Ammon’s Crime & Siege Warfare

I thought it was a stiff sentence that you gave Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15-19), and Cain (Gen 11-12), but what they got is nothing compared to You killing David’s child.  

You loved David’s other son, Solomon.  What kind of person is he going to be? 

The Rape of Tamar
Tamar was the daughter of the charismatic, mercurial King David. Her mother was Maacah, a princess from the neighboring kingdom of Geshur.

“And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.

And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do anything to her.

But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.

And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.

And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.

So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.

The Rape of the Sabine Women is an episode in the legendary history of Rome, traditionally dated to 750 B.C., in which the first generation of Roman men acquired wives for themselves from the neighboring Sabine families.

The English word rape is a conventional translation of the Latin raptio, which in this context means “abduction” rather than its prevalent modern meaning in English language of sexual violation.

The concept of rape, both as an abduction and in the sexual sense (not always distinguishable), makes its first historical appearance in early religious texts.

The rape of women or youths is a common theme in Greek mythology. Among the rapes or abductions committed by Zeus, the supreme deity of the Greek pantheon, are Europa and Ganymede.

The rape of Chrysippus by Laius was known as “the crime of Laius”, a term which came to be applied to all male rape.

It was seen as an example of hubris in the original sense of the word, i.e. violent outrage, and its punishment was so severe that it destroyed not only Laius himself, but also his son, Oedipus, his wife Jocasta, his grandchildren (including Antigone) and members of his extended family.

Satyr and nymph, mythological symbols of sexuality on a mosaic from a bedroom in Pompeii.

Sexual attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome are indicated by Roman art, literature and inscriptions, and to a lesser extent by archaeological remains such as erotic artifacts and architecture.

It has sometimes been assumed that “unlimited sexual license” was characteristic of ancient Rome.

The sexuality of the Romans has never had good press in the West ever since the rise of Christianity.

In the popular imagination and culture, it is synonymous with sexual license and abuse.

However, sexuality was not excluded as a concern of the mos maiorum, the traditional social norms that affected public, private, and military life.

Pudor, “shame, modesty”, was a regulating factor in behavior, as were legal strictures on certain sexual transgressions in both the Republican and Imperial periods.

The censors were public officials who determined the social rank of individuals and would, on occasion, remove citizens from the senatorial or equestrian order for sexual misconduct.

The mid-20th-century sexuality theorist Michel Foucault regarded sex throughout the Greco-Roman world as governed by restraint and the art of managing sexual pleasure.

Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon’s house, and dress him meat.

So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes.

And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him.

And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.

And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister.

And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.

And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee” (2 Sam 13:1-13).

So Ammon raped Tamar, and afterwards not only was he no longer interested in her, but he hated her and told her to leave.

“And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her” (2 Sam 13:16).

So he had his servants throw her out and lock the door.  Their brother Absolom saw her crying and found out that Ammon had raped her, and he hated Ammon for what he did.  But he told Tamar to be quiet about it at this time and to stay with him.

“But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth” (2 Sam 13:21).

Two years later Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hazor and he invited all the king’s sons. 

“Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant.

And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled.

And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king’s sons, and there is not one of them left.

Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent.

And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king’s sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar” (2 Sam 13:28-32).

Absalom then took off and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur, and was there for three years.

Siege Warfare

Ancient Warefare: Siege Ramps
Nimrud stone relief showing earth siege ramp leading up towards the city of Lachish.

Wall relief of the siege ramp at Lachich, which forms as platform for

a battering ram pounding the city walls.

The Assyrians were so successful at warfare that small nations like Judah developed extensive fortifications to repel them.

To little avail, since the Assyrians developed the art of siege warfare.

They used various techniques: siege ramps and battering rams

breaching walls and gates scaling ladders

tunnelling, undermining the walls so that there were cave-ins that destabilised the foundations

psychological warfare.

Ramp Design

In a siege, the attackers built a causeway of piled and rammed earth and rubble, strengthened with wood.

