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An important city with a harbour and strong walls. The site is identified with the modern village Behramkale.
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
ASSOS Asia Minor.
On the S shore of the Troad, Assos looks toward Lesbos, 11 km distant;
its territorial limits are not known. The city proper occupied a steep hill, rising
almost directly from the sea to an elevation of 234 m and consisting of volcanic
rock (andesite) which provided the material for almost all the buildings and walls
of the city. On the N side, away from the sea, the hill slopes down more gradually
to the plain of the river Touzla (anc. Satnioeis), 0.8 km away; the river has
its springs in the W foothills of Mt. Ida and its mouth on the W coast of the
Troad, between Cape Lecton and Alexandria Troas.
The oldest architectural monument thus far exposed is a temple of the late
6th c. on the acropolis. It is reasonable to suppose, however, that this easily
defensible site was occupied in the Bronze Age. Hellanikos of Lesbos records
that the city of Assos was founded by Aiolians from Lesbos, presumably in the
7th c. Under Lydian and subsequently under Persian domination, the city acquired
its freedom ca. 479 B.C. and was a tribute-paying member of the Delian League
during the 5th c. In the second quarter of the 4th c. Eubulus and his successor
Hermias ruled over Assos and Atarneus (some 70 km to the SW). Hermias had been
a fellow student of Aristotle and Xenokrates at the Academy and he entertained
them at Assos and Atarneus between 347 and 345 B.C. After the conquests and
death of Alexander, Assos was at first subject to the Seleucid kings; later
it formed a part of the independent Pergamene kingdom and, with that kingdom,
passed to Rome in 133 B.C. The fortification walls of Assos are well preserved:
some towers still stand to a height of 18-20 m. Two major gateways flanked by
towers, seven smaller gates, one round and numerous square towers testify to
the sophistication of defense design in the Hellenistic age. The walls enclose
a considerable area to the N of the acropolis (where the modern village of Behram
Kale has developed) and on the S extend down to the sea to enclose the two ancient
harbors. The space within the circuit amounts to a little more than 55 ha. The
acropolis was fortified as a separate unit. Late Roman or mediaeval repairs
to the fortifications appear on the acropolis, but the walls of the city proper
were never repaired in late antiquity. The walls served their purpose well in
365 B.C. against the combined land and sea investment by Autophradates and Mausolos
and against the ravages of the Gauls in the middle of the 3d c.; but the city
fortifications were probably never used after 133 B.C. At a number of points
in the circuit, just behind the face of the Hellenistic walls, are visible important
sections of earlier fortifications in at least three different styles of masonry,
some of which surely belong to the archaic period. Within the city area terrace
walls of polygonal style must belong to domestic buildings of the 6th and 5th
The archaic temple on the acropolis is of the Doric order (mainland
Greek, probably Attic, influence). The peristyle (6 x 13; the columns have 16
flutes) encloses a long, narrow cella with a pronaos, distyle in antis, but no
opisthodomos. The rock of the hilltop at some points forms the euthynteria, upon
which rested two steps only. The Doric entablature had sculptured metopes on the
E facade and probably on the W, but not along the flanks; the subjects are varied
and unrelated, some repeated: facing sphinxes, centaur, Europa on the Bull, etc.
Eight metopes survive, whole or in part. In addition 15 sculptured architrave
blocks survive; the subjects include: Herakles and Triton, Herakles and Centaurs,
banquet (Herakles?), facing sphinxes, and facing bulls. The 15 preserved blocks
must have filled all five intercolumnar spaces on each facade and at least some
of the flank spaces. The presence of reliefs on the architrave (cf. the archaic
Temple of Apollo at Didyma) reveals Ionic influence on Doric design. The date
of the temple is ca. 540-530 B.C. The cult is presumed to be that of Athena Polias.
Assos was a member of a synedrion of cities in the Troad which jointly celebrated
a Panathenaia at Troy; the synedrion was in existence at least by the end of the
4th c. There is epigraphical evidence for the cult of Zeus Soter at Assos and
also for the Roman worship of the Divi Augusti.
