Side is located on a peninsula on the Mediterranean coast protected by seawalls. Side is one of the best-known classical sites in Turkey.
There are many remains of aquaducts which brought water from the Taurus mountain foothills and surrounding country. The old baths have been restored and turned into a museum housing one of Turkey's finest archaeological collections of statues and art treasures.
One of its most important buildings is its 15,000 spectator theatre. The difference between this Roman theatre and other antique theatres in the region is that it is not built against a hillside. The 2 storey theatre, built on a series of arches, is 20m high. The orchestra and stage are in a state of ruin. Other monuments include the Agora, the Apollo Temple, a fountain and a necropolis.
There are numerous cafés and restaurants with a view of the sea, and the shops that line the narrow streets sell typical Turkish handicrafts including leather goods and Turkey's famous beautiful gold jewellery.
Side was founded by Aeolians of the Aegean region. The history of the town extends back to the 7C BC. "Side" meant "pomegranate" in the local language. Until the Roman Imperial period, pomegranate was the symbol used on the coins of Side. In the two centuries following Alexander the Great, Side was dominated usually by the Seleucids of Syria and less often by the Ptolemy of Egypt.
The peak period of the city of Side started around 2C BC when it had established and maintained good relations with the Roman Empire. This period continued until the 3C AD. The most impressive of the structures to be seen in the town had been constructed during those times. Side lost its prominence during the 4C AD, however it prospered as a clerical centre in the 5C AD. By the 10C AD, with earthquakes, Christian zealots and Arab raids, the site was completely abandoned and left to be buried.
The last massive settlement in Side was in 1895 when Turkish immigrants from Crete were settled in the town. This settlement is the nucleus of the present town. But the old and the new are insolubly merged and intertwined in Side.
The entrance to the old town is from among the well preserved city walls and through the main gate of the ancient city, but the gate itself has been damaged badly. After the main gate, starts the colonnaded street. The modern road follows the exact course of the ancient avenue, although the marble columns that were once used do not exist anymore. A few broken stubs can be seen near the old Roman baths.
The colonnaded street reaches first to the Agora and then to the theater. It was one arm of the two avenues in the Corinthian style. At the left side of the avenue are the remains of a Byzantine Basilica.
The remains of a public bath have been restored and now serve as the Museum. This building is situated before the Agora, on the right side of the street. At the Museum, Roman period statues and sarcophagi are on display. The remains of the Agora can be seen on the left side. This was also the place where pirates sold slaves.
After the Agora comes the theater with the remains of a monumental gate and a fountain at the entrance. The fountain has been restored. The present remains of the theater date from the 2C AD. The skene of the theater is in a bad state. The theater had a seating capacity of 15,000 people and was used in the late Roman period for gladiator fights. The theater was used as an open air church in the 5-6C AD. Near the theater was the Temple of Dionysus of the early Roman period.
The colonnaded avenue which starts at the gate and leads up to the theater used to extend on the other side, down to the harbour. This part of the avenue is now beneath the present town of Side. Near the harbour there are two temples side by side. One of these has been dedicated to Apollo and the other to Artemis. Six columns of the Apollo Temple have been restored and re-erected. In front of the temples was a Byzantine Basilica.
© Wendy Blann