Side is a city on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. It includes the modern resort town and the ruins of the ancient city of Side. It lies near Manavgat and the village of Selimiye, 78 km from Antalya in the province of Antalya.
It is located on the eastern part of the Pamphylian coast, which lies about 20 km east of the mouth of the Eurymedon River (Köprüçay). Today, as in antiquity, the ancient city is situated on a small north-south peninsula about 1 km long and 400 m across.
Approximately 60 miles east of Antalya lies Side, another once important port in antiquity. Side has become a popular holiday destination all by itself, but is well worth a day trip from Antalya. The village offers picturesque, narrow streets and lovely gardens while the long, white beaches invite swimming. Imposing monuments of antiquity, such as the Roman bath and the columns of the Apollo temple by the sea, complete the picture of a perfect combination of modern-day vacation pleasure and the treasures of history.
Pseudo-Scylax, Strabo and Arrian record that Side was founded by Greek settlers from Cyme in Aeolis, a region of western Anatolia. This most likely occurred in the 7th century BC. Its tutelary deity was Athena, whose head adorned its coinage.
Dating from the tenth century BC, its coinage bore the head of Athena, the patroness of the city, with a legend. Its people, a piratical horde, quickly forgot their own language to adopt that of the aborigines.
Possessing a good harbour for small-craft boats, Side’s natural geography made it one of the most important places in Pamphylia and one of the most important trade centres in the region. According to Arrian, when settlers from Cyme came to Side, they could not understand the dialect. After a short while, the influence of this indigenous tongue was so great that the newcomers forgot their native Greek and started using the language of Side. Excavations have revealed several inscriptions written in this language. The inscriptions, dating from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, remain undeciphered, but testify that the local language was still in use several centuries after colonisation. Another object found in the excavations at Side, a basalt column base from the 7th century BC and attributable to the Neo-Hittites, provides further evidence of the site’s early history. The name Side may be Anatolian in origin, but it means pomegranate in Greek.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great occupied Side without a struggle in 333 BC. Alexander left only a single garrison behind to occupy the city. This occupation, in turn, introduced the people of Side to Hellenistic culture, which flourished from the 4th to the 1st century BC. After Alexander’s death, Side fell under the control of one of Alexander’s generals, Ptolemy I Soter, who declared himself king of Egypt in 305 BC. The Ptolemaic dynasty controlled Side until it was captured by the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BC. Yet, despite these occupations, Side managed to preserve some autonomy, grew prosperous, and became an important cultural centre.
In 190 BC a fleet from the Greek island city-state of Rhodes, supported by Rome and Pergamum, defeated the Seleucid King Antiochus the Great‘s fleet, which was under the command of the fugitive Carthaginian general Hannibal. The defeat of Hannibal and Antiochus the Great meant that Side freed itself from the overlord-ship of the Seleucid Empire. The Treaty of Apamea (188 BC) forced Antiochus to abandon all European territories and to cede all of Asia Minor north of the Taurus Mountains to Pergamum. However, the dominion of Pergamum only reached de facto as far as Perga, leaving Eastern Pamphylia in a state of uncertain freedom. This led Attalus II Philadelphus to construct a new harbour in the city of Attalia (the present Antalya), although Side already possessed an important harbour of its own. Between 188 and 36 BC Side minted its own money, tetradrachms showing Nike and a laurel wreath (the sign of victory).
The consul Servilius Vatia defeated these brigands in 78 BC and later the Roman general Pompey in 67 BC, bringing Side under the control of Rome and beginning its second period of ascendancy, when it established and maintained a good working relationship with the Roman Empire.
Emperor Augustus reformed the state administration and placed Pamphylia and Side in the Roman province of Galatia in 25 BC, after the short reign of Amyntas of Galatia between 36 and 25 BC. Side began another prosperous period as a commercial centre in Asia Minor through its trade in olive oil. Its population grew to 60,000 inhabitants. This period would last well into the 3rd century AD. Side also established itself as a slave-trading centre in the Mediterranean. Its large commercial fleet engaged in acts of piracy, while wealthy merchants paid for such tributes as public works, monuments, and competitions as well as the games and gladiator fights. Most of the extant ruins at Side date from this period of prosperity.
