Side town was one of the ancient ports of Pamphylia on the Mediterranean Sea, located on a tiny peninsula about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Antalya. The word "side" in local Anatolian language meant "pomegranate". Some historians say that the city was settled around 7th century BC and then came under the rule of the Lydians, Persian, Alexander The Great, Seleucid Empires, Pergamon Kingdom, Romans, Byzantines, and Turks respectively.
Side minted its own coins during the 5th century BC, a sign of strength and richness at that time. In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great captured the city without any fight, this was a peaceful period for whole region. In 190 BC, Side has allied with Antiochus III, king of Syria, and his commander Carthaginian Hannibal to fight against the Rhodian fleet, but they lost the naval battle and the city was occupied. In the 2nd century BC Side became a rich and prosperous city of Pamphylia again thanks to its location and the trade, actually it was a intellectual and cultural center too. In the 1st century BC Side was controlled by pirates and turned into a slave market, but with the arrival of the Romans these pirates had to leave. During the Roman rule, Side lived once more its heydays with its large harbor, trade between Anatolia and other ports of the Mediterranean, its important slave trading market and so on. Under the Byzantine rule, it was a well-known Bishop center as well. Arab raids in the 7th century AD destroyed Side and its inhabitants abandoned the city. Side was not a settlement during the Seljuk nor Ottoman periods.
Today excavations and studies show that Side was a very important city in the Mediterranean for several centuries. It was surrounded on all four sides by high walls to protect the city from both land and sea. The main gate of the city was built during the Hellenistic period to the east and it was protected by two towers. There were two main streets in the city, with columned porticos and shops behind them.
The Nymphaeum, a large monumental fountain, was built just outside the city wall and opposite the main gate. It had a large pool with ornamented niches, from which the water was flowing out. The city had also a perfect sewage system with terracotta pipes and vaults under the streets.
The square shaped (100 x 100 meters or 330 x 330 feet) Agora, the market place, is surrounded by porticos on four sides with shops under. It's located opposite the museum today. On the south-west corner of the Agora adjacent to the theater, there was a public toilet with a capacity of 24 people, one of the best examples of Roman latrines. A circular temple in the middle of Agora was dedicated to Tyche, god of Fortune. This Commercial Agora was connected to another square-shaped but smaller agora which was called as State Agora and used both for state affairs and slave trade. There was also a Gymnasium surrounded by porticos and composed of three halls, just to the south side of the Agora.
The theater is a unique example in Anatolia because of its plan and construction type, and is one of the best preserved ancient theaters in the world. It was built in the 2nd century AD on arches instead of a slope like in other Roman theaters elsewhere. It was formed by three sections: orchestra, scene, and cavea with a capacity of 20 thousand spectators approximately so this made it Pamphylia's largest theater. Besides regular performances, also gladiator and animal fights were organized in the theater. During the early Byzantine period it was used as an open-air church too by local Christians.
Side has great temples from the Roman period. Especially two of them are located by the sea near the harbor; one was dedicated to Athena and other one to Apollo. They were entirely built of marble in peripteros plan with Corinthian style capitals. In the 5th century AD a large Christian basilica was built in front of these temples, which were destroyed during the Arab raids in Asia Minor around the 7th century. Restoration of the temples are still being carried out. Another important temple, dedicated to the god Men (god of moon), was built by the end of the 2nd century AD to the east of the arcaded street. It has a semicircular base with Corinthian column capitals. And finally another temple, probably belonging to Dionysus, was built between the arcaded street and the theater.
A huge (40 x 50 meters or 130 x 164 feet) Roman public bath lies on the arcaded street as well, and is well preserved. There are also big cemeteries (Necropolis) outside of the walls and aqueducts used to bring water to the city from about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away. Side has been excavated by archaeologists since 1947 and excavations continue also in present day.
Today, Side is a major tourist resort with its sandy beaches and great hotels. It offers history, sea and sun vacation, and many water sports activities. Nearby Aspendos theater and Perge site, Manavgat river, and the city of Antalya can be easily reached in case you're staying in Side.
A huge Roman baths next to the theater is turned into a museum today. Originally the building was built in the 5th century AD and restored in 1960, then opened as a museum. The structure is formed by 5 rooms entered through two arched doorways. The first room was the frigidarium, coldest section of the baths. From here, there is a connection to the sweating room. The third and the largest room in the complex is known as caldarium, hottest section of the baths where the heating system was passing underneath its marble floor. After this, there was a tepidarium or washing area formed by two rooms. There was also a palaestra in front of the baths for physical exercises.
Side Museum hosts most beautiful archeological pieces collected from the region in its halls, all the statues found during excavations between 1947 and 1967 have been removed here. The museum has collections from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods; inscriptions, statues, friezes, amphorae, altars, tombs and tomb stalls, columns and capitals, etc. There is a separate admission fee in order to visit the museum.