An ancient city of Mysia in the Roman province of Asia, at which, according to Acts 20:13, Paul and Luke rested while on their way from Troas to Mitylene. Standing upon a conical-shaped rock on the southern coast of the Troad, it occupied one of the finest sites in Asia. The rock is about 700 ft. high; its sides are covered with terraces, both natural and artificial, and so steep is it that Stratoricus wrote of it: "If you wish to hasten your death, try and climb Assos." The view from the summit is extensive and magnificent.
The city, which is very ancient, is said to have been rounded by the Aeolians, and to have always been singularly Greek. As early as the 5th century BC it struck its own coins, and its coinage system continued until 235 AD. One of its early rulers or tyrants was Hermeas, a eunuch, once a slave, who gave his niece in marriage to Aristotle. There the great Greek philosopher lived three years, from 348 to 345 BC. During the time of the kings of Pergamus, the city bore the name of Apollonia. To the Byzantines it was known as Machramion, and at present the town, which has dwindled in importance under Turkish rule, is called Bekhram, a Turkish corruption of the Byzantine name.
The ruins of Assos are among the most imposing in Asia Minor, and yet they have long served as a quarry; from its public buildings the stones for the Constantinople docks were taken. The Turkish sultan Murad II presented the many beautiful bas-reliefs of the Doric temple of Athene to the French government, which are now preserved in the Louvre. The ruins were carefully explored and partially excavated in 1882-83 by Mr. Clarke for the Archaeological Institute of America, and the entire plan of the ancient city is clear. Upon the very summit of the hill stood the temple of Athena which is said to have been erected about 470 BC. Among its ruins Clarke found eight other bas-reliefs which are now in the Boston Museum and which possess a special interest because of their connection between the art of the Orient and of Greece.
Upon the several natural terraces of the hill which have been enlarged by artificial means, stood the many public buildings, as the gymnasium, the public treasury, the baths, the market place and theater, of which but little now remains. The city was surrounded by a double wall which in places is still well preserved. The inner wall of dressed stones laid without mortar, and filled with loose stones, is 8 ft. thick, and the larger outer wall was protected with towers at intervals of 60 ft. The ancient road leading to Troas was well paved. The harbor from which Paul sailed has now been filled up and is covered with gardens, but at its side is the modern harbor protected by an artificial mole, about which are clustered the few houses bearing the name of Bekhram. Upon the summit of the hill, by the ruins of the temple, are cisterns, a Turkish fortress and a Byzantine church which has been converted into a mosque. Without the city walls is a necropolis. Its many sarcophagi of all ages and sizes and shapes are made of the native trachyte stone which, so the ancients believed, possessed the quality of consuming the bodies buried in it. The stone is the famous "Lapis Assius," or the flesh-eating, hence the word sarcophagus. In former times wheat was raised extensively in the fields about Assos, but now valonia, or acorn cups, form the chief article for export.
E. J. Banks
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