The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Assus, Assos (modern Behramköy, Turkey)


Modern Behramköy, Turkey

Theatre Type

Greek / Roman Theatre

Earliest Date

ca. 300 BCE. 

Renovations / Excavations

1st cent. BCE Roman modifications (FS)

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity


Cavea Width: 71 meters
Orchestra Width: 21 meters


Assus (modern Behramköy, Turkey). Cavea width: 68 m, ima cavea 13 rows in 6 cunei; media 15 rows in 10 cunei; albulacrum at top; horseshoe-shaped orchestra width: 20.54 m; scene building: L 19m X W 7m; stage: L 20.45m X 2.3m; capacity: N/A; ca. 300 BCE. 

The Archaeological site of Assos: Description

The Archaeological site of Assos is located in the south-western part of the Biga Peninsula (Troad), within the borders of the Village of Behramkale, 17 kilometers south of the district of Ayvacık in the province of Çanakkale. The ancient city lies on a steep hill, rising 235 m above sea level, and commands panoramic vistas northward over the fertile valley of the River Tuzla (ancient Satnioeis), westward along the southern coastline of the Troad and the Aegean Sea, eastward up the Gulf of Adramyttion and Mount Ida, and southward across the straits of Mytilene to the island of Lesbos.

The theatre, which was located on the south of the agora on a slope overlooking the Aegean Sea, was built on a stepped terrace formed by cutting the surrounding conglomerate rock. The building, which is dated to the end of the 4rd century BC, is a typical Hellenic theatre with a horseshoe-shaped plan. The results of new research in Assos provide evidence for the formation of a confident Polis in the decades after the end of the Persian rule by Alexander the Great and his victory at Granicus in 334 BC. The early Hellenistic Period started with the establishment of the first urban large structures for the polis institutions. For the first time it can be shown that these earliest Polis buildings were applied parallel or perpendicular to each other, so the new city center was a unique programming based on their building lines, however, rotated with respect to the orientations of the older late classical house terraces. In this period the cityscape of Assos got a uniform appearance which is still visible.

Assos was first settled during the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age cities Assuwa, mentioned in the Hittite texts, and Pedasos, mentioned in the Homer’s Iliad, are both set to be equal to Assos. According to antique sources, Methymnians from the island of Lesbos founded the Greek city of Assos in the 7th century BC. In 6th century BC, Assos was among the western Greek states which became subject to Lydia. After the destruction of the Lydian Kingdom by the Persian King Cyrus II, it was incorporated into the Persian Empire. In 5th century BC, it became a member of the Athenian Confederacy, but presumably reverted to Persian control in early 4th century BC.

Assos reached its peak of fame in the 4th century BC. In 365 BC, under the rule of banker Eubolos, it was subjected to a land and sea investment by the combined forces of the Persian commander Autophradates and the Carian satrap Mausolus, but successfully withstood the besieging forces. In 350 BC, Assos came under the control of a eunuch called Hermias, who was a former slave of Eubolos and a former student in Plato’s Academy. Hermias invited a number of philosophers and natural scientists, including his former fellow students Aristotle and Xenocrates to establish a philosophical school at Assos. Aristotle, who subsequently married Hermias’ niece Pythia, spent 3 years in the city following Plato’s death in 347 BC. In 345 BC, Assos came once more under Persian control, where it remained until its liberation by Alexander the Great in 334 BC. After Alexander’s death, the City was subject to Seleucid rule, and subsequently became part of the kingdom of Pergamum, before passing finally to Roman control in 133 BC.

Assos, which was visited by St. Paul, the apostle in 56/7 AD, was one of the first western Anatolian cities that converted to Christianity and listed as an episcopacy in the lists from the 5th to the 14th century AD. During the Byzantine times, Assos was still an important provincial city for regional and interregional trade. In Byzantine period the city was called Machram and it is believed that the modern name of the place, Behram, was derived from Machram. The Turks conquered the city at the beginning of the 14th century. The harbour never lost its function until the 18th century, when it was an important port of trade for the cortices of Valonea oaks (Quercus macrolepis).

