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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 c.

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.


J. T. Clarke, Report on the Investigations at Assos, 1881 and Report on the Investigations at Assos, 1882, 1883, Part I (no more publ.)PI (= Papers of the Archaeological Institute of America, Classical Series, I, II (1882, 1898); Clarke et al., Investigations at Assos, Drawings and Photographs of the Buildings and Objects Discovered during the Excavations of 1881-1883 (1902-21)MPI; Félix Sartiaux, Les Sculptures et la Restauration du Temple d'Assos en Troade (1915), repr. from RA 4e ser., 22 (1913) and 23 (1914)I. J.R.S. Sterrett, “Inscriptions of Assos” (Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, I, 1882-1883 [1885] 1-90).


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