From the main W gate of the city a paved road led E toward the agora. Just
inside the gate on the left is a gymnasium consisting of a large peristyle court
on the N side of which are located the ephebeion and a circular bath. The W
stoa of the Hellenistic building was repaired or rebuilt in the 1st c. of our
era by Q. Lollius Philetairos, hereditary king of Assos and priest of the cult
of the Divus Augustus.
The agora measures ca. 150 x 60 m, its longitudinal axis approximately
E-W; it lies below the acropolis, facing S toward the sea. The main structures
are of the Pergamene period. A large stoa in two stories was built on the N flank,
backed up against a steep scarp of the hill; this was divided internally, on each
floor, by a longitudinal row of columns, but there were no separate shop rooms.
On the opposite side another stoa rose to the height of a single story above the
agora pavement; but beneath that main level the foundations extended down the
steep hill slope in two additional stories for storage and shop space. The narrow
E end of the agora was marked by the bouleuterion; the wider W extremity was graced
by a small prostyle temple. Below the agora were the Greek theater and a large
Roman bath. The principal cemeteries, with burials of late archaic to Roman times,
lay along the two roads leading W from the main city gate; one of these roads
extended to the Satnioeis, which it traversed on a stone bridge of Greek date.
Remains of domestic structures are visible at many points throughout the city,
but none of these has been excavated.
The site was excavated in 1881-83. There is no museum at the site.
The temple sculptures are divided among the Louvre and the museums of Istanbul
and Boston. The small finds of the excavations are in part in Istanbul, in part
in Boston; the larger inscriptions remain at the site.
H.S. Robinson, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited July 2004 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains 89 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Assus (Assos: Eth. Assius and Asseus: Asso), a city of Mysia, on the
gulf of Adramyttium, between Cape Lectum and Antandros. It was situated in a strong
natural position, was well walled, and connected with the sea by a long, steep
ascent. (Strab. p. 610.) The harbour was formed by a great mole. Myrsilus stated
that Assus was a settlement of the Methymnaei. Hellanicus calls it an Aeolic city,
and adds that Gargara was founded by Assus. Pliny (v. 32) gives to Assus also
the name Apollonia, which it is conjectured that it had from Apollonia, the mother
of Attalus, king of Pergamus. That Assus was still a place visited by shipping
in the first century of the Christian aera, appears from the travels of St. Paul.
(Acts, xx. 13.)
The neighbourhood of Assus was noted for its wheat. (Strab. p. 735.)
The Lapis Assius was a stone that had the property of consuming flesh, and hence
was called sarcophagus: this stone was accordingly used to inter bodies in, or
was pounded and thrown upon them. (Steph. B. s. v. Assos; Plin. ii. 96.)
Hermeias, who had made himself tyrant of Assus, brought Aristotle
to reside there some time. When Hermeias fell into the hands of Memnon the Rhodian,
who was in the Persian service, Assus was taken by the Persians. It was the birthplace
of Cleanthes, who succeeded Zeno of Citium in his school, and transmitted it to
The remains of Assus, which are very considerable, have often been
described. The name Asso appears to exist, but the village where the remains are
found is called Beriam Kalesi, or other like names. From the acropolis there is
a view of Mytilene. The wall is complete on the west side, and in some places
is thirty feet high: the stones are well laid, without cement. There is a theatre,
the remains of temples, and a large mass of ruins of great variety of character.
Outside of the wall is the cemetery, with many tombs, and sarcophagi, some of
which are ten or twelve feet long. Leake observes, the whole gives perhaps the
most perfect idea of a Greek city that any where exists. (Asia Minor, p. 128;
see also Fellows's Asia Minor, p. 46.)
Autonomous coins of Assus, with the epigraph ASSION, are rare. The
coins of the Roman imperial period are common.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)
- Assos, Asos, Assus: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
- Assos: Perseus Lookup Tool