Temple of Athena in Assos, Behramkale - Acropolis:
Temples are built on the highest points of ancient cities; the name Acropolis comes from Greek, Acro means “the highest”, and “polis” means city. In a time with no GPS systems, no radar and no binoculars, they were built on the highest point, on top of a hill for safety and defense reasons.
While looking out on the endless Aegean Sea, Lesbos and Mount Ida views from the Acropolis of Assos, one should recall that a temple is built not only for worship , it is also a status symbol and reflects the society’s culture it once belonged to.
The temple of Athena in Assos was built 238 meters above sea level, between 540-530BC. Shortly there after, it was damaged by an earthquake and was renovated and had major repairs between 520-470BC. It is the only known archaic Doric temple in Asia Minor. It is surrounded by 34 Doric styled columns. It has Doric columns and triglyphs , but also has sculpted friezes. Holding Ionic and Doric features at the same time the temple of Athena in Assos thus resides a unique place in the history of ancient Greek Architecture, it is eclectic and innovative in a time when architectural orders were conservatively followed.
In the construction and later in the repair, a gray volcanic andesite rock, formed by the cooling of lava and softer volcanic rock, formed by the ashes, [insert commas] were used. This type of andesite is quarried right from Assos. Also today all construction within the ancient village of Assos is made from these rocks, including AssosAlarga.
Each ancient Greek temple is dedicated to a specific god or goddess and the temple in Assos is dedicated to Athena. Athena is one of the zillion of children of Zeus, believed to be the warrior goddess, protecting the land she is worshipped in and against enemies coming from outside. So it is common in the ancient world to build temples in her name. Turkey alone is home to ten of Athena’s temples. The goddess Athena symbolizes wisdom, humility and intelligence; she is the helper of some well known mythological heroes, like Hercules and ubiquitous in most of the Greek mythology.
Athena took part in two major competitions. In the contest for beauty she lost out against Aphrodite, thus triggering the Trojan War. But she won as “patron god of Athens” against Poseidon by creating the olive tree as a gift to Cecrops, the first king of Athens.
Unlike churches, Greek temples were not common meeting places for the public; they were dedicated to their gods and goddesses. They had an inner chamber called the Cella where usually the cult and the temple clerks were allowed to go in. The land surrounding the temples was used for religious ceremonies. Murderers, drunks and people with birth defects weren’t allowed to enter the temple.
During the Hellenistic period, the pavement of the temple was covered with black and white mosaics. During the Byzantine period the acropolis was surrounded by thick walls, serving primarily as a fortress. The other remains, such as cisterns, storerooms and houses you see in the acropolis aside from the temple, are remains of the Byzantine area.
The Frieze of Athena Temple in Assos
You can see a small remade model of the temple once you enter the acropolis. You will notice a continuously sculpted frieze on this small model; this is an Ionic Frieze. You can see a big original piece of this frieze at the Museum of Archaeology in Istanbul. The other remains from this ionic frieze can be seen in Boston Fine Arts Museum and at Louvre in Paris and Canakkale Archaeological Museum.
There are some scenes from Greek Mythology on the friezes, such as the capture of Europa by Zeus and King Priam requesting back his son Hector’s dead body from Achilles.
The most frequently depicted scene is from Herakles’ (Hercules) life. Herakles is invited over for dinner by Pholos, a centaur (half man, half horse) friend of his. Pholos apologizes that he cannot offer the wine, as it belon gs to other Centaurs. Herakles drinks the wine anyway and so begins a fight between the centaurs and Herakles.
Other depictions display scenes of lions attacking deer, a feast and some soldiers, horses and bulls.
The Temple of Athena is a one minute climb, about 200 meters from Assos Alarga.
Call: +90 286 721 72 60
Behramkale/ Assos 88 Ayvacik/Canakkale