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Siege Model at Bibleworld

This Bibleworld depicts an Iron Age city under siege from the Assyrians. The landscape and city wall have been based on the archaeological excavations at Bethsaida, Israel.
 
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A general view of the city showing the Assyrian attackers and the strong defensive wall surrounding the city.

 

The goal of the attacking army was to enter the city by breaching or getting through the wall. City walls were usually around 6-10 meters tall and several metres thick.

 

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This view is looking toward the city gate. At the gate a battering ram is attempting to break through the gate.

 

In the foreground are the Assyrian slingers, archers, spearmen as well as a range of chariots and carts to carry supplies preparing to attack the city.

 

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A View of the City Gate

 

A city's gate was usually its weakest point and the easiest to break through. For that reason it was also the most heavily defended and it was there that the attackers were most likely to get killed.

 

This fact becomes a key part of King David's attempt to eliminate Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba. The account is given in 2 Samuel 11:14-15:

 

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” ...

 

 

 

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The Battering Ram (siege engine)

 

Rams like this were often deployed at the city gate since it gave the attackers some degree of shelter. In 2 Samuel 20:15 the Israelites use a battering ram on the city of Abel Beth Maacah.

 

Judah too would feel the impact of these machines. Ezekiel prophecies about this in Ezekiel 21:21-22

 

For the king of Babylon will stop at the fork in the road, at the junction of the two roads, to seek an omen: He will cast lots with arrows, he will consult his idols, he will examine the liver. Into his right hand will come the lot for Jerusalem, where he is to set up battering rams, to give the command to slaughter, to sound the battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to build a ramp and to erect siege works.

 

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Sappers Digging under the City Wall

 

Sapping was the most dangerous job in the army. The sappers worked at the foot of the wall and were vulnerable to attack. As well as that, the wall was weakened as they dug, and so it was not uncommon for sappers to be crushed by a collapsing wall. 

 

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Scaling the City Wall using Ladders

 

This approach to getting into the city was called escalade. It was important that the ladders were constructed just the right length. If they were too short, the attackers would be unable to climb over the wall and could easily be killed. If too long, they could simply be pushed over.

Looking inside the City

 

The defenders of the city could often be trapped inside for up to three or four years. Meanwhile outside the attackers would continue their siege. During these times it was important to have a reliable supply of water and food inside the city.

 

During very long sieges food would become very scarce and people would resort to eating anything. The siege of Samaria mentioned in 2 Kings 17:5 lasted for 3 years. The two year siege on Jerusalem by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had dire consequences for those inside. The book of Lamentations reflects the aftermath of the siege. 

 

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Defense Towers along the City Wall

    
 

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General View of the Siege Activity

 

Attackers were also at risk. A number of sieges ended when an invading army ran out of supplies, the costs were getting too high, or the armies were cut down by plagues due to their cold and wet living conditions.