SIDE (Turkey)

Roman aqueducts: Side (Turkey) Selimiye - SIDE
For the photo's, see below
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The city of Side (pronounce see - duh) is built on a peninsula and was founded by settles from Cyme in the 7th or 6th Century BC. The inhabitants soon took over the local Pamphilian language and Side is a word in that language, meaning "pomegranate". Greek became more common again after the city went over to Alexander the Great. It was part of the Ptolomaean and Seleucid empires but became heavily involved in piracy before this was eradicated by Pompeius. Side was then brought under direct rule from Rome, and incorporated in the province of Lycia et Pamphylia. It had its time of greatest prosperity under the Empire in the 1-3th Centuries AD.

The aqueduct

[satellite photo and map of Side are presented below]
The city of Side had a Roman aqueduct built that brought water to the city from the Dumanli spring in one of the first upstream gorges of the Manavgat river (Melas in antiquity). The aqueduct was built in the second half of the second century, and restored in the first half of the third century, financed by Lollianos Bryonianos and his wife Quirinia Patra from Side. The aqueduct is special for two reasons. It was built in mountainous terrain, but is remarkably straight, with a total length of 30 km although the spring is 25 km in a straight line from Side. In this 30 km, there are 22 aqueduct bridges and 16 tunnels of 100-2260m long, in total 13 km of tunnels! The reason is that the difference in altitude between source and city is only 36 meters. The engineers were therefore forced to look for expensive construction work, tunnels and bridges, to make the connection between source and city as straight and short as possible. Unique is also, that most of the aqueduct bridges have been (partly) preserved and can be visited. As usual, the conduit is built in opus caementitium and buried in an excavation where it is not in tunnels or on bridges, either covered with a vault built on formwork, or by slightly outwards sloping stone slabs, especially in the upstream section. Several different rock types were used in construction of the aqueduct bridges, and these reflect the local geology, minimising transportation costs. Since some rocks are more prone to weathering than others, this also caused a different state of preservation of the bridges. Unfortunately, the most interesting first three kilometres of the aqueduct are now covered by the waters of the Oymapinar reservoir.

Map of the Side aqueduct, the aqueduct in green

Spring and River Crossing

The aqueduct starts at the Dumanli spring, the largest karstic spring in the world, which contributes one third of the water of the Manavgat river from a single orifice in the mountain. The spring emerged on the east side of the river at 62 metres elevation, 5 metres above the Manavgat river 10m from the river bank (Karanak and Güney1980). Dumanli means "misty", referring to the permanent haze around the spring caused by the tremendous force of 50m3 of water per second cascading down the mountain.
A problem for the Roman engineers was that the spring lies on the east side of the river, while the aqueduct was to be constructed on the west side. Instead of building a bridge across the deep and fast flowing river at this point, subject to floods and the force of the spring, the roman engineers found a more practical solution. The spring water, however, entered the Manavgat river with such force and in such a large volume that it created an eddy which brought the water upwelling on the western shore, where it was captured in the first section of the aqueduct conduit; although this spring water was contaminated with some upstream Manavgat water, which would have been sediment laden part of the year, it was mostly clear water from the spring, and this was apparently of sufficient quality for the city of Side.

Method of capturing the Dumanli spring for the aqueduct of Side

The first section of the aqueduct capturing the spring by the method described above was at at 49.79 m with a conduit measuring 203 x 209 cm in diameter (Izmirligir1979). From the spring, the aqueduct passed the steep rock walls of the upper Manavgat gorge through three galleries and over two aqueduct bridges. The first three kilometres of the aqueduct are covered by the Oymapinar reservoir, including the famous Dumanli spring, the largest karstic spring in the world, two rock cut galleries, two aqueduct bridges amongst which the Hündüve bridge, built from rubble concrete.
From the edge of the plain on, it passed a further series of 20 aqueduct bridges and 13 km of tunnels. The tunnels were mostly built in conglomerate (for 11,7 km), and some in sandstone. All tunnels were built in qanat mode, where parties dug in two directions from regularly spaced vertical building shafts until they met. The building shafts are 4 to 61 metres deep. Many of the tunnels have no built internal conduit facing.
Before the aqueduct reached the city, it entered a distribution tank where part of the water was diverted to the huge Nymphaeum in front of the main city gate. Another branch penetrated the city wall through an opening 42x46 cm at 14.16 m that is still well preserved. The conduit gradually decreased in size downstream, probably because part of the water was used for irrigation. According to Izmirligir1979, at least some of the water was diverted just before the village of Sihlar for this purpose.

Visible Remains

To help you to identify the bridges, tunnels, and other works or art, we present 10 maps with details about the course of the aqueduct.
The next chapter is about the first three kilometers: the course now under water and the Firfirdelik gallery.
Then we present almost all bridges and other visible parts of the aqueduct, from the Oymapinar Dam to the museum baths of Side.
To conclude we give some examples of water related elements within the town of Side.

Most of these parts can be visited by walking in from the main road, but permission must be obtained to visit the Firfirdelik gallery and the DSI-dam site.

- Text and drawings: Cees Passchier
- Photo's: Wilke Schram (2012)
- Maps (and some photo's): Atila 2007

With kind support of Mike and Angela Crosby

Selimiye - SIDE

Item Info
Length 30 km
Cross-section 1,2 m x 1,5 m
Volume 35.000 - 43.000 m3/day
Gradient 0,12 %
Period Antonine
  • intelligent river crossing
  • many bridges
  • many tunnels

Recommended literature :
  • Klaus Grewe (1994), Die römische Wasserleitung nach Side (Türkei). Antike Welt 25, volume 2, 192-203.
  • ülkü Izmirligir (1979), Die Römische Wasserversorgung von Side. Mitteilungen des Leichtweiss Institut für Wasserbau, Braunschweig. 64.
  • Ünal Özis (1996), Historical water schemes in Turkey. Water resources development 12, 347-383.
  • Ekrem Akurgal (1993), Ancient civilizations and ruins of Turkey.
  • Akan Atila, Ulku Izmirligil, and Adnan Sakar (2007): Side Suyolu Arastirmase (in: Side'Ye Emek Verenler Sempozyumu, 20 - 22 Nisan 2007)
Recommended website : none
How to visit : see text above and maps below

HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: January, 2013 - Wilke D. Schram

Map 1: Dumanli -

Map 1A: Details N of
Oymapinar dam

Map 2: Homa/Oymapinar

Map 3: Akcesme

Map 4: Kemerderesi -

Map 5: Akcay

Map 6: Delikgozler

Map 7: Koyalti

Map 8: Side area

Map 9: Ancient Side