75 km along the Antalya-Alanya motorway one goes in a seaward direction for 3km to reach Selimiye. Selimiye, which is located upon a peninsula bearing the same name is situated on the ruins of the city of Side. The area is favoured by Turkish tourism with excellent holiday villages and hotels on the shores of Titreyengöl and Kumköy. Along with the sea, sand and sun tourists are offered cultural, hunting, natural, yachting, mountain, rafting, camp tourism and jeep-safari tours. According to Anatolian mythology, Side, Goddess of Nature and Fertility, taking her little daughter, goes to the valley of the river Manauwa/Manavgat together with the Nymphs.
As she is picking flowers with the Nymphs, Side comes across a tree with thin branches, bright leaves and colourful flowers and breaks off the tree branch to give to her little daughter. Blood starts to drip from the branch. At that instant Side understands that it was actually a Nymph, disguising herself as a tree in order to protect herself from the ill-willed humans chasing her, and becomes very sad. She wants to walk away quickly. Her feet get stuck in the ground, buried under the earth, and she cannot move. Starting with her feet, her body begins to form a thin layer of bark and to take the shape of a tree. The nymphs, becoming sad at this, weep and wet Side’s roots. Saying what she did was a mistake she tells the Nymphs: “I will hereafter be a symbol of nature, life and fertility with my rich fruit the colour of blood; do bring my daughter here often, so she will play under my shade. Let her not damage any tree. Maybe every tree or flower is a God in disguise.” So, the Side peninsula is filled with the trees of Side believed to have formed as such according to mythology.
It is known that the name Side means “Pomegranate” in the Luwian/Etruscan language. It is understood that the name Side, as written in the Gök Turk alphabet, is ış.ot.oğhu – ışık otağı/ışıklı otağ-Işotağ (light tent/lighted tent) which passed into French as “Chateau”, English as “City”, German as “Stadt” and Italian as “Citta”, and used to mean “city”. The fact that the origin of the language of Side includes Luwian characteristics testifies that the history of the city dates back to around 4000 B.C. It is thought that the people of Side were engaged in fishing and maritime trade on a small scale during this time. The population of the city increased with the immigration of the various Anatolian peoples returning from the Trojan War to Side.
The city which remained within the boundaries of western Cilicia of the Kizzuwatna Late Hittite principality during the 9th century B.C. joined the Lydian league in the 7th century and went under Persian sovereignty in 546 B.C. The city, which opened its gates to the Macedonian King Alexander the Great without resistance in 334 B.C., was forced to add Hellenistic cultural elements to daily life. Moreover, religious faiths also changed. Athena was identified with the Anatolian Mother Goddess, Kybele and Apollon with the Moon God, Men. The city passed to the Kingdom of Pergamum for some time and then, becoming a base for pirate attacks early in the 1st century B.C., the biggest slave market of the Mediterranean was established. Upon the clearance of the Mediterranean shores from pirates it was annexed to the Roman lands and during the Pax Romana era it reached the peak of its progress. After the 5th century A.D. it became the bishopric centre and some of the temples were transformed into Orthodox churches. From the 7th century onwards it was exposed to and ruined and destroyed by the Arab raids and the city people immigrated to the capital of the Pamphylian region, Attaleia. Because of the sand erosion advancing towards the eastern gate and the earthquakes of the 9th and 12th centuries the city was razed to the ground. The Turks who came to the area in 1207 settled down in the northeast of the ancient city. The area which remained within the Seljuk boundaries until the 14th century was annexed to the Ottoman lands in 1391.
The Turks who recently immigrated from the island of Crete settled down here and founded a village named Selimiye at the end of the peninsula. What is noteworthy upon entering the city are the remains of the city walls and entrance gate. The remains of the Aqueduct carrying water to Side are seen near the gate. In front of the remains are the ruins of a great, three-storeyed monumental fountain, 15 m high and 35 m wide, covered with marble embellished with geometrical and plant motifs on the façade. On the façade of the fountain are the niches in the form of oyster shells between the columns with Corinthian capitals visible. The Colonnaded Street, 250 m long, has today been asphalt-covered and the remains of the houses on both sides of the street are in the form of small chambers, fountain and toilet places lined around an inner hall. The great agora of the city lies at the end of the colonnaded street and has a square structure measuring 92×92.
