Wednesday, June 28, 2017


N. Arslan, E.-M. Mohr, K. Rheidt (ed.), Assos: neue Forschungsergebnisse zur Baugeschichte und Archäologie der südlichen Troas. Asia Minor Studien, 78. Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 2016. Pp. x, 234; 102 p. of plates. ISBN 9783774939516. €85.00.

Reviewed by Stefan Feuser, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

The publication under review has its roots in an international congress on Assos and the southern Troad held from November 15th to 17th, 2012 in Cottbus, and brings together the different groups and independent researchers working on the monuments and areas of the city and its vicinity. The collection succeeds in profoundly enhancing our knowledge of the city's architectural history and layout from Archaic to Byzantine times and, thus, is a major contribution to the field of ancient urbanism. Most of the articles are based on the latest excavations, the urban survey, and analysis conducted by an international roster of scholars. Short summaries of the reconstruction of the Archaic temple of Athena and of the excavations in the Western necropolis published extensively elsewhere are welcome additions. Access to this wealth of new insights is hampered, however, by the fact that they are spread over several contributions, and the editors do not provide a comprehensive conclusion. For a quick overview, the reader might want to start with pages 144-152 of the article by Eva-Maria Mohr and Klaus Rheidt, who present a thoughtful discussion of the city's architectural development. In order to highlight the major achievements of the publication, this review will follow the diachronic development of the city and its architecture.

The first four papers deal with the Archaic phase of Assos and its surroundings. The articles by Bonna D. Wescoat and Klaus Müller focus on the upper part of the acropolis with the temple of Athena. While Wescoat gives a comprehensive and useful summary of the methodological basis and results of her thorough study of the temple published in 2012,1 Müller offers new insight into other structures in the vicinity of the Archaic temple. Based on rock cuttings and a small number of building blocks, he reconstructs three different edifices roughly contemporary with the temple. Cuttings in bedrock for the foundation of a building measuring 9 x 13 m were traced on the highest point of the Acropolis, north of the temple. A few meters southeast of the temple, more cuttings in bedrock and three ashlars are cautiously interpreted as the altar of the sanctuary. The foundations of a third structure 25 m south of the temple, at a lower elevation but aligned with its southern side, are interpreted as a propylon or a stoa. If Müller's dating of these structures, based on pottery and other considerations, is correct, the findings reveal the remarkable layout of a late Archaic sanctuary in Asia Minor, with a temple, an altar and at least two further edifices that were all built with regard to the natural topography, creating an architectural prospect for people approaching Assos from the sea. In light of the later history of the settlement, however, a late Classical or early Hellenistic date for these structures should not be ruled out.

Several articles offer further information about Assos in Archaic times. Walls of Archaic houses were documented by Oğuz Koçyiğit during the excavation of living quarters in the southwestern part of the site. Although it was not possible to reconstruct their ground plans, the pottery recovered leads to the conclusion that the houses were inhabited in Archaic and Classical times. On the basis of an urban survey conducted from 2010 to 2012, Mohr and Rheidt conclude that the settlement of Assos had probably already spread beyond the area of the still visible fortification wall in Archaic and Classical times. The second phase of the wall circuit is dated by Haiko Türk in the second half of the 6th c. BC. Furthermore, Reinhard Stupperich, in his account of the excavations in the so-called Westgate Necropolis from 1989 to 1994, points to the rich grave goods as evidence that Assos was a lively and flourishing settlement in the late Archaic and early Classical periods.

B. Ayça Polat-Becks broadens the analysis of Archaic Assos by looking at the archaeological remains of Lamponeia and Topçakıllar in the southern Troad. While Lamponeia was a small settlement founded in Archaic times and abandoned in Hellenistic times at the latest, Topçakıllar served as a temporary refuge fort ("Fluchtburg"). The pairing of an Archaic settlement with a refuge fort in the immediate neighborhood can also be found further north in the Troad and at the Lelegian settlements in Ionia and Caria.

A major building phase of late Classical times is presented by Mohr and Rheidt. During their architectural survey—the authors outline its shortcomings and restrictions due to post-depositional processes on the slopes of the hill—, parallel terraces were recorded west of the acropolis and in the western, eastern and southwestern areas of the city. They do not follow a common orientation, but have different alignments depending on the hill's topography. These traces, interpreted as terraces for houses, are contemporary with the street grid, which features three major streets running between gates in the west and in the east, and parallel to the slope of the hill. Minor north-south streets connected them. According to Türk, the fourth phase of the fortification wall is contemporary with the street grid and the terrace walls.