These ramps or earthen bridges filled any obstacle, such as moats, so that the attackers could traverse the gap and apply scaling ladders and rams to the walls.

The siege ramp was a path to the vulnerable walls.

The attackers then brought up a battering ram.

Typically it was a metal-tipped wooden ram inside a framework shielded by a leather covering.

It was pushed forward on wheels until it reached the wall of the city under siege, then it pounded the walls, smashing down any weak part.

The Battering Ram
Where did they aim the battering ram?

The lower part of the wall was the most accessible, but if the ram could be aimed higher, the crumbling wall would dislodge the battlements and its defenders.

Moreover, the fallen debris could be used to widen the ramp, making it suitable for a second, third or fourth battering ram.

Siege warfare was a military strategy in which an attacking force would encircle a fortified position, generally a walled dry city, in order to defeat the inhabiting popula­tion.

The strategy was employed either to gain control of a city or to regain control of a rebellious city.

An attacking fore would encamp near the target city, block off all roads leading in and out of the city and cut off access to supply channels, most notably those involving water.

Once these preliminaries had been achieved, several strategies could be implemented.  (These approaches were not mutually exclusive; often a force would combine two or more tactics during a siege.)

A show of force could intimidate the inhabitants to the point of surrender. This line of attack had obvious advantages in that it would prevent a prolonged and potentially costly siege.

Sennacherib’s representative employed this strategy —unsuccessfully — against Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah.

Sometimes an army relied upon a ruse, such as in the story of the Trojan horse.

During the siege of Ai, Joshua divided his troops as a means of enticing the defenders of Ai to leave their defensive position in order to pursue a portion of Joshua’s forces. 

Once this had been accomplished, Joshua and his remaining troops were able to enter and destroy the defenseless city.

All other approaches failing, a besieging army was compelled to resort to direct assault on a city’s wall.

The fastest but most dangerous method of taking a defensive wall was to scale it, a tactic commonly involving the use of assault ladders.

An Egyptian tomb relief dating the Fifth Dynasty of the Early Bronze Age depicts warriors raising ladders against a besieged city wall.  

Depending upon the height of the walls and the tenacity of the defenders, the attackers could suffer extraordinarily high casualties.

The 19th century B.C. saw the de­velopment of effective battering rams, per­haps the greatest invention of siege warfare.

These weapons consisted of a long pole, often metal-tipped, that hung from a covered frame­work (offering protection to the attackers).

It would be hurled repeatedly against the wall or gate in a pendulum motion.

Many cities were surrounded by defen­sive fosses or dry moats, but would-be at­tackers would frequently surround such a city with trenches of their own.

A process of two opposing armies digging trenches and counter-trenches took place at the Athenian siege of Syracuse in 414 B.C.

Sometimes earthen ramps were con­structed against a city’s wall. Remnants of the siege mound constructed by Sennacherib during the siege of Lachish in 701 B.C. are still visible, as is the siege mound used by the Romans during the siege of Ma­sada in a.d.

Sometimes attackers attempted to com­promise a wall by tunneling beneath it. This was achieved by “sappers,” or tunnel engineers.

The annals of Sennacherib describe such a strat­egy during the siege of Hezekiah’s Judean cities.

Siege warfare was also a strategy of attrition, demanding commitment and often patience. (Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Tyre, e.g., lasted for 13 years.).

It sought to defeat the enemy not primarily by sword but by star­vation and thirst. Defenses against a siege included the stockpiling of food and water, the construction of tall walls and fosses and the reinforcement of city gates with strong bars.

The city walls them­selves could be quite sophisticated in design as well. For example, one technique was to use an offset-inset wall, in which the surface of the city wall was not flat but protruded at intervals.

Defending inhabitants would also send out sorties in counterattacks in the hope of breaking a siege.

A defending force’s greatest advantage was its superior height. This allowed defenders to hurl down stones, arrows, javelins, hot oil or water and even millstones.