Turning off the highway from Antalya to Alanya at kilometer 66 takes us to Side four kilometers away. Side is situated on a peninsula that is a kilometer long and four hundred meters wide. Although the geographer Strabo telis us that Side was founded by the inhabitants of Kyme, a city located near present-day İzmir, in what would be the 7th century B.C., the word side in the indigenous Anatolian language means “pomegranate”, from which we may assume that the city’s origins are much older than that. Though Side became a Lydian possession in the 6th century B.C., the Persians captured it in 546 and it remained in their hands until taken by Alexander the Great in 334. Following his death, it was ruled by the Ptolemies and then by the Seleucids. Although the kingdom of Pergamon founded Antalya in the 2nd century B.C. after a naval battle that took place off Side in order to gain control of Pamphylia (southwestern Anatolia), Side never came under Pergamene rule. Side enjoyed its greatest period of prosperity in the 2nd century but by the end of that period, it fell under the control of pirates and was not delivered from their domination until the pirates were defeated in 72 B.C. Servilius Isauricus, a Roman consul, who also added Side to the Roman Empire.
As Roman authority in Asia Minör waned in the early part of the present millennium, Side became the target of raids and attacks by tribes coming from the mountainous region to the north around the middle of the 4th century and for this reason, a fortifying wall was built across the peninsula, dividing the city in two, and the northeastern half of the city was abandoned. Side suffered steady impoverishment and decline. It became the center of a diocese in the 5th and 6th centuries. Following the Arab attacks in the lOth century and the later infiux of pirates to Side, most of the people moved to Antalya and the city was abandoned. The present village was founded on the site of its ruins in this century.
Excavations at Side were first undertaken by Professor Arif Müfit Mansel and they were later taken up by Professor Jale İnan after Mansel’s death. The work is stili in progress.
After leaving the main road we enter Side through the main gate (2) of the 2nd century (B.C.) land walls (1) surrounding the city. This gate resembles a Hellenistic period gate in Perge. It is protected by towers set on either side forming a semicircular courtyard. Opposite the gate by the roadside is a big monumental fountain (3) with three large niches. This originally threee-story structure is from the 2nd cuntury A.D. and is magnificently decorated. Today only the first story remains. The fountain’s water was brought here by means of aqueducts from the Manavgat River.
One can drive up as far as the theater. Let us park there then and start our tour of the ruins.