The ruins of the ancient city of Assos are situated on a rocky hill, on the coast of the Aegean Sea. Tuzla river (in ancient times known as Satnoieis) flows to the north of Assos. The remains of the ancient settlement are located on the territory of modern Turkish village and holiday resort of Behramkale.
In the 1st millennium BCE settlers from the nearby island of Lesbos (now in Greece) founded Assos. The 4th century BCE was a period of great prosperity for Assos when Hermeias, a student of Plato, ruled the city, as well as the rest of the Troad peninsula. In 348 BCE Aristotle came to Assos and established a philosophical school where he taught for three years.
Alexander the Great, a student of Aristotle, expelled the Persians in 334 BCE and his successors exercised nominal sovereignty over the city and were acclaimed benefactors. During the years 241-133 BCE the Kingdom of Pergamon ruled Assos, after which it was incorporated into the Roman Empire. Returning to Jerusalem on his third missionary journey in 55 AD, Saint Paul walked alone from Alexandria Troas to Assos, where he rejoined colleagues and sailed to Lesbos.
The archaeological site entrance is above the mosque at the highest point in the actual town of Behramkale where you have to pay the entrance fee. After a walk along the Roman walls and a small cistern one can reach the acropolis 238 m. above sea level (splendid view) with the foundations of an early Doric order temple (14 x 30 m.) dedicated to Athena in 530 BCE. Six of the original 38 temple columns still remain. Down and west of the acropolis stands a well-preserved 4th century BCE city wall and gate complete with 14 m. high towers.
Through the gate an ancient paved road leads down to a large 2nd century BCE gymnasium (52 x 52 m.) adjacent to the ruins of a 5th-6th century church to the north-east, followed by a 2nd-3rd century BCE agora complete with Helllenistic period shops and a two-storey Doric colonnade to the north. Next along the lower road is an ancient bouleuterion (21 x 21 m.) and finally toward the sea is a 3rd century BCE Greek theatre for up to 5000 spectators. West of the gate outside the city walls lies a large Greco-Roman necropolis in which the oldest identified tomb dates back to the 7th century BCE.
Assos archaeological site is open daily, in summer season (April - October) from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, and in winter season (November - March) - from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The admission fee is 10 TL.
Near the small harbor are a few lovely fish restaurants with magnificent sea views.
By car: the site of Assos is easily reachable via the small town of Behramkale. There you can park the car and walk to the well-signposted site above the village.
Text & Photographs: Michel Gybels