.


Captive Leashed
This room, like the throne room at Nimrud has the same scene repeated on the wall opposite the main entrance door, behind the short wall to the south where one would expect a throne to be were this a throne room and on the exterior wall to the southeast where one could see it if entering the room from the west. (Look at the plan again. These places are marked with an X)

The relief depicts the Asssyrian king holding a captive by a “leash” and raising his spear over him while the captive kneels. Behind the prisoner are two of his countrymen. The dress of these prisoners is very similar to men in corridor X who bring tribute from the west. Notice particularly the flounce at the bottom of the victim’s skirt , the headdresses and the beards. The treatment of the hair in the standing figure is somewhat difficult to understand, however, being found elsewhere in the palace only on Assyrian soldiers. Perhaps the standing men are those still loyal to the Assyrian king and this Assyrian hairdo is symbolic of that.

Notice also that the two men and the kneeling captive are substantially smaller than the king and the courtiers that flank the victims.

Bearded Courtiers
To the left of the king stand two bearded courtiers each bearing a mace, a bow and quiver and a sword in a scabbard.

Eunuch & Courtier
To the right of the king and completing the front short wall of the room are two additional Assyrian attendants, one a eunuch - he has no beard - and the second a courtier carrying only a sword. The eunuch appears to have carried something in his left hand but the stone is now so broken that we cannot ascertain what was once there.

Men Herded
To the left of the scene of the king and captives as one’s eyes move towards the place where the throne ought to be is another series of men being herded toward the left by Assyrian soldiers. These men are slightly smaller than the Assyrian soldiers and wear the clothing typical of the Medes on the east wall of Corridor X. The three men at the front of the series are shackled about both wrists and ankles.

To the right of these courtiers stands the sacred tree, in the corner, just as it was at Nimrud. It stands in exactly this manner in each corner of room VIII here at Khorsabad.


Room 5 Elevations
If you stand in the Courtyard N and look through the main door through Room VIII you will see all the way through rooms V and II. Both of these rooms show scenes of religious nature, way, tribute (?) and feasting.


Religious Scenes
Here from Room V the king holding a fruited branch greets a high court official. This bas relief is from the panel to the right of the main door as you enter from room VIII.

Assyrian Army 1 & Assyrian Army 2
Here we have the Assyrian army relying on bowmen, cavalry and charioteers attacking several cities. Assyrian Army 1 & Assyrian Army 2 show an attack on a citadel in the mountains. A river flows by behind the citadel.

Assyrian Army 3
Assyrian soldiers attack another citadel below and put an end to any enemy above.

Assyrian Army 4
Above the Assyrian chariots attack an enemy who is driven into the arms of the enemy. Below the defeated persons, women and children and grown men are herded out of the city by Asyrian soldiers. Compare the head coverings of these prisoners to those bowmen who defend the citadel in Assyrian Army 3.

Assyrian Army 5, Assyrian Army 7, Assyrian Army 8.
Three more citadels go down to defeat at the hands of the Assyrian army.

Assyrian Army 10
The head of the defenders of the citadel in shackles, meets the Assyrian king.


Assyrian King
Room II shows the Assyrian king in the field in his chariot overcoming enemies. This relief is outstanding for the fact that it shows an enemy soldier helping a wounded comrade from the field Above, we see he Assyrian army and court officials banqueting. Notice the lion headed rhyta from which they drink.

Army Attack 1 & Army Attack 2
The banquet continues above while the army attacks one city after another below. Defenders generally wear some sort of animal skin wrap over their clothing. These battles appear to take place in the mountains.


Facade L-SW & SE Walls
When you exit from Room II you come immediately to courtyard L, called by the excavators Facade L. If you turn your back to the courtyard and face inward you see the king himself. Courtiers and soldiers carry Phoenician furniture of every sort into his presence. He meets this procession of tribute born by Assyrian soldiers and dignitaries


Sargon II
Sargon II, is flanked by his eunuchs. These are high officials who carry his mace, his quiver and a fly whisk to keep him comfortable. The king wears the typical Assyrian royal hat with long rear tassel. However, he holds not his usual bow but rather a shepherd’s crook. Apparently the king wishes to be seen here as “shepherd of his people”, a title found frequently in his annals. Nevertheless, Sargon still carries his sword encased in its lion embellished scabbard. The king meets a high official who stands at the head of this long procession. While it is tempting to see this as a scene of tribute being brought to the king , it is more likely that it is only because the items are imported that we think of that. In fact what we have here may be the king preparing for some sort of outdoor indulgence.

King Aboutface
On the other side of the main door-way that leads through the Courtyard N is another relief showing the king in the very same posture only facing in the opposite direction. Here he meets the tribute bearers led by his high official coming from the opposite direction.


4 Courtiers
Four courtiers carry a small wheeled throne, round bowls and lion’s head situlae.

4 Eunuchs 1
Four eunuchs carry a high backed chair and a high table with lion’s paw and cone shaped feet.

2 Soldiers
Two soldiers carry a small chariot while a third brings up four horses behind.

4 Eunuchs 2
Four eunuchs approach the king carrying a narrow table with lion and cone feet, a large bowl with everted lip and a large wide table with lion’s paw and cone feet.


Remainder 1
Remainder 2
Remainder 3
The remainder of Facade L is wither lost of unexcavated. We have only these genies carrying the date-spather and basket and the fruited branch in the door-ways as they once did at Nimrud.