To the South of the Agora surrounded by shops all around, in the middle of the place where the temple of Fortuna, God of Luck and Trade can be seen, is a Latrine/Public Toilet for 24 people with marble-facing and an arch made of brick. The Side Theatre with a seating capacity of 16,000 adjoining the Agora was constructed at the narrowest point of the peninsula. The seating tiers in semicircular form with a diameter of 120 m are divided into two sections by a diazoma. Connections for passage take the form of 12 steep flights of steps between the 29 caveas on the lower section and 22 caveas on the upper section. The protocol used to sit in the imperial box located in the middle of the upper caveas. With the lower sections of the caveas hollowed concavely in semicircular form it was intended to improve acoustics.
The orchestra of the theatre is in semicircular form with a diameter of 15m and a narrow channel is visible around the earth floor. Excavations are still under way in the theatre, which was ruined and destroyed as a result of the Arab raids during the 8th century A.D. and of which the stage building subsequently fell down onto the orchestra during an earthquake. The 9 chambers lined next to each other on the lower floor were closed with iron railings during the Late Roman Epoch and used as cages for wild animals and gladiators. The chambers on the upper floor, on the other hand, served as dressing and resting rooms for actors. The plane surfaces on the lower section were decorated with friezes depicting the mythological instants of Bacuss, god of wine and entertainment. This theatre was used for outdoor rites during the Byzantine era. To the northwest of the theatre is the single-basin Vespesian Fountain, 15 m high and 7 m wide, with the façade covered with marble facing and embellished with 8 Corinthian capitals. To the west side of the theatre, the temple of Bacuss with a cella measuring 12×6 m is visible. In the great port bathhouse to the southwest are 4 big halls, 3 small chambers and two gymnasiums. In close proximity of the great port bathhouse the Temple of Men, built in the name of Men, the Anatolian moon god, is located. Clearly, of the two temples with adjacent peripteral structures located at the southern end of the Side peninsula, the one in the east belongs to Apollon, god of light, art and beauty and the one in the west belongs to Athena, goddess of science, truth and virginity and daughter of Zeus.
The temple constructed in the name of Apollon measures 17×30 m and is of quadrangular form and has columns with Corinthian capitals, 8,90 m high and measuring 6×11, around it. So-called “triglyphical” friezes of lions’ feet are visible between the medusa heads on the marble block on the columns.
The Temple of Athena, on the other hand, has dimensions of 20×35 m and is encircled with Corinthian columns of the same height as the Temple of Apollon. It was believed that these temples protected and guided the Side port and Side ships. During the Byzantine Era a basilica was constructed to the North of these two temples, that is, on Temenos. The Port located at the furthest Southern end of the peninsula was of great importance for a city such as Side engaged in marine commerce. The bathhouse complex built during the Roman epoch was transformed into Side Museum as a result of the restorations of recent years, where sarcophagi, columns, busts, Torcho inscriptions, statues, statue pedestals, capitals, friezes, reliefs and stelae unearthed during excavations are visible. The section which is viewed as a garden today was actually the gymnasium / palaestra courtyard of the Roman Bathhouse. The most notable work of art in the courtyard is the series of friezes depicting the mythological instants of Poseidon, god of the sea. In a section close to the middle of the cold water pool in the bathhouse, also called Agora Bathhouse, there is a sun-dial placed during the Roman epoch. In the tepidarium hall, within 9 big arched niches there are statues of gods, emperors, women, men, children and torsos and busts. The most important of these is the statue of Hermes, 1.65 m high, the guardian god of merchants and thieves. 3 marble sarcophagi belonging to the Roman era are seen in the middle of the hall.
The combined marble statues of three beauties, depicting the mythological beauty contest between Athena, Aphrodite and Hera as causing the start of the Trojan War are also in front of the pool. The most important find in the museum is the inscription named Artemon and written in the Luwian/Etruscan alphabet. A large part of the city’s necropolis is underneath the sand. As a result of the excavation searches conducted during recent years it is understood that the two-storey building recovered in the eastern quarter was the Cosmas Hospital, which Justinianus ordered to be constructed during the Byzantine era in the 6th century and where patients with leprosy were treated. The first excavations around Side and its peninsula were started by Prof.A.Müfit Mansel in 1947 and continued by Prof. Jale İnan and excavation and restoration activities are still underway. Side has been taken under the protection of UNESCO.