Assos is on the opposite shore of the island of Lesvos, at the foot of the mountain Ida, near Behramkale. According to historical sources, it was founded in the 7th century B.C. by Aeolians habitants of Methymna from Lesvos. The city was connected to the sea with an artificial port and the geomorphology of the area was distinctive, since it is covered on a large scale by a special rock, suitable for the construction of sarcophagi.
The city is referred in the sources as a member of the Delian League. In 365 B.C., it was destroyed by a Persian invasion and it was rebuilt in the same century. In 133 B.C. the city surrendered to the Romans. Apostle Paul visited Assos during his third missionary journey. Later, in the 13th century, with the expansion of the Seljuk Turks in northwest Minor Asia, Assos received many refugees from the surrounding mountainous area. At the beginning of the next century, the area passed to the Ottoman Turks. Thus, the refugees and the citizens moved to Lesvos. The Turkish people who remained, created a new settlement with a mosque and bridge, preserved till today.
The city’s protective location was strengthened with walls. The ancient fortifications were reconstructed in the 4th century B.C. and included strong towers. The acropolis of Assos was the central part of the city and there was the temple of Athena Polias. The archaic temple was replaced by the one dating in the 4th century, which was built according to the Doric order with a peristasis and a pronaos. On the metopes there was a bas-relief depiction of scenes from the mythic cycle of Hercules. During the Hellenistic years, there were additions to the Acropolis. Those were the theater, the Bouleuterion (parliament), the agora with the stoas and the monumental fountains, which during the early byzantine period were no longer in use and were transformed to houses. Many byzantine churches can still be traced.
The archaeological site of Assos drew the interest of many scholars, even from the 19th century. Many sculptures were removed and transferred to London and Boston. The excavations in Assos were made by the Archaeological Institute of America at the end of the 19th century and by Turkish archaeologists during the 20th century.