Assos – a Jewel on the Coastline of Turkey
The delightful town of Assos, situated on the shores of the Aegean Sea in Turkey, is steeped in ancient history and culture, evidence of which is found throughout the town and surrounding areas. It is said that the renowned philosopher, Pliny, described Assos as the "most beautifully situated town of the Mediterranean" – and many who have visited there, or have the good fortune to live there, will readily agree.
The city was founded by Aeolian colonists from the Greek island of Lesbos in around 1000 BC and the temple of Athena dates back to 530 BC. Assos became a retreat for philosophers who were encouraged to visit by a student of Plato, Hermias of Atameus, the ruler of Assos for a period of time. Aristotle married the niece of Hermias and they lived in Assos for a number of years before moving to Lesbos in 345 BC. Under the rulership of Hermias the area prospered, but this was brought to an abrupt end by the Persians, who were later driven out by Alexander the Great. Assos came under the control of the Kings of Pergamon until being absorbed by the Roman Empire in 133 BC. The Apostle Paul visited Assos during his third missionary journey in 53-57 AD. The city became less important to subsequent leaders and shrank in size. Many excavation sites around Assos are still yielding interesting artifacts relating to the town’s long history, much of which has been allocated to various museums.
Taking a stroll through the many narrow, and often steep, cobbled streets of the town is a most enjoyable experience. In many sections it is as if time stood still and one can forget the hustle and bustle of the high-tech modern world for a while. Stopping off at the Timur Inn for some refreshments, visitors can enjoy an awe-inspiring view of the countryside, coastline and gulf of Edremit, as well as to the ruins of the Athena temple on the top of a distant hill.
Visitors can talk a walk through the ruins of the ancient cemetery, city walls, towers, gates, and theater. From the hilltop which is the site of the Athena temple, visitors can see the Greek island of Lesbos in the south, Mount Ida of Phyrgia to the East and Pergamum in the southeast, and those that have experienced it will tell you that watching as the sun dips into the Aegean Sea at the end of the day is unforgettable. A walking route takes visitors along the Tuzla River valley heading east to the ruins of the village of Mentese. The village was abandoned when the villagers moved to Assos many decades ago. The view from the abandoned village stretches over Assos, across the gulf of Edremit, to the island of Lesbos. Guided tours are offered by boat, motor vehicle or on foot, and a number of water sports can be enjoyed in Assos, including scuba diving in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
Assos may have lost its political significance long ago in the history of Turkey, but as the many visitors to the town will testify, it has certainly not lost its charm.