The city of Assos  was established by migrants from the town of Methymna on the island of Lesbos. Over the centuries, the city was ruled as part of Lydia, by the Persians, as a member of the Athenian League in the 5th century B.C., and incorporated into the kingdom of Pergamon.

One of the rulers during the pre-Pergamon era was the freed slave and student of Plato, Hermias. From 348 to 345 B.C., Hermias's schoolmate and friend, Aristotle, joined him at Assos to philosophize and lecture; tradition has it that it was here that Aristotle further developed Plato's thinking on government as expounded in The Republic.

The ancient site comprises an acropolis, gymnasium, theater, bouleuterion, and necropolis, all for the most part bound by a 3.2km-long (2-mile) defensive wall, and according to leading Turkish archaeologists, the most complete fortification in the Greek world. The Temple of Athena was the first and only archaic temple built in Anatolia of the Doric style.

The rubble (much of the good stuff was carried off to the Boston Museum, the Louvre, and the Istanbul Archaeology Museum) is spread out over a wide and arid area littered with stones, sarcophagi, and goat droppings, so unless you're a master orienteer, your visit will be confined to the upper reaches of the acropolis, near the site entrance. Still, the cliff-top setting of the ancient city, which produces an awe-inspiring sunset image from the temple remains over the bay, makes this pile of rocks one of the better secondary sites on the Aegean.