Assos (Behramkale)

Assos was originally founded by Aeolian colonists from Lesbos in the 7th century B.C. In the 6th century B.C. it came under the rule of the Lydians and with their defeat at the hands of the Persians in 546 B.C., the city came under Persian rule.

Ariobarzanes, the Persian governor who rebelled against King Artaxerxes was defeated at Assos in 365 B.C. and he was replaced by Euboulos, a prominent banker. He was succeeded by the eunuch Hermias, one of Plato’s students and it was because of this association that Hermias’s friend Aristotle stayed with him for three years at Assos (348-345 B.C.).

In 334 B.C. Assos was taken by Alexander, and the city was part of the Pergamon kingdom from 241 to 133 B.C. after which it came under Roman rule. Assos was ruled by Byzantium after 395 A.D. During this period it was known as Makhram. (It is believed that “Behramkale”, the name of the village above Assos, is derived from this.) Assos became an Ottoman possession during the reign of Murad I (1359-1389). The acropolis was defended by a double wall. The inner walls appear to have been repaired in Medieval and Ottoman times and have been restored. Beside them is a mosque built during the reign of Murad I. The bridge below, which is no longer usable, was also built in the 14th century.

The Temple of Athena was built on a site with a magnificent view overlooking the sea at a height of 238 meters. At present only a few of the temple’s columns are standing but restoration work is in progress. The temple was built some time around 530 B.C. It is constructed of andesite rather than marble and has 6 by 13 columns and measure 14 by 30 meters in size. The acropolis is surrounded by a wall three kilometers in length. These walls are skillfully constructed of stone and reach 20 meters in height in some places. There are two big gates, one on the west and another on the east, as well as seven smaller gates. The walls were reinforced with numerous towers and were built in 365 B.C. (The polygonal walls we see here and there predate the 4th century however.)

We shall begin our tour of the city proper by entering through the main gate on the west. Just outside the western gate is a necropolis containing tombs from Hellenistic and Roman times. The arched structure here is the monumental tomb of Publius Varius. Entering through the gate we see the defensive towers located on either side. On the left side after entering the gate is the Assos gymnasium. Measuring 32 by 40 meters, this gymnasium is the form of a courtyard surrounded on four sides by colonnades. On the northern side of the courtyard is a cistern.

The gymnasium is a work of the 2nd century B.C. A bit beyond this one comes to the Assos agora located on a terrace the foot of the acropolis. Its northern boundary is a double-story Doric-order stoa measuring 111.52 m long and 12.42 m wide. (The holes that one sees in the rear wall of the stoa are where the beams supporting the upper story were once set). The stoa on the southern side had three stories but owing to the slope of the terrain, the top floor was built on a level with the first floor of the northern stoa. The middle floor and basement opened only to the south while the top floor provided a view of both the agora and the sea. This was undoubtedly a favorite promenade place for the inhabitants. The middle story contained thirteen shops while in the basement there were two cisterns and thirteen bathrooms. Between the two stoas on the western side of the agora there were Hellenistic-period shops and next to them a temple built in the 2nd century B.C. Below the agora is the Assos theater. Originally built in 3rd century B.C., it was altered in Roman times and is now in ruins.