Archaeological Museum in Side is an extremely interesting venue for two reasons. First of all - this museum presents a vast collection of artifacts discovered during excavations of Side ruins in the mid-twentieth century. Secondly, this rich exhibition is displayed in the building of the old baths (thermae) from the Roman period.
History of the museum
These baths were originally located outside the city walls of ancient Side, built in the middle of the 4th century AD. The baths had been constructed earlier, in the 2nd century AD, and then rebuilt in the 5th century AD. Their plan exemplifies so-called ring-baths. In contrast to the previously built Roman baths, where customers walked through the rooms arranged in a row one after the other, according to a new concept, they wandered around the baths in a circle.
The building was erected on a rectangular plan, with the sides of 26 and 41.5 meters in length respectively. The baths consisted of five rooms of varying sizes, which in ancient times served as: a frigidarium (a cold water room), a caldarium (a hot water room), two tepidaria (rooms with warm water) and a sudatorium (a sauna). In addition, the thermae were equipped with dressing rooms and an oval swimming pool. Internal walls and floors in all the areas were lined with marble slabs.
Caldarium was a room with a pool of hot water and its marble floor was heated by an underfloor system called hypocaustum. The water was fed to the baths by an aqueduct from the mountainous areas north of the city. The furnace used to heat water was placed under the baths building. The thermae were covered with barrel vaults.
On the western side of the baths there is a palaestra (a courtyard) which was in ancient times used as the area of physical exercises, especially wrestling and boxing. Currently, the palaestra area serves as the garden of the museum, where sarcophagi and other large exhibits are displayed. Among these ancient artifacts stately peacocks stroll, ignoring the visitors.
After the completion of archaeological studies, the baths building underwent a complete renovation, funded by the Devres family. Since 1962 these magnificent Roman baths serve as the Archaeological Museum of Side.
Display halls and collections
The exhibits shown in the museum are mainly the artifacts found during archaeological excavations conducted in Side by professor Arif Müfid Mansel in 1947-1967. Inside the building there are collections of antique coins from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods, both from Side, as well as Pisidia and Pamphylia areas. Most of the statues and sarcophagi displayed in the museum represent the Roman period of the city's history. One of the most peculiar items is a column base from the Late Hittite period (the 7th century BC). In addition, the museum houses a collection of weapons, jewelery and utensils from different periods of history.
The first hall (frigidarium) houses basalt craters from the Late Hittite Period, weapon collection from the Hellenistic Period and sun dials from the Roman period temples. The second hall (sudatorium) is dominated by the torsos from the Roman period while in the third hall (caldarium) Hellenistic inscriptions, Roman amphorae and some splendid sculptures of Hercules, Three Graces and Nike can be seen. In the fourth hall (tepidarium) there are more statues of Greek gods and goddesses, as well as some toms from the Roman era.
The museum is situated on Liman Caddesi (Harbor Street), opposite the Roman theater and very close to the center of the ancient town. The best way around is to visit it after seeing the main ancient structures of the city, so that you are able to place the displayed objects in their proper contexts and original locations.
Archaeological Museum in Side is open daily. In summer (April-October) it is open from 9am to 7pm and in winter (November-March) - from 8am to 5pm. The ticket costs 10 TL. When visiting the venue make sure you spend sufficient time in the garden where some of the most impressive artifacts are displayed.