The location of the settlement of Assos is unique with its interplay of use of the natural environment, combined with embedding of the architecture. The most remarkable “landmark” from Assos is the sheer rock walled acropolis at the highest point of the city. On the east side of the acropolis the temple of Athena is situated, where it could easily be seen when one approaches the city from the sea. The temple, which has a peripteros plan with 6×13 columns, was built out of andesite blocks carved out of the rocks of the acropolis. Elevated and isolated on the top of the acropolis, visible from far out to sea and commanding panoramic views, the position of the Temple of Athena is as breath-taking today as it must have been in antiquity. The temple of Athena is the only known example in Doric order in Archaic Anatolia, but it is also single with its combination of Doric order with Ionic frieze and other unusual architectural decorations. Today, the decorative architectural remains of the temple are stored in the collections of the museums in Paris (France), Boston (USA), Istanbul and Çanakkale (Turkey).

The ancient city on the terraces below is still surrounded by a well-conserved fortification wall with a preserved height of 12 m, which is 3100 m long and supported by 8 towers. The main gates were linked with roads coming from the east and the west. In Assos, the southern slopes, from where the Aegean Sea and Lesbos can best be seen, were reserved for the public area. Due to the fact that the ancient city was never been overbuilt in Ottoman and modern times and there was no large-scaled excavations before, the city centre is one of the best example of an early Hellenistic building programme, with changings and additions in late Hellenistic and Roman Imperial times. The flat area required for the agora was constructed through cutting the conglomerate rock on the north side and building a very high terrace wall on the south side. In Roman times a small Doric order temple with a prostylos plan was built on the south of the monumental entrance at the west of the agora. The agora had two stoai, one of which was on the north and the other was on the south, having two and four storeys respectively. The lower storeys of the southern stoa were used as a cistern and storage, the fourth floor opened out onto the agora. The agora ended with the square-planned Bouleuterion, founded at end of the 4th century BC, therefore one of the eldest bouleuteria in Asia Minor. A large scaled, old fashioned gymnasion was located on the same terrace between agora and the western gate. The building with preserved storeys and cistern was never been excavated. After an inscription found in the gymnasion, it was repaired during the Augustan period. In the early Byzantine times,Christian community built a church with mosaic floors using the northern porticus.

Both sides of the roads linked to the main gates in the west and east of Assos were used as necropolis areas. The earliest graves here are dated to the mid-7th century BC. In the Hellenistic and Roman times, Assos was famous for its sarcophagus productions, which were sold around the Mediterranean world. Pliny the Elder descripts the “lapis sarcophagus” from Assos as “It is well known that the bodies of the dead placed in it will be completely consumed after forty days, except for the teeth”. In the western necropolis also lies one of the seldom well-preserved examples of a middle Byzantine grave church in Asia Minor, build on a 5th/6th century baptismal church. In late Byzantine times the acropolis was fortified and used as a castron for protecting Byzantine refugees from the Skamandros valley from the attacks of the Turks.

Murat Hüdavendigar Mosque on the northern edge of the acropolis and a still standing bridge over the Satnioeis River was built after the Ottoman conquest in the early 14th century. The picturesqueTurkish village Behramkale lies along the slope area between the mosque and the river.

Archaeological Site of Assos”UNESCO World Heritage Centre. UNESCO. Retrieved 7 June 2022.

The Assos Excavations December 2006-July 2008

Beginning in 1881, the Archaeological Institute of America sponsored investigations at Assos, a classical site on the Aegean coast of Turkey some 30 miles south of Troy. With its ruined sixth-century B.C. temple atop a rocky promontory overlooking the sea, extensive fortification walls, a large cemetery, and Roman theater, Assos was a promising site. The excavations lasted for only three seasons, investigating and documenting the Temple of Athena, a gymnasium, the agora (with a two-story stoa on one side), the theater, the bouleuterion (council house), and elaborate tombs. Afterward, the finds from the site were divided, as was customary at the time. Sculptures from the Temple of Athena were dispersed, most going to the archaeology museum in Istanbul, but some going to the AIA (and hence into the Museum of Fines Arts, Boston). A few removed earlier are in the Louvre. Today, the Aegean University in Turkey is working at the Assos, conducting some excavations and working on restoration of the Temple of Athena, the theater, and other structures.

Archaeology. accessed 6/7/2022

Last Update: 12-09-2022