No-one knows how Side got its name, though it probably means ‘pomegranate’ in some ancient Anatolian language. The site was colonised by Aeolians around 600 BC, but by the time Alexander the Great swept through, the inhabitants had abandoned much of their Greek culture and language.
Many of Side’s great buildings were built from the profits of piracy and slavery, which flourished under the Greeks, only to be stopped when the city came under Roman control. After that, Side managed to prosper from legitimate commerce; under the Byzantines it was still large enough to rate a bishop. The 7th-century Arab raids diminished the town, which was dead within two centuries. During the late 19th century it had a brief flowering under Ottoman rule when it was settled by Muslims from Crete.