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The ruins of the ancient theater of Side - traces of Roman civilization in Turkey

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II century Turkey, Side

The Turkish resort town of Side is primarily famous for its stunning artifacts, ancient buildings, temples and other ruins of the Roman period. But the famous ancient theater of Side, which impresses with its size, is best preserved. Being there, you are involuntarily transported a thousand years ago and imagine yourself in the place of spectators watching the gladiatorial battles. In the Turkish city of Side, behind the Agora, the remains of the Roman ancient theater, which belonged to the middle of the second century BC, rise. It differs from other ancient theaters of Turkey, which were built earlier, in that it was built on a flat platform, that is, as the Romans built, and not on the side of the mountain, as is characteristic of the Hellenes. It is also distinguished by its arched vaults of impressive size, placed on the foundation, and on them, in turn, the seats are held. Now this ancient theater is an integral part of the ancient attractions of Side.

The entrance to the ancient theater of Side was covered by galleries, the vaults and the stage were decorated with tiles and statues. Today, here you can see only the chopped off heads of Medusa and the masks of Comedy and Tragedy. Near the ancient Theater of Side was a semicircular building that served as a public toilet, had a sewer and designed for 24 seats.

This ancient theater was the largest in Pamphylia and accommodated almost 20 thousand spectators. Its width was 120 meters, and 29 meters was the diameter of the central amphitheater. The visual stands were semicircular and not closed. The structure consisted of three parts: a cavern or seats for spectators, an orchestra or a semicircular square in front of the seats and a skene or a stage with rooms.

Caveya in the ancient theater was 2-storey, between the floors there was a path called a diazome. The surviving part consists of stone blocks and external external galleries.

Due to the internal gallery, the theater was quickly filled and liberated. Part of the stairs has been preserved, although in ruined condition. In the external galleries, and there were 14, there were shops and warehouses, 5 galleries served as the entrance to the theater. They had 3 steps to enter the diazoma, to the lower floor or to the upper. On both sides of the galleries there were entrance tunnels through which artists and ministers walked.

The orchestra had a semicircular shape, and there was a water canal around it. Under it sewage rainwater flowed through the sewer. In the Byzantine era, a wall was built in front of the first row of seats, with which the orchestra was used as an arena. The theater’s orchestra retains the remains of architectural and marble decorations. Reliefs on them indicate the splendor and elegance of the ancient theater.

In the basement of the orchestra there are passages to the agora. They were made so that in case of a sudden attack of enemies, the audience could quickly take cover.

In front of the orchestra was a three-story stage. It was decorated with statues and tiles. Today, they preserved the masks of Tragedy and Comedy, as well as the broken heads of Medusa scattered around the stage.

In a semicircular building near the theater is an antique public toilet (latrium), designed for 24 seats. A sewer was laid under the stone seats. The walls here were covered with marble, a magnificent mosaic was laid out on the floor.

In the Roman era, gladiatorial fights took place here, including with predators, therefore, for safety, the scene was surrounded by a 1.5 meter wall. And for the staging of naval battles, water poured onto the stage, on the base of which waterproof special material was laid.

From the 5th to the 6th centuries, the ancient theater was used as a Christian temple, now it is an ancient attraction of Side.

Side promenade - a romantic place for walking

The Turkish resort town of Side is primarily famous for its stunning artifacts, ancient buildings, temples and other ruins of the Roman period. But the famous ancient theater of Side, which impresses with its size, is best preserved. Being there, you are involuntarily transported a thousand years ago and imagine yourself in the place of spectators watching the gladiatorial battles. I suggest you go with me to the amphitheater and feel the spirit of the Roman Empire.

1. Brief information

Side amphitheater was built in the second century AD and was used as an arena for gladiatorial fights with wild animals. The theater accommodated as many as 20 thousand spectators.

In the Byzantine period, an open-air church was set up on the site of the theater and the place was declared sacred. Now the theater is open to visitors and everyone can touch the story. Unlike many other buildings of that time, the theater was perfectly preserved, only the stage and the rooms behind it were destroyed.

2.3. Where is it and how to get there

The amphitheater is located in the center of ancient Side near the Museum of Ancient Art.

Location of Side Theater on the map:

The easiest way to get on foot is if you live in Side itself. And it’s even more interesting, because literally at every step there are unusual monuments and ancient ruins.

