The state rooms and living quarters of the palace at Nimrud were decorated with murals carved out of limestone blocks, each measuring around 6.5 feet (2 m) high and 13 feet (4 m) wide. Many of these murals showed mythological scenes, but there were also scenes of war, which were intended to intimidate those who saw them. In the throne room, there was a continuous pageant of images, in which the king was the main character. The king was shown as the upholder and protector of fertility, a typical motif in Mesopotamia and, indeed, the entire ancient world.
These royal reliefs are unique in terms of their style and content. For the first time, each image portrays a historical event. Many of these wall reliefs were painted in bright colors, representing the absolute height of Mesopotamian art. Above the friezes were more highly colored murals painted directly on to the plaster of the walls. The calibre of the work is all the more remarkable because most of the craftsmen working on the palace were prisoners of war or forced labor conscripted from the far-flung reaches of the empire.
The entrances to the halls and courtyards were guarded by massive threedimensional sculptures of bull figures with wings and human heads. These figures had the purpose both of protecting the palace against evil spirits and of warning those who came within the palace precincts that the power of the Assyrian king reached far and wide.
In 879 BCE, Ashurnasirpal celebrated the completion of his royal palace by giving an enormous banquet, to which he invited almost 70,000 guests. The festivities lasted for ten days, during which time 14,000 sheep were consumed and 10,000 vessels of wine were drunk.