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May 31: Assos August 3, 2010

Posted by msmith78 in Uncategorized.
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Assos was famous in antiquity for its stone work using the local stone andizyte; the most famous pieces were their sarcophagi with clients from Rome to Istanbul. The two columns in St. Mark’s Square in Venice are an example of the far reaching importance and luxury of Assos’s masonry.  The city itself was not very large with about six thousand inhabitants with trade ad agriculture along with the masonry to comprise its economy.

The Iolyans first inhabited the city in the 7th century BC, next the Lydrains took control under Crosos, and next the Persians were in control. The Greeks were then in power only to be replaced by the Persians who were ultimately pushed out by Alexander the Great.  Later the Byzantines took over the area before it was taken by the Turks.

Temple of Athena

Located at the top of the acropolis over looking the Bay of Dramande and the top of the tiny town that still remains, the temple is the only Doric Archaic temple in Asia. The stone used to make the temple and all of the structures in the area is andezyte which is a dark brownish red color.  It is also unique because unlike most Doric style temples, this temple has a continuous frieze. The nature and story of the frieze work has been debated; it involves the story of the centaurs and has no consistency of scale. The excavation work on the temple was done in the 1800s and pieces of the frieze are found in the Boston Museum, the Louvre, and the Istanbul museum. Despite the flourishing stone work industry, the little amount of agriculture and harbor work in the area kept Assos at about 6000 inhabitants. The order of occupants for the area included a prehistoric people, then the Iylions in the 7th century, the Ionians, the Dorians, the Lydrians, the Persians, the Greeks, and finally Alexander the Great and his general Seliphachides, and the Byzantines.

Necropolis

This is the cemetery for the dead just like the one in Athens it was located at the gate of the city so that anyone entering or leaving the west gate would have to pass through the necropolis.  The original Hellenistic wall still remains for most of this portion of the wall, and the remains of tons of sarcophagi are still present and entirely unprotected from public interaction or tourist or weather damages. This area was famous for its stonework with the andizynte and the sarcophagi they made with the stone which can be found in Italy and Greece. The two columns found in St. Mark’s Square in Venice are made of this stone from Assos. The most monumental of the sarcophagi is the Memorial of Paulius.

Gymnasium

Had a “u”-shaped colonnade and later had a Byzantine Church placed inside of it. There was a bath on the side and a cistern for water. Water was a scare and well guarded resource in the area. The people who came to the gymnasium would train in the morning and study and hear lectures in the afternoon.

Agora

The agora had two stoa framing it, the northern and southern stoa. The northern stoa was two storied as marked by the stone holes left for beams in the ruins in the hill side. The southern stoa framed the view of the sea and was three and a half stories. There were baths and shops facing he road as well as the bouleuterion on the eastern side of the agora. ON the western side a temple was added by the Romans(it is believed it was Roman because of its axial rather than oblique location and its location within the Agora. There is four-way entry to the Agora with the view of the sea and the main road on the southern side. This city does not follow a grid pattern but is more organic and takes account of nature.

Theater

The theater has two levels the hillside overlooking a breath taking view of Lesbos. The first level was redesigned by the Romans to add in a gutter system for water and barriers in the front row for more violent gladiator like performances. The thermelyea is the center of the orchestra space and it was where the sacrifices to Dionysus were made.

Reflections:

With the expansion of trade for the Greeks, the colonies were expanded. With each packaged colony came the structures, culture, and traditions of the mother city-state. Today trade is at an even more global level, ad the lines between counties and cultures are nowhere near the severity they once were. Its incredible to think that there was a point thousand of years before ours where people thought of products in terms of where they were produced and imported from in the same way we think of Greece when we think of gyros. Without any high speed or digital, they had marketing and product standards that were regionally based rather than company based, but the best andizyte was from Assos and the best potatoes are from Idaho. The standard codes for this country are much beneath our own. During the long drive today, it was obvious to see their highway construction and concrete standards are not compliant to our own regulations. There were also random community trash heaps that were not being directly or greenly managed. The rusting metal bars to prevent rock falls were like putting a bandage on a geyser that could blow at any minute; they look like they are working until they are called upon. The proximity of the farm animals to the houses in the neighborhoods was also not the best idea  in terms of sanitation.

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