Turkey is full of the oldest Greek history and the ancient city of Assos is certainly worth a visit.
Most people, when they think of Turkey and ruins, will think of Ephesus (which really has some of the best ancient Greek ruins in Turkey), Hierapolis, or even the old part of Constantinople in modern Istanbul. . But Turkey has many ancient ruins that are worth seeing. The Acropolis of Athens is far from the only acropolis – it’s just the largest and most impressive of them all.
Assos is an easy drive from the beautiful Turkish coastal town of Canakkale as well as the ancient city of Troy (the Trojan Horse made for the 2003 film Troy starring Brad Pit can be seen in Canakkale). Turkey is a country that simply cannot be seen on a single trip and always has more in store for future visits.
Why visit the ancient site of Assos
In ancient times, the Greek world was much larger than it is today and included much of what is now western Turkey. The Greeks who lived on the Turkish Aegean coast were called Ionian Greeks and were an important part of the Greek world.
It is on the tentative list of UNESCO and could therefore one day become a World Heritage Site.
- Ionian Greeks: Assos and the Turkish Aegean Coast were Ionian Greek
Today, it is one of Turkey’s most overlooked attractions and offers stunning views of the Aegean Sea. Highly visible just off the coast of Assos is the Greek island of Lesbos (from which the English word “Lesbian” derives).
- To see: Gaze across the strait to the Greek island of Lesbos
The site is perched on a hill and includes an ancient church, the ruins of a once grand temple, an agora, a theatre, a necropolis and other ruins and attractions. At the time of writing (April 2022), parts of the site are closed to the public for restoration work. The main attraction is the Temple of Athens on top of the Acropolis.
Climbing the hill to the acropolis, visitors pass through the modern city. It is full of excellent Turkish restaurants and souvenir vendors. One can sit and relax in these great restaurants and cafes or pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic in the acropolis near the temple while admiring the Greek island of Lesvos.
The Aristotle Affair
One of the most important Greek cities was the city of Assos – it was a historically rich small town. In the time of Pliny the Elder (1st century AD), it was also called Apollonia.
In even earlier times it was visited by Aristotle (along with Xenocrates) who was welcomed there by King Hermias. He opened an Academy at Assos and married Pythias, the adopted daughter of Hermias.
- Moved: To Assos from Athens
- Married: The adopted daughter of King Hermias in Assos
- Leak: In Macedonia when the Persians attacked
- Tutored: Alexander The Great
Aristotle made observations in zoology and biology and soon became the leader of a group of philosophers. When the Persians attacked Assos, King Hermias was killed while Aristotle fled to Macedonia. There he educated the son of King Philip II of Macedon – Alexander who would become Alexander the Great. He would continue to drive the Persians out of Assos.
Today, a modern statue of Aristotle can be found at the entrance to the archaeological site of Assos.
The apostle Paul is also recorded to have visited Assos in Acts chapter 20.
Temple of Apollo Smintheion at Gulpinar
A short drive from Assos is another ancient forgotten Greek temple and sacred site. Here one can see the ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo, “Lord of mice” Smintheus. It is located in the quiet secluded village of Gülpınar, on the beautiful Biga Peninsula.
- To see: The Temple of Apollo and the Roman Ruins
- Built: The temple was built in the 2nd century BC.
- Mentioned: The ancient site is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad
This temple was mentioned in Homer’s epic the Iliad about the siege of Troy and continued into Roman times. Today, one can see the partially restored ruins of the temple and many excavated Roman ruins – including a Roman road and Roman baths.
The Temple of Apollo Smintheion was built in the middle of the 2nd century BC. J.-C., in the style known as pseudodiptère.
- Detective: Find the unmarked Roman bridge in the middle of a farmer’s field
Not far from the site is an ancient Roman bridge not marked on any map. Go in search of the Roman bridge leading to the Temple of Apollo and discover the intact Roman bridge forgotten in the middle of a farmer’s field where a river once stood. Turkey is full of ancient Roman and Greek attractions that many go unmarked.
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