But if your hotel is located far from the theater, then you can get on any minibus next to the Side bus station, and from there you can walk for 5 minutes. Well, or the easiest and most expensive way - by taxi.

3. A photo walk through the ruins of an ancient theater

And now let's finally see what the ancient theater looks like.

So the theater looks from afar from the side of the road - here you can’t approach the theater, it is surrounded by a fence:

I can’t understand this in any way, but for some reason in Turkey it is customary to use ancient ruins for modern purposes - for example, open a store in an ancient theater or a cafe to get drunk:

Shop shelves right in ancient ruins:

It all looks somehow strange and ridiculous:

But let’s leave the ethical side of the issue, let's go watch the theater better! At the entrance you need to buy a ticket and go through the turnstile:

All tickets in Turkey are issued as standard - only the price and name of the object changes:

Metal supports are installed everywhere - apparently, there is a risk of collapse:

The layout of the ancient theater:

We go to the main platform - here it is the theater in all its glory:

View of the stage - much has been destroyed, but some columns and interesting bas-reliefs have survived:

View from the other side - there is no way to get to the upper rows, it is too high and there are no stairs:

But you can go downstairs - the truth is, the stairs are pretty steep and collapsed in places, so be careful:

Destroyed stairs and hazard warning:

Look at the right side of the theater - you can see how badly the stairs were destroyed, the steps seemed to fly off:

On the left - the surviving part, on the right - the more destroyed:

View of the stage - once there was a solid wall with columns:

The surviving bas-reliefs of comedy and tragedy masks:


Some patterns are pretty elegant:

The most interesting pieces are made of white marble, scattered in random order, it's a pity it's hard to understand how it all looked in reality:

It seems that local archaeologists simply gathered different pieces around and made up in random order, but earlier, maybe everything looked completely wrong, the details of white marble are too prominent:

Strange, but for some reason it is forbidden to use a tripod on the territory of the amphitheater. Moreover, there are no such rules anywhere, but as soon as we got a tripod, the guard asked him to remove it. Therefore, only such frames were able to be made:

So the theater’s audience used to sit - you can close your eyes and imagine yourself for a second in their place - the theater is filled with all kinds of sounds, screams, around the crowd and all the seats are full, and on the stage brave gladiators are fighting saber-toothed tigers. You open your eyes, and again silence and silence:

4. Conclusions, impressions and video

Despite the rather high cost of visiting, you definitely need to look into the amphitheater! We have already visited several more ancient theaters in other cities of Turkey, but this one is by far the most impressive and well-preserved.

It will take no more than 30-40 minutes to visit the theater, you will not be able to climb the ruins themselves, you can only go down to the stage and walk along it. Further fences are already installed. But from the highest point, cool views of other sights of Side are opened and even a piece of the sea is visible. If you choose where to go - to the theater or museum, then definitely, it’s better to go to the theater. There are not many people here, so you can make excellent shots and sit in silence, enjoying the atmosphere of antiquity.

And finally, a short video about Side amphitheater:

By the way, if you are only going to Side, but have not yet chosen a hotel, I advise you to look at hotellook on the search engine website (you can find the most favorable offers from 40 booking systems there) or choose one of these hotels with a good rating:

What to see

The 22 surviving rows of spectator seats smoothly descend to the orchestra, a circular platform in the center, fenced with a strong wall to protect against wild animals. The inner space could be filled with water and arrange naval battles in the pool. Artists performed on the podium in front of a three-story wall, an analogue of modern backstage. There were rooms where actors and gladiators changed clothes, in the basement - cages for animals.

On the podium are fragments of bas-reliefs and statues that once adorned the theater. Among them is the traditional image of crying and laughing masks, symbols of Melpomene and Talia, muses of tragedy and comedy.

The entrance to the amphitheater was closed for a long time due to the danger of collapse, but recently it was reconstructed. Visitors are not allowed into the dungeons and the highest tiers, but there is a beautiful view of Side and the azure sea from accessible places.

Practical information

Address: Side, Manavgat, Liman Cd. GPS coordinates: 36.7679, 31.3904.

How to get there: by taxi or on foot from the bus station on the street. Liman Cd., Distance 1 km, travel time 15 minutes.

Opening hours: daily from April to October from 9:00 to 19:00, from November to March from 8:00 to 17:00. Ticket price 15 TRY. Prices on the page are for March 2019.

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