Side began a steady decline from the 4th century on. Even defensive walls could not stop successive invasions of highlanders from the Taurus Mountains. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Side experienced a revival, and became the seat of the Bishopric of Eastern Pamphylia. Arab fleets, nevertheless, raided and burned Side during the 7th century, contributing to its decline. The combination of earthquakes, Christian zealots and Arab raids, left the site abandoned by the 10th century, its citizens having emigrated to nearby Attalia.
In the 12th century, Side temporarily established itself once more as a large city. An inscription found on the site of the former ancient city shows a considerable Jewish population in early Byzantine times. However, Side was abandoned again after being sacked. Its population moved to Attalia, and Side became known as Eski Adalia ‘Old Antalya’ and was buried.
As capital of the Roman province of Pamphylia Prima, Side was ecclesiastically the metropolitan see. The earliest known bishop was Epidaurus, presiding at the Synod of Ancyra, 314. Others are John, fourth century; Eustathius, 381; Amphilochius, 426-458, who played an important part in the history of the time; Conon, 536; Peter, 553; John, 680-692; Mark, 879; Theodore, 1027-1028; Anthimus, present at the synod held at Constantinople in 1054; John, then counsellor to the Emperor Michael VII Ducas, presided at a council on the worship of images, 1082; Theodosius and his successor Nicetas, twelfth century. John, present at a synod at Constantinople in 1156. The Notitiae Episcopatuum continued to mention Side as a metropolis of Pamphylia until the thirteenth century. It does not appear in the “Notitia” of Andronicus III. In 1397 the diocese was united with that of Attalia; in 1400 the Metropolitan of Perge and Attalia was at the same time the administrator of Side.
The great ruins are among the most notable in Asia Minor. They cover a large promontory which a wall and a moat separate from the mainland. During medieval times, the wall and moat were repaired and the promontory houses a wealth of structures.
There are colossal ruins of a theatre complex, the largest in Pamphylia, built much like a Roman theatre that relies on arches to support the sheer verticals. The Roman style was adopted because Side lacked a convenient hillside that could be hollowed out in the usual Greek fashion more typical of Asia Minor. The theatre is less well-preserved than the theatre at Aspendos, but it is almost as large, seating 15,000–20,000 people. With time and the shifting of the earth, the scaena wall has collapsed over the stage and the proscenium is in a cataract of loose blocks. It was converted into an open-air sanctuary with two chapels during Byzantine times (5th or 6th century).
The well-preserved city walls provide an entrance to the site through the Hellenistic main gate (Megale Pyle) of the ancient city, although this gate from the 2nd century BC is badly damaged. Next comes the colonnaded street, whose marble columns are no longer extant; all that remains are a few broken stubs near the old Roman baths. The street leads to the public bath, restored as a museum displaying statues and sarcophagi from the Roman period. Next is the square agora with the remains of the round Tyche and Fortuna temple (2nd century BC), peripteral with twelve columns, in the middle. In later times it was used as a trading centre where pirates sold slaves. The remains of the theatre, which was used for gladiator fights and later as a church, and the monumental gate date back to the 2nd century. The early Roman Temple of Dionysus is near the theatre. The fountain gracing the entrance is restored. At the left side are the remains of a Byzantine Basilica. A public bath has also been restored.
The remaining ruins of Side include three temples, an aqueduct, and a nymphaeum. Side’s nymphaeum – a grotto with a natural water supply dedicated to the nymphs – was an artificial grotto or fountain building of elaborate design.
