Ancient temples and Byzantine basilica in Side

Location: 

GPS coordinates: 36.764300, 31.386800

Archaeological site: 

The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Apollo in Side

Description: 

If asked, most of the tourists that visit Side would point out to the temple of Apollo as the best-recognized symbol of the city. Splendidly situated, on the tip of the peninsula where the ancient settlement had developed, this temple attracts crowds, especially at the sunset when it looks its best. However, this is not the only temple that existed in Side, and, as the matter of fact you can still see the remains of not one, but five temples here, not to mention the ruined early Christian basilica.

Three of these temples, dedicated to Apollo, Athena and Men, as well as the Byzantine basilica, are situated close to each other, on the coast and very close to the Side harbor. The scant remains of the temple of Dionysus can be seen on the north-western side of the Roman theater. Finally, the latest addition to Side's collection of ancient temples is the recently reconstructed temple of Tyche, now standing proudly in the center of the city's agora.

The temple of Apollo

The best preserved temple of the group of three temples on the tip of the peninsula is the one dedicated to Apollo, the Greek god of beauty, light, the patron of the arts and the guide of the Muses. Some coins minted in ancient Side show the figure of Apollo standing in front of his temple.

From an architectural point of view, this temple was a peripteros i.e. it was surrounded by a colonnade on all four sides of the inner chamber (called cella or naos). In the case of the temple of Apollo this colonnade was executed in the Corinthian order. Each longer side of the building was originally adorned with 11 columns and both shorter sides were decorated with 6 columns.

The stylobate of Apollo's temple, that is the top step of the platform on which colonnades of temple columns were placed, has the dimensions of about 16 meters (52 feet) by 30 meters (98 feet). Five columns that are currently standing were re-erected as part of the reconstruction work carried out in the 80s of the 20th century under the supervision of Professor Jale İnan. The frieze placed above them depicts the heads of Medusa - a mythological monster that had the face of a human female with living venomous snakes in place of hair.

The temple of Athena

The remains of the temple of Athena - Greek goddess of wisdom, art and strategic war - are much more modest than the temple of Apollo are. In ancient times Athena was often chosen as a patron of cities, as was also the case in Side.

Again, this building was a peripteros of the Corinthian order, and its stylobate had the dimensions of 18 meters (59 feet) by 35 meters (115 feet), which means that in its heyday the temple of Athene exceeded the one dedicated to Apollo. Along its longer sides there once stood 13 columns, and along the shorter sides - 6 columns.

The appearance of the building during its prosperity can be reconstructed on the basis of the coins minted in Side. They showed Athena holding in her hands a model of the temple. Both the temple of Athena and the temple of Apollo were erected in the second half of the 2nd century AD.

Byzantine basilica

Behind the temples of Apollo and Athena the remnants of the basilica from the 5th century AD are clearly visible. The church was built on the foundations of ancient temples, and then abandoned for unknown reasons. The building had a nave, two aisles and a courtyard (atrium).

The area demarcated by the atrium of the basilica included both the temples of Apollo and Athena, which gives an idea of how huge were the dimensions of this Christian church. In its nave a smaller church was built in the 8th or the 9th century, which has been preserved to our times in a fairly good condition.

The temple of Men

A temple dedicated to Men, an Anatolian deity of the Moon, was completely different in character than the classical Greek temples of Apollo and Athena. It was a semi-circular cult room (known as a cella), in front of which a platform supporting the lobby (vestibule) with a colonnade stood. Ceremonial stairs led to the temple interior. The construction of this temple is dated to the 3rd century AD.

The temple of Tyche

The agora, located next to the Roman theater in Side, in ancient times was the commercial and cultural hub of the city. At its center, archaeologists found the remains of a building in the circular shape which has been identified as a temple of Tyche. This building has recently been restored and is now a decoration and pride of Side.

The ruins of the building in the middle of the agora were, most probably, the remains of the temple of Tyche, the Greek goddess of blind fate, equated with Roma goddess Fortuna. The identification of the building was conducted by the manager of archaeological mission in Side, professor Arif Müfid Mansel, who worked in the city in the years 1947-1966. His deduction as to the use of this particular building in the agora was based on the image of the temple of Tyche depicted on the coins from Side.

The temple of Tyche was built, like the agora itself, in the 2nd century AD. From an architectural point of view, it is a tolos i.e. a structure comprised of a circular naos surrounded by a colonnade. This colonnade originally consisted of 12 columns with Corinthian capitals. The temple stands on an oval platform, and nine steps lead inside it. The total height of the structure is 15 meters (49 feet).

Until recently, the building was completely ruined, but in 2012 a decision was made to reconstruct it. During the construction works original materials, collected during archaeological excavations, were used. The cost of the work amounted to almost one million Turkish Liras, which were raised from donations made by the Association of Historic Towns and by Turkish entrepreneur Inan Kıraç. The reconstruction process was finished on the 17th May of 2013.

The temple of Dionysus

This temple is situated very close to the Roman theater, on its north-western side. It is raised on a high platform and six steps on the north lead up to its pronaos. Originally, there were four columns at the entrance of the temple.

The cella walls have half-column projections so the temple plan is called pseudo-peripteros which is a rare case in the area of Asia Minor. The architectural decorations of the building are dated to Emperor Augustus' reign - the first century AD.

During the enlargement and reconstruction of the theater in the 2nd century AD, the south-western part of the temple of Dionysus was hidden by the pillar of the theater. Nowadays not much is left of the whole structure.

Visitor tips: 

The entrance to the area where the temples of Apollo, Athena and Men, as well as a Byzantine basilica, are located, is free of charge and unlimited during day and night. The temple of Dionysos and the temple of Tyche stand in fenced-off areas and can be only seen from some distance.

Getting there: 

The best idea to see all of the temples is to take an easy walk through the center of historical Side. If you start from the Archaeological Museum, the first temple you will see is situated just opposite its building, on the other side of Harbor Street (Liman Caddesi). This is the temple of Tyche on the agora and its coordinates are: 36.7683, 31.3911.

The temple of Dionysus is just around the corner, standing humbly next to the theater. Just pass the monumental city gate and the Monument of Vespasian and look to your left: 36.768667, 31.390333.

From the temple of Dionysus you need to walk along Harbor Street all the way down to the coast (600 meters or 650 yards) and then turn off left and walk further 150 meters (165 yards) until you see the characteristic outline of the temple of Apollo against the sky: 36.7643, 31.3868. The temples of Athena, Men and the early Christian basilica are all situated nearby.

Bibliography: 

Image gallery: 

The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Apollo in Side
The temple of Dionysus in Side
The temple of Dionysus in Side
The temple of Dionysus in Side
The temple of Dionysus in Side
The temple of Tyche in Side
The temple of Tyche in Side
The temple of Tyche in Side
The temple of Tyche in Side
Byzantine basilica in Side
Byzantine basilica in Side
Byzantine basilica in Side
Byzantine basilica in Side