Several communal structures essential to the functioning of a polis were built around 300 BC: the bouleuterion, the predecessor of the North Stoa, an early version of the South Stoa, and presumably also the theater, with an orientation slightly skewed from that of the late Classical house terraces. Nurettin Arslan offers a most welcome new insight into the architectural history of the agora. In contrast to earlier assumptions of a coherent building program in the first half of the 2nd c. BC,2 Arslan convincingly argues for a successive development of the ensemble from 300 BC to the late 2nd/early 3rd c. AD on the ground of archaeological soundings. The bouleuterion was built around 300 BC and dedicated by a certain Ladames and his wife, a local man from Assos. At the same time, a banquet building was erected; its walls were excavated underneath the Hellenistic North Stoa and follow a different ground plan than the later building. The dating of this North Stoa to the first half of the 2nd c. BC is now supported by pottery from its foundation layers. The temple at the western end of the agora, however, does not belong to the Hellenistic phase; built over structures from early Imperial times, it can be dated to the late 2nd/early 3rd c. AD. Its deity and the reason for its construction remain unclear.

The knowledge of Assos' development in Roman Imperial times is still scant. In addition to Arslan's new dating of the temple at the western end of the agora, the publication under review can add a few more pieces of information. Mohr and Rheidt traced Roman building activities in several areas of the city, but could not date them precisely. From Augustan times onwards the area of the agora was rebuilt and refurnished with statues (Arslan), and the baths of the city used the wall heating technique of spacer pins found in other places in Asia Minor (Koçyiğit). Koçyiğit also points to a surprising hiatus in Imperial times within the residential quarter in the southwest part of Assos.

Three articles deal with the Byzantine era of Assos. Andreas Külzer presents an overview of the overland route system of Asia Minor and its terminology, administration and utilization in Roman Imperial and especially Byzantine times. Of special interest is his description of major and minor routes in northwestern Asia Minor, which would have benefitted from the addition of a map. Beate Böhlendorf-Arslan and Ursina Wittke discuss two of the Byzantine churches in Assos—the Ayazma Church in the Western Necropolis and the West Church within the ancient fortification circuit. The Ayazma Church was built on two ancient grave terraces and overlies several Hellenistic and Roman graves. Böhlendorf-Arslan identifies the grave of an unknown saint of the 5th c. AD as the nucleus that was integrated into a church building in the first half of the 6th c. AD. While the original building was put out of use around the middle of the 7th c. AD, the church was rebuilt in the first half of the 11th c. AD. Until the 12th c. the building was primarily used for burials, with a chapel in the east devoted to the graves of children. The West Church, excavated by the American Mission at the end of the 19th c., , has been restudied by Wittke. She distinguishes two building phases, with the establishment of the church in the second half of the 5th c. AD and a rebuilding within the course of the 6th c. AD. The West Church was abandoned in the first half of the 7th c. AD.

The publication is lavishly produced with 86 pages of photos and plans in black and white and 16 pages in color, as well as a fold-out map indicating the different building phases of Assos. The collection is of special interest for scholars working on the urbanism and architecture of Asia Minor/the eastern Mediterranean from Archaic to Byzantine times, and thus should be found in research libraries concentrating on these topics. Its major strength is presenting Assos' urban development in a diachronic perspective based on the most recent archaeological research.

Authors and Titles

Nurettin Arslan, Eva-Maria Mohr, Klaus Rheidt: Vorwort
Haiko Türk: Bemerkungen zu den Befestigungsanlagen von Assos
B. Ayça Polat-Becks: Lamponeia und Topçakıllar. Zwei befestigte Höhensiedlungen der archaischen und klassischen Zeit bei Assos
Bonna D. Wescoat: Architectural Expectations and the Temple of Athena at Assos
Klaus Müller: Untersuchungen auf der Akropolis von Assos
Nurettin Arslan: Neue Forschungen zur Agora von Assos
Caner Bakan: Hellenistic Pottery from Assos. Deposits and Chronological Issues for Future Studies
Oğuz Koçyiğit: Early Layers within the Living Quarter in the Southwest City of Assos
Eva-Maria Mohr, Klaus Rheidt: Der Assos-Survey 2010-2012: Neue Forschungen zu Stadtkultur und Entwicklung von den Anfängen bis in römische Zeit
Oğuz Koçyiğit: New Evidence for a 2nd-3rd Century AD Phase of the Roman Baths at Assos
Dinçer Savaş Lenger: A New Commodus Medallion from Assos
Reinhard Stupperich: Die Grabungen in der Westnekropole in den Jahren 1989-1994 unter Berücksichtigung der neuen stadtentwicklungsgeschichtlichen Fragestellungen
Andreas Külzer: Von Assos nach Pergamon und Ephesos: Betrachtungen zu den Straßen Westkleinasiens in römischer und byzantinischer Zeit
Beate Böhlendorf-Arslan: Die Ayazmakirche in Assos: Lokales Pilgerheiligtum und Grabkirche
Ursina Wittke: Die Westkirche in Assos


1.   B. D. Wescoat, The Temple of Athena at Assos (Oxford 2012); see the review in BMCR 2013.05.40.
2.   A. W. Lawrence, Greek Architecture (Middlesex 1957) 265 f.; F. E. Winter, Studies in Hellenistic Architecture (Toronto 2006) 36.

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