From all accounts the Assyrians were masters of siege warfare. For many centuries before the rise of the Assyrians towns and cities had built often substantial walls knowing they were virtually impregnable and fearing only a determined enemy starving them into submission. The Assyrians developed a range of sophisticated siege engines with rams and towers for archers, and proceeded to conquer many walled cities.
The larger engines, with six wheels, multiple rams and room for many men, were a high point in the development of siege engines, but by around the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BCE) engines were becoming lighter and smaller, and the model in this set is just such an engine. It is a four-wheeled device with apparently timber construction all round. It measures 60mm (4.3 metres) long, 30mm (2.2 metres) wide and ranges in height from 32mm (2.3 metres) at the back to 48mm (3.5 metres) at the front. It has a narrow opening up the front and a door at the back, and inside a ram 85mm (6.1 metres) in length is suspended from crossbeams. Click here for a comparison of the engine with some men.
Many illustrations of Assyrian siege engines survive and various designs were used. This one is quite simple, and seems perfectly likely. The set includes a choice of heads for the ram – either a spear-like point (for chipping away walls and creating cracks) or a spade-shaped device, which was used to prise open cracks. Rams were apparently elevated in order to attack larger areas of the wall, and the tall opening at the front of this model allows for that.
When you settle down to build one of these rams the first impression is positive. The plastic is nice and hard and takes glue well, while the parts are well defined and largely lacking flash. The wheels are quite tight to get on the axles but overall things fit together pretty well, although this is by no means a snap-together model. When you fix your choice of head on to the ram you then consider mounting it on the provided slings, and there the fun starts. There are basically two problems here. First, although the instructions are very clear they do show that the slings have to be twisted so that the rings holding the ram face the front while those attached to the beams face to the side. However since these are hard plastic, like the rest of the set, they do not twist, and indeed are so thin that they will probably just break. The second problem is, even if they could be twisted the slings would still be unuseable as they are about the same height as the beams, causing the ram to be suspended virtually on the floor, with no chance of fitting through the front slot. Our advice is throw the slings away and use thread or some other method instead.
If you can deal with suspending the ram then the rest is quite straightforward. One of the sheds is of plain timber while the other is also covered in skins or leather as protection, particularly from fire. Otherwise the two models are identical. Each ram also comes with 8 wheels, 4 of which seem to be unneeded, although you could always double-wheel the axles if you wish. There are no figures in the set, although in fairness the men using the ram would be largely hidden by the shed so that is not an issue.
The problems with the slings are serious, but luckily can be avoided by ignoring them and hanging the ram in some other way, after which you have a quite nice model. The parts fit together OK and while it might be one of the simpler and more boring of Assyrian rams it does the job and could look really good in an assault scene.