Slope Houses, Ephesus

The buildings located on the slopes to the right of the Curetes Street are known as the houses on the slopes of Ephesus. Two houses were built on each of the areas obtained by terracing the slope. And each of the houses faced a different street.

The ruins of houses lying in about the middle section of the Curetes Street which have not been restored were excavated about 30 years ago, and a part of the frescoes and mosaics uncovered were taken to the museum. Later it was decided to display the houses as and where they were, and the decorative elements of the houses such as mosaics and frescoes were put under protection, and restoration on the houses was begun. Of the houses on the same row two of those on the upper terrace are open today to visitors.

The houses on the slopes of Ephesus are quite different from their likes both in their planning and their inner arrangement. To say the least no houses planned on slopes were encountered in excavations of houses of the Roman period other than those in Ephesus. In this respect they differ considerably from houses preserved in good condition in Pompeii and other ancient cities. As they stand in the centre of the city they are also known as the houses of the rich or as the palaces on the slopes.

The narrow side streets opening onto the Curetes Street were terraced for building houses and two houses were erected on each terrace. The side streets were narrow and stepped, and it is believed that some of them were covered with a vaulted roofing. The houses looked quite simple and plain from the outside but they had very decorative interiors.

Of the two houses open to visitors the first can be reached by a stepped road in the middle part of the Curetes Street.  The  house  has  a doublewinged door. The stairs visible on the right upon entering the house enabled one to go up to the second floor. The second floors are in a completely destroyed state. According to a widespread tradition the second floors were reserved for bedrooms. From the entrance door a few steps descended to the ground floor.

The fountain standing in the entrance hall where the steps ended was for those who entered the house to clean themselves. From there one moves on to the peristyle across. In the middle of the peristyle there is a courtyard like section open to the sky and around this corridors with mosaic floors and behind these, rooms and halls. In the middle of the courtyard-like central section stands a fountain with a system of running water and its gutter.

To the south of this the low vaulted space was where the owner of the house rested on hot summer days. The room on the left is named the theatre room because of the subjects of its frescoes.

To the left of the entrance opening which is quite large a scene from Euripides play "Orestes" is depicted. In the Roman period theatre players were all men who used masks as required. Because of this the actors in the fresco were shown wearing masks. On the right there is a scene from the play Sikyonios" of the comedy writer Menander. And on the upper part of the wide wall on the left is represented the fight between Hercules and Achilles. Achilles who was the greatest river god of Greece wanted to marry Deianeira, the daughter of the King of Calydon. But Deianeira did not want to marry him as she knew that Achilles could take the shape of such beings as a dragon or a bull. Whereupon Hercules intervened and a fight broke out. The girl shown crouching in the fresco is the one the ffight was about.

The north side of the peristyle was changed in the 4th century and the main room of the house which stood there was divided into two little rooms. The traces of fire found in this section also belong to the same period. The upper part of the open section of the peristyle was reconstructed to resemble its ancient models with similar materials.

The rather large space on the right after crossing the opening to the right of the entrance is the bath of the house. Only the infrastructure was preserved of the bath. In the walls are visible flues through which hot air was circulated to heat the house in cold weather in winter.

Moving into the left side from here one enters the hall of Muses on this side of the second house which is called House B. The hall was so named because it had frescoes of Muses on its walls. Originally the entrance of the house should have been on the other side, but during restoration it was made this way. From the hall of Muses one enters the peristyle which is exceptionally beautiful. It is similar to that in House A, except that the open section in the middle is larger and more decorative. The Corinthian columns are slender and elegant. The well visible in the middle was used in times of water cut. Glass mosaics were worked onto the vault of the low vaulted section where the owner of the house rested. The mosaics represent Adam and Eve, or, as before Christianity, Dionysus and Ariadne, in a circle in the centre with around them animals such as peacocks, ducks, cocks, etc. which were thought to be present in heaven. The floor of this section is covered with black and white marble of basket weave design.

The last space on the west is the kitchen of the house. The arched hearths at the west wall of the kitchen which is quite narrow are the best preserved among their likes. From here one enters the atrium of the house. As also understood from the construction style the west wall of the atrium belongs to a later period. The original entrance of the house was closed by this wall.

House B which covers an area of approximately 900 square metres is among the houses on the slopes a complete house planned with no point missing and including an atrium. The atrium is in the shape of a narrow courtyard. It has  columns  at  the  corners and wooden beams between the columns. Appropriate sockets were provided on the columns to facilitate the mounting and dismounting of the wooden beams. At the west corner stands the multi person WC of the house. At the entrance of the WC there is a lavatory similar to the present day lavatories. The walls here are also completely covered with frescoes. The room next to the WC is the kitchen of the first stage of the house thought to be the 1 st century.

Coming out of the atrium the room on the left was used as a dining room. In this room the side facing the peristyle was arranged as a bar. We can assume that the household had their meals here together. The space next to this, looking like a hall, is the most important room of the house called the main room. The owner of the house received his guests here. The floor of this room is covered with plain mosaics at the sides and coloured mosaics in the middle. The sides were monochromic and plain because couches were put on these parts. The red table in the room was discovered in situ. The leg of the table which was quite high was stretched over the couch in a semi-horizontal position and was over carved to avoid its looking ugly to the diners. The washstands with hot and cold water taps standing on either side of the entrance of this room are an indication that the houses had great facilities.

The houses were first built in the 1st century AD and were used to the end of the 6th century.

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