Terrace Houses

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Along Curetes Street, just behind the shops near the Library of Celsus there are six luxurious residential buildings that were in use from the 1st century AD through the 7th century AD.  Because of their location on the slopes of Mt. Coressus they have become known as the Slope Houses or the Terrace Houses.

The houses were abandoned in the 7th century AD when a series of devastating Arab raids and the continued silting up of the harbor caused the Ephesians to move to Ayasuluk Hill. After being abandoned, these houses fell into decay or were buried under soil from landslides. The soil preserved the houses well, and their contents have offered archeologists a close look into the lives of the Ephesian upper class in the Roman and Byzantine periods. The excavations of the terrace houses started in 1960 and continue today. Two of the houses have been fully restored and are usually open to the public. The rest are sometimes covered by a tent due to the excavations.

These houses were built according to the Hippodamian grid style plan popular in the city during Roman times. Each one was built with multiple stories and an atrium with an entrance onto the side street. On the ground floor there were living and dining rooms, while upstairs held the bedrooms and guest rooms. They were equipped for running water and supplied with heating through clay pipes like the city’s bath houses.

Each house has an elaborate series of decorations. One of the houses open to the public has a black-and-white mosaic and a marble floor with the remains of a fountain in the center. The walls are decorated with frescoes involving theater scenes. The other house was altered and extended several times. It has mosaics and frescoes in several of the rooms and an atrium with Corinthian columns. A 5th-century glass mosaic in a niche depicts the heads of Dionysus and Ariadne. During this time Rome would have already been converted to Christianity, making the pagan subject especially interesting to archeologists.

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