Side Ancient City

Side Ancient City

Side is a captivating resort situated on the Mediterranean coast, roughly midway between Antalya and Alanya. It is home to a plethora of well-preserved ancient ruins, making it a popular destination for tourists interested in Hellenistic and Roman history. Additionally, the former Roman baths now serve as a local museum, boasting a collection of fascinating artifacts.

The city of Side was established in the 7th century BCE by Greek settlers from Kyme, a region located in Anatolia's northwestern region. The settlement's patron deity was Athena, and her image was depicted on Side's currency. Although the inhabitants were initially Greek, they gradually assimilated into the local culture, eventually losing their language and customs. The dialect used in inscriptions from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE remains a mystery to scholars, but the term "Side" is thought to refer to pomegranate in the local vernacular.

Side Ancient City

Thanks to its strategic location and natural harbor, Side quickly became one of the most important settlements in Pamphylia. While the city was ruled by Lydia and later Persia for several centuries, little is known about this era in its history.

In 333 BCE, Alexander the Great effortlessly conquered Side and left a small garrison before commencing his famous eastern campaign. As a result, the people of Side were exposed to Hellenistic culture. Following Alexander's death, the Ptolemies assumed control of Side and ruled from the 2nd century BCE until the Seleucid occupation in approximately 160 BCE. Throughout this era, Side maintained a significant degree of autonomy and served as a cultural hub for all of Pamphylia. From 188 to 67 BCE, Side acted as an independent city and minted its own coins featuring a Nike goddess holding a laurel wreath.

In response to the escalating piracy and slave trade originating from Cilicia, Pompey defeated the pirates of Side led by Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus of Rome in 78 BCE. Around 25 BCE, Emperor Augustus instituted administrative reforms, incorporating Pamphylia into the Roman province of Galatia. The population of Side grew to 60,000, and prosperity persisted until the 3rd century CE.

The merchant fleet of Side often engaged in piracy when it was advantageous to do so, but also acted as peaceful merchants at other times. Wealthy traders invested significant sums of money in the development and beautification of the city. They funded the construction of public buildings, gladiatorial combats, and contests with prizes to entertain both the residents and themselves. Most, if not all, of the ancient buildings preserved in Side date back to this period of history.

Side Ancient City

Side experienced a decline in the 4th century CE due to the inability of its formidable city walls to prevent invasions from local tribes coming from the Taurus Mountains. Although there was a brief respite in the 5th and 6th centuries CE when it became the seat for bishops in Eastern Pamphylia, the city was attacked and burned down by an Arabic fleet in the 7th century CE.

By the 10th century, only a few people remained in Side, and by the 12th century, the city had been entirely abandoned. The memory of Side's power faded away, and the ancient ruins at the site were referred to as "Old Antalya."

During the Seljuk and Ottoman empires, Side was not inhabited. It was only in 1895 that Turkish refugees from Crete settled in the area and renamed it Kestel (Selimiye) over time.

Side is a must-visit location for anyone who loves ancient history. This city offers a plethora of relics from its past as a bustling trade center. The most remarkable monuments that are sure to leave you in awe include the Roman theatre, the ruins of three temples, namely Apollo, Athena, and Men, located in a picturesque area close to the sea coast near the harbor. Additionally, the Roman Bath building near the agora is now an Archaeological Museum of Side, housing a vast collection of fascinating statues and sarcophagi.

Besides the ruined Byzantine hospital and the magnificent nymphaeum, you can also explore the Vespasian Monument, a monumental gate with an adjoining fountain.

We highly recommend setting aside an entire day to explore the ruins of Side that date back 2,000 years. You'll have the chance to discover ancient relics such as a ruined library and basilica from Byzantine times. If you have more time, you can also visit two more bath buildings and the Temple of Dionysus located at one of them, the theatre.