Ruins of the Temple of Athena in Assos
Assos is located in Turkey
Shown within Turkey
LocationAyvacık, Çanakkale Province, Turkey
Coordinates39°29′16″N 26°20′13″E / 39.48778°N 26.33694°E / 39.48778; 26.33694Coordinates: 39°29′16″N 26°20′13″E / 39.48778°N 26.33694°E / 39.48778; 26.33694
BuilderColonists from Mithymna
Founded10th century BC
Associated withAristotle
Site notes
WebsiteAssos Archaeological Site

Assos (/ˈæsɒs/; Greek: Ἄσσος, Latin: Assus), also known as Behramkale or for short Behram, is a small historically rich town in the Ayvacık district of the Çanakkale Province, Turkey. During Pliny the Elder's time (1st century CE), the city also bore the name Apollonia (Ἀπολλωνία).[1]

After leaving the Platonic Academy in Athens, Aristotle (joined by Xenocrates) went to Assos, where he was welcomed by King Hermias, and opened an Academy in this city.[2] Aristotle also married Pythias, the adopted daughter of Hermias.[2] In the Academy of Assos, Aristotle became a chief to a group of philosophers, and together with them, he made innovative observations on zoology and biology.[2] When the Persians attacked Assos, King Hermias was caught and put to death.[2] Aristotle fled to Macedonia, which was ruled by his friend King Philip II of Macedon.[2] There, he tutored Philip's son, Alexander the Great.[2] There is a modern statue of Aristotle at the town entrance.[3]

The Acts of the Apostles refers to visits by Luke the Evangelist and Paul the Apostle to Assos (Acts 20:13–14) .[4]

Today, Assos is an Aegean-coast seaside retreat amid ancient ruins. Since 2017 it is inscribed in the Tentative list of World Heritage Sites in Turkey.[5]


Temple of Athena in Assos, with the nearby island of Lesbos at left.
Temple of Athena in Assos, with the nearby island of Lesbos at left.
Ruins of Assos.
Ruins of Assos.

Though the town is officially named Behramkale (pronounced [behˈɾamkale]), most people still call it by its ancient name of Assos. The town is on the southern side of Biga Peninsula, better known by its ancient name, Troad. Assos is located on the coast of the Adramyttian Gulf (Turkish: Edremit Körfezi).[6]

Much of the surrounding area is visible from the ancient Temple of Athena, built on top of a trachyte crag. The view from this temple on a clear day extends to nearby Lesbos in the south, Pergamum in the southeast, and Mount Ida in Phrygia in the east. To the north, the Tuzla River flows. To the northwest, two massive Hellenic columns still mark the gate to the city.[6]

Assos had the only good harbour on the 80 kilometres (50 mi) of the north coast of the Adramyttian Gulf. This made Assos a key shipping station through the Troad.[6]


Temple of Athena in Assos, overlooking the Aegean Sea.
Temple of Athena in Assos, overlooking the Aegean Sea.
The ancient Theatre of Assos overlooking the Aegean Sea, with the nearby island of Lesbos on the horizon, at right.
The ancient Theatre of Assos overlooking the Aegean Sea, with the nearby island of Lesbos on the horizon, at right.

The city was founded from 1000 to 900 BC by Aeolian colonists from Lesbos, who specifically are said to have come from Methymna. The natural cleavage of the rock into joint planes had already scarped out shelves which it was comparatively easy for human labour to shape.[7] The settlers built a Doric Temple to Athena on top of the crag in 530 BC.[8][failed verification] From this temple Hermias of Atarneus, a student of Plato, ruled Assos, the Troad and Lesbos for a period of time, under which the city experienced its greatest prosperity. (Strangely, Hermias was actually the slave of the ruler of Atarneus.[9]) Under his rule, he encouraged philosophers to move to the city. As part of this, in 348 BC Aristotle came here and married King Hermeias's niece, Pythia, before leaving for Lesbos three years later in 345 BC. This 'golden period' of Assos ended several years later when the Persians arrived, and subsequently tortured Hermias to death.[8]

The Persians were driven out by Alexander the Great in 334 BC. Between 241 and 133 BC, the city was ruled by the Kings of Pergamon. However, in 133 BC, the Pergamons lost control of the city as it was absorbed by the Roman empire.[6]

According to Christian tradition, St. Paul also visited the city during his third missionary journey through Asia Minor, which was between 53-57 AD, on his way to Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. Acts 20 records that Luke the Evangelist and his companions ('we') "went ahead to the ship and sailed [from Troas] to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board ... and when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene".[10]

From this period onwards, Assos shrunk to a small village, as it has remained ever since. Ruins around Assos continue to be excavated.[8]

The pillars from the ancient port lay in the harbor for over a millennia. Eventually they were probably sold.

