The Ancient city of Side in Southern Turkey

While walking the back trails, ruins would pop out of nowhere

After we drove from Ankara to visit the ruins at Aspendos, we spent the afternoon in nearby Side. The ancient city is located about an hour’s drive east of Antalya, along the southern coast of Turkey.

Side was originally founded by Greek settlers from nearby Cyme, with the goddess Athena becoming the patroness and primary deity for the city. With its natural harbour, Side quickly became an important trading hub for the region. Later conquered by Alexander the Great without a fight, it was taken by one of Alexander’s generals after his death (Ptolemy of Egypt, who founded a whole line of pharaohs with the Ptolemaic dynasty). After briefly being a part of the Seleucid empire, the city was taken over by Cilician pirates and used as a base and slave-trading centre before the Romans took control of the city.

There is a whole resort area just a little up the coast from Side, but it was much quieter in October and we hardly noticed it on the drive down. As we drove into the older part of town it became apparent that the main walking trail for tourists was located on either side of the only way in. Eventually we passed various ruins until we found private parking lots all around the main entrance. The town is compact, with ruins spread all around and a small touristy city centre close to the sea. Most of the inhabitants live further inland away from the ruins.

We decided to start by backtracking back along the main road where many of the ruins were located, rather than continuing through the town towards the sea. Our first stop was the theatre.

Outside the theatre, close to the main entrance
Inside the theatre

From the theatre we started along the boardwalk back through the main gate of the city. There’s an entrance for cars through the main gate as well as one for pedestrians.

As we walked along the boardwalk there were numerous ruins on both sides, so we hopped off to check them out.

Agora (public space)
Behind the agora
Inside the peristyle house

The boardwalk continued for about a kilometre. Although most of the ruins were not tall, the sheer number of them gave us a sense of what the city might have looked like long ago.

In the distance it looks like a car is driving out of the nymphaeum
Nymphaeum (monumental fountain)

When we reached the end of the ruins along the main road, we left the boardwalk and took an ancient road towards the sea.

There are a variety of paths to the sea, and various other ruins to pass along the way.

Eventually the ground became sandy as we approached the sea. This area is popular with swimmers in the summertime.

Even here there were a few ruins to see along with some swimmers
Looking northwest towards the old (not ancient) town of Side

We circled around from the ruins to the ocean and made our way back through the old town. By this time the sun was starting to set and we needed to get back to Antalya for the evening. The ruins of Side were well worth the afternoon trip, and one more example of a treasure-trove of history in western Turkey.

Reminded me a little of the ruins at Phaeselis…or faraway Tulum

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