Situated on and around the eponymous ancient Greek city, the modern-day settlement of ASSOS, 25km south of Ayvacık, encompasses the charming late-medieval village of Behramkale; the Assos acropolis, perched above it; and a tiny, attractive harbour below, known as İskele or Assos Liman.
Exploring the ruins and the village aside, Assos is simply a place to unwind and gaze out over a perfectly blue sea. Most visitors to Assos rush up to Behramkale to see the temple before heading down to enjoy the eating and drinking pleasures of the harbour.
The journey from Ayvacık in particular is very pleasant, as the road threads through hilly countryside covered with olive trees and valonia oak, whose acorns yield tannin, used to make leather – the main business of Assos until the early twentieth century. The final approach passes a fourteenth-century, humpback Ottoman bridge, built with ancient masonry during the same period as the Hüdavendigar Camii, in Behramkale.
Assos dates from about 950 BC, when Greek colonists from Mithymna on neighbouring Lesbos (modern Lésvos) established a settlement. Hermias, a eunuch disciple of Plato, ruled here during the fourth century BC, attempting to put Plato’s theories of the ideal city-state into practice. Between 348 and 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.