There is also a virtually unknown, but expansive site, up in the Taurus foothills, several miles inland, known locally as Seleucia. Virtually unknown to the outside world and not represented on the internet at all, it is the Roman fortress, built by Marc Antony to protect the city of Side. It covers at least a couple of square miles and is almost completely unexcavated, apart from two weeks in 1975, when the Turkish government funded two weeks of excavations. The site was, apparently, finally abandoned in the 7th century, when an earthquake caused the spring which fed the site with water to dry up completely. Many of the buildings are in remarkably good shape, particularly since, due to the lack of available stone, a significant quantity of the sites stonework contains egg and gravel based concrete blocks.
Excavation teams also found an ancient Greek brothel.
Turkish archaeologists have been excavating Side since 1947 and intermittently continue to do so.
In 1895, Turkish Muslim Immigrants from Crete moved to the area of the ruins and called it Selimiye; they also built houses over the ruins when the Cretan turks moved there. Today, Side has become a popular holiday destination as a result of the expansion of the Antalya coastal project and is experiencing a revival.
It was a popular spot for watching the solar eclipse of March 29, 2006.
Side Tourist Information
Side is a resort town located along the edge of the Mediterranean coast and it is the perfect place to go if you are looking for beach time in Turkey. The town is also rich in history with many stunning activities that you can do like sunbathing, sightseeing at the Roman era ruins right in the town and so on. There are also some stunning landmarks here where you are going to get mesmerizing views of the stately Taurus Mountains and plenty of secluded beaches to go if you don’t like a crowded beach. Some of the top things to do in Side are listed below.
Top things to do in Side
Visit the Temples of Apollo and Athena
The Greek settlers were the first settlement in Side and they also built a harbor here. It was during this time that the town became an important commercial center but the town was abandoned when the harbor began to silt up in the 7th century. One of the top things to do now is to visit the remains of the principal temples that was dedicated to Athena and Apollo. These temples are located in a picturesque environment and it is the perfect time to take Instagram worthy pictures. Another top thing to do is to come here during the evening as you will get to see stunning sunset promenade and there are plenty of cafes along the shoreline just to enjoy the view.
Explore Side’s Theater
This was once the largest theater in the ancient Pamphylia with a capacity to accommodate 15,000 audiences. Although some part of the theater has collapsed this is still a magnificent surviving example of Roman architectural skill. There is also a Roman-era marketplace behind the theater that you can explore and also the remnants of the circular temple of Tyche which is dedicated to the Roman goddess of fortune.
Relax at the East Beach
Tourist flock Side because of its stunning sun and sand and it is filled during the summer months. The strip of sand closest to town and the most popular is the east beach and you should not miss out coming here. The beach features restaurants and cafes and you will surely get what you need for relaxing, sunning, and tanning here. You can also try out some watersports here.
Visit the Side Museum
Although the museum is small you will love the charming and stunning curated collection with its spectacular building. Originally a 5th-century bathhouse the museum building is home to exquisitely detailed Roman Statuary and Hellenistic artworks that are found within and around the town. This is also the best place to rest after exploring some other landmarks.
Go sightseeing at Manavgat Waterfalls
This is located on the Manavgat River that rises in the Seytan Mountain range of the Taurus mountains and it is a stunning place for a picnic. This attraction is famous among both tourists and local families on sunny weekends and you can come here during the weekday so as to avoid the crowds. You can also get close-up views of the waterfall using a network of gangways and you will be amazed by the thunderous roar of the water.
Try water rafting at Köprülü Canyon
This can be found further north behind the village of Beşkonak and it is the perfect spot in the region for white-water rafting trips. To come here, you can easily arrange for a half-day trip here in both side and Antalya. Another top thing to do here is to go hiking if you don’t want to get wet. You will get stunning sights of the dramatic gorge scenery. You can visit our Köprülü Canyon Rafting page to get further information about white water rafting in Side.
Explore State Agora
This is an imposing Roman complex which functioned as the State Agora. The east side was a two-story building which was thought to be used as a library and you are going to see a figure of Nemesis, the goddess of fate. At the eastern old town walls, you are going to see the extensive ruins of the Byzantine bishop’s palace, baptistery, and principal.