Explore The North Aegean
Situated on and around the eponymous ancient Greek city, ASSOS, 25km south of Ayvacık, is a charmingly preserved late-medieval village, with a central core of old houses built in the attractive local volcanic stone. Assos acropolis perches above it, spreading down the seaward side of the bluff towards the Aegean. Modern Assos consists of the village of Behramkale, wrapped around the landward side of the hill, and the tiny settlement of former warehouses and fishing cottages grouped around the harbour below. Further along the coast, 4km east of Assos port, extends the fine shingle beach of Kadırga.
Assos dates from about 950 BC, when Greek colonists from Mithymna on neighbouring Lesbos (modern Lésvos) established a settlement, later dedicating a huge temple to Athena in 530 BC. Hermias, a eunuch disciple of Plato, ruled here two centuries later, attempting to put Plato’s theories of the ideal city-state into practice. From 348 to 345 BC Aristotle lived in Assos as Hermias’ guest before crossing to Lesbos, just before the Persians arrived and put Hermias to death. St Paul also passed through en route to Lesbos during his third evangelical journey (c.55 AD; Acts 20:13–14). The site was rediscovered and initially excavated in 1880–83 by a 25-year-old American, Francis Bacon, who was sponsored by the Antiquarian Society of Boston.
From the town square it’s a short, steep uphill walk to the single-domed Murat Hüdavendigar Camii, an austere, square-plan fourteenth-century mosque. Just beyond is the enclosed acropolis site, where the iconic Temple of Athena provides sweeping views across the straits to Greek Lésvos. During the 1980s the temple’s Doric columns were re-erected using inappropriate concrete, but remedial work is now underway to replace this with masoned stone from the original quarries. The rest of ancient Assos is a ruined jumble sloping away from the temple summit, enclosed by impressive, partly intact city walls accented with towers. The sarcophagi of the necropolis can be visited on the way down from the village to the harbour. The few hundred metres of waterfront, lined by massive, stone-clad buildings and ending in a small pebble beach, is very picturesque, and can be idyllic out of season, though summer weekends see it overflowing with busloads of tour groups.Read More