Victory Stele of Naram-Sin

Victory stele of Naram-Sin, Susa, Iran, 2254-2218 BCE

As I type this, I’m waiting for an “AirShield” (CVS version of AirBourne) to dissolve in a glass of water. I have to be honest, it looks really disgusting. I am not looking forward to drinking it.

That’s not the point. This is the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin. I’m showing this to you because it’s something new and innovative in art, at least at the time it was created back in the 2200s BCE. It was created by the Akkadians, who introduced a new concept to mankind that’s still around today — unquestioned loyalty to their king rather than their city-state.

Ugh, I think my AirShield is dissolved.

This stele commemorates Naram-Sin’s victory over the people of Lullubi. (Yes, Lullubi, they were the people of the mountains in eastern Iran.) It has two inscriptions. One was done during it’s creation to honor Naram-Sin’s conquest and a later inscription was done in 1157 BCE by an Elamite king who had conquered Akkadian Sippar and took the stele as booty.

Heh. Shake your booty! (What? It’s been a long day and my throat itches.)

The stele show’s Naram-Sin leading his army up the slopes of a mountain. His enemies are slain, fleeing for their lives, or begging for mercy.
The king is depicted much larger than his men and walks all over his slain enemies. He’s wearing a horned helmet — a symbol of the gods in Mesopotamian art– and there are stars shining their favor on him from above.

It also appears that, by scaling the mountain, he is climbing his way to the heavens, which was the belief or symbolism of the ziggurats of the day. His troops follow behind him in a single file, orderly way to imply discipline and organization within the forces.

The enemy is, obviously, shown in disarray. some are crouching, hiding, being walked on or even falling off the side of the mountain.

Of course, the troops and Naram-Sin are shown in the typical composite view, but this piece is innovative because —

Anyone want to guess?

Okay, I’ll just tell you — it’s not laid out in friezes. The story is told dynamically, not through horizontal registers. There are diagonal lines and planes being broken (like the poor guy falling off the side of the mountain) but the placement is deliberate, unlike early man’s haphazardly placed figures.

In other words, without artists willing to evolve and try new things, we’d still be making art within horizontal boxes. How boring would that be? (Of course, before the horizontal boxes, placement was dynamic but also not cohesive. Change is a good thing, my friends. You should mix things up every now and again.)

So that’s all for today.

PS: AirShield tastes almost as bad as it looks. Almost. I think I can choke it down, though. Here’s to cold and flu season!

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