As I was standing on the marble steps of a high temple 60 kilometres south of Troy, I could see an island to the south and the shadow of a great mountain to the east. The isle was Lesbos, the mountain was legendary Mount Ida, where the Olympian gods gathered to watch the Trojan War, and my vantage point was Assos, once a prosperous port town that was home to many important (and, of course, bearded) Greek philosophers.
In the 4th century BCE, Assos prospered greatly under the rule of King Hermias, who was known for inviting philosophers from mainland Greece to come and stay in his city. One of many who heeded his call was Aristotle, who settled in the city, married Hermias's adopted daughter and set up the famous Academy of Assos. Another famous visitor was St Paul, who came to Assos in 53-57 AD during his third missionary journey, thus making the town a Christian pilgrimage site (and inadvertently helping Turkish tourism in the process).
Sitting in the amphitheatre where perhaps Aristotle and Paul once sat and contemplated the prime mover while watching similar sunsets, it dawned on me why Greek theatre didn't bother with set decorations. The precipice behind the amphitheatre framed the panorama of the Aegean Sea as a sweeping, dramatic backdrop. After visualising a production of 'Oedipus Rex' on the empty stage, I trod up the ruins to the temple on the acropolis. Looking down at the sea from the temple, I was careful not to rest against its precarious looking columns. Who was I kidding? They had been standing there, unshaken, for 2,500 years.
Nearby places you might dig...
The neighbouring village of Behramkale is a quaint village full of lovely boutique hotels and restaurants. In the summer, philosophers flock to the village to have conversations and continue the Aristotelian tradition of walking and talking. Join the debate if you're into philosophy. Swim in Assos's ancient harbour, stay at the Assos Alarga Guest House and eat at Uzun Ev restaurant (try their fish à la Aristotle with Kavaklidere's delicious local white wines).