In the early 1900s an attempt was made to move the contents of the Temple of Athena. Much of the art has been moved to museums like the Louvre.[6] The art found includes pictures both of mythical creatures and heraldic events.

In 2018, archaeologists discovered a Hellinistic undamaged family grave. the name "Aristios" was written on the cover of the grave. The grave belonged to a family of 21. One of the family members was buried normally, while the remaining 20 were cremated and their ashes were placed inside urn-like vases. The lids were sealed off with cement in order to prevent any foreign substance getting inside the urns.[11]

Present day

Many of the old buildings of Assos are in ruins today, but Behramkale (the city's modern name) is still active. It still serves as a port for the Troad. On the acropolis 238 m above sea level are the remains of the Doric order Temple of Athena, which date back to 530 BC. Six of the original 38 columns remain. West of the acropolis stands the well preserved 4th century BC city wall and main gate with 14-meter-high (46 ft) towers. An ancient paved road leads northeast through the gate to the ruins of a large 2nd-century BC gymnasium, a 2nd-century BC agora and a bouleuterion. Further south toward the seashore is a 3rd-century BC theatre built for 5,000 spectators.[3]

Down the steep seaward side of the hill at the water's edge is the hamlet called İskele (meaning "Pier" or "Wharf"), with old stone houses now serving as inns, hostels and restaurants.

There is a small pebbly beach. There are boat tours and tours of the hamlet itself. Although the narrow road to the hamlet is steep with sheer drops, the sea front has a constant stream of cars and minibuses arriving from dawn to dusk.

In 2018, archaeologists discovered many Strigils. Some of the strigils found were iron, but most were made of bronze.[12]

A 2,200-year-old lion sculpture  of the Hellenistic period and a 1,500-year-old stone oven dating back to the Byzantine period were revealed by the archaeologists in Assos, Turkey. According to the Professor Nurettin Arslan, the statue was unearthed from the structure which was used to be an inn throughout that period, and one of the Byzantine period findings contained a cooking stove with three pots.[13][14][15]

Sculpted architrave from the Temple of Athena in Assos (Louvre Museum, Paris)
Sculpted architrave from the Temple of Athena in Assos (Louvre Museum, Paris)


  1. ^ Pliny. Naturalis Historia. Vol. 5.32.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Ancient Greece: Aristotle
  3. ^ a b Tucker, Jack (2012). Innocents Return Abroad: Exploring Ancient Sites in Western Turkey. pp. 17–18. ISBN 9781478343585.
  4. ^ St. Paul's Routes: From Troas to Assos Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Archaeological Site of Assos". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. UNESCO. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e Eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, p. 790.
  7. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHogarth, David George (1911). "Assus". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 790.
  8. ^ a b c Points from Turkey Archived 2007-05-05 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Eleventh editition of the Encyclopædia Britannica p790
  10. ^ Acts 20:13–14
  11. ^ Family grave of 2,000 years discovered in Turkey's northwest
  12. ^ 2,000-year-old athletes' tools unearthed in Turkey's Assos
  13. ^ "Lion statue of Hellenistic period found". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2019-10-30.
  14. ^ "Lion statue of Hellenistic period unveiled in Turkeys Çanakkale - Sayfa 8 - Galeri - Life - 30 Ekim 2019 Çarşamba". Retrieved 2019-10-30.
  15. ^ Val, Daniel; Archaeology, ovski · in (2019-09-20). "2nd Century BC Lion Statue from Hellenistic Era, Byzantine Oven Found in Ancient Assos in Turkey". Archaeology in Bulgaria. Retrieved 2019-10-30.