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Ephesus Terrace houses

Ephesus Terrace houses

The terrace houses, located in the center of the city, suggest that important figures in the city must have lived here. Accordingly, these habitations are called either the terrace houses, or the houses of the rich.
The one- or tvvo-story buildings were inhabited at various points in history. Excavations uncovered valuable marble, ivory, and bronze objects, as well as a large number of statues, pieces of fumiture, decorative objects, candleholders, and kitchen utensils. These discoveries led the archaeologists of Ephesus to new realizations. The finds prove, at least, that rich people lived south of Kouretes Street, separate from the rest of the population, in houses constructed on terraces behind the rows of shops.

Stairvvays led up to every terrace. These buildings are peristyle houses; the rooms surround the peristyle (central courtyard). The peristyles of these generally three- story houses measure 30 meters by 50 meters. Columns lined the courtyard on ali four sides, and its floor was paved with marble.
The terrace houses are in the immediate vicinity of the main Street, the agora baths, the temples, and the library. Both this and the fumishings, which must have been very expensive, are proof that the inhabitants of these houses cannot have been average citizens.

When Lysimachos refounded the city, he followed the type of city planning then considered to be progressive in Ionia. According to this plan, narrow paths connected the terrace houses to various side streets leading up from the south side of Kouretes Street. Two houses stood on each terrace, one on the east side, and one on the west. Streets with entrances to the houses ran along the east and west sides of each terrace. During the excavation of the terraces, no ruins from periods earlier than the time of Lysimachos were found. The oldest of the houses öpen for view dates from the time of Caesar Augustus.
Shops that opened onto the Stoa of Alytarches lined the foot of the terrace. The shop buildings had two stories; the upper story was reserved for the owners. Research has shown that one of these buildings was probably a restaurant.

All the houses were supplied with running vvater, surprisingly well designed for that period. Water basins were located either in the peristyle, or next to it. Some houses had individual cistems. Waste vvater flovvcd through elay pipes into the drainage channels beneath the streets. This drainage system must have funetioned exceptionally well, because even coins accidentally dropped into the toilets in the houses have been found in the main sewers beneath the Street. If one of the drainpipes clogged and needed eleaning from time to time, an oval-shaped opening was cut into the pipe and elosed after the eleaning. Evidence of this type of repair work is stili clearly visible today in the pipes. The houses were simple and had no windows unless absolutely necessary. They display a character in precise contrast to that of the temples; those were richly decorated on the outside, but their interiors were furnished very simply. The insides of the terrace houses, hovvever, were much more luxurious than their exteriors. The peristyles, which were left öpen to the sky, provided the houses with light. This was, of course, not sufficient, so the rooms were dim, sometimes quite dark. Since almost ali the houses had a bath with a System of hypocausts, the hot air from them would warm the rooms of the entire house.

The inhabitants were usually extended families, complete with employees and slaves. Parents educated their children, teaching them practical skills. People of the Roman period considered the family and its hearth sacred. The soul and protector of the hearth was the goddess Vesta, who received special honor. Every day, the families held simple religious Services in their homes, accompanied their meals with rituals, poured out offerings of wine for the gods, and bumed incense. People ate their meals half reclining on a “kline,” a dining couch. Expensive and very beautiful fabric covered the couches. Diners would drink table wine from a “megam” (drinking vessel) produced in Ephesus, or from a mug with a handle; while they drank, people held animated conversations. The vvine, stored in amphorae, was not only a favorite drink, but was also an offering to the gods. Generally, people would rise quite early in the moming and eat a breakfast of figs or grapes. Then, there would be a shopping excursion on the main Street, or in the agora. 
The owners of these houses chiefly spent their afternoons with their servants in the baths. For supper, there was either fish, or pork or venison, accompanied by wine. The ancient author Strabo praised Ephesian wine, and wrote that it was of higher quality than wine from Samos. At night, lamps, which burned inexpensive olive oil, filled the houses with light.

During the excavations, relatively few pieces of furniture were found. Perhaps the inhabitants had few private possessions, and, for this reason, did not require many pieces of furniture.
The terrace houses are beautiful examples of peristyle houses. Every house had a heating system like the one in the baths. Clay pipes conducted the hot air produced in the main bath into the other rooms. thus heating them in the winter. The water for the dining room, the kitchen, and the water channel in front of the toilet was heated at the same time. Each house thus already had a system of hot and cold water. Relatively large bathrooms that accommodated several people were located in a suitable place in the house. In Ephesus, the toilets were benches with openings in them, which drain pipes connected with the sewer system. Frescoes decorated the walls of the bathroom, as they did the other walls in the house.
Stone, tiles, and mortar were the building materials of these houses.

The plaster on the outsides and insides of the walls was very important, since the construction of the walls was fairly irregular. Mosaics completely covered the floors, with the exception of the impluvium. The mosaics were sometimes in black and white, but they sometimes had colorful geometric designs, and figures or mythological scenes. From time to time, the mosaics would wear down and need repair. Thus, the size and color of the stones vary in some places. When repair of a severely damaged mosaic was no longer possible, some spots had to be replaced completely with whatever materials were then in fashion.
The walls of the terrace houses are chiefly decorated with frescoes. Sometimes one even finds marble revetment. Like the mosaics, the frescoes also needed repair from time to time, and they would then be redone in the current style. The frescoes might be damaged when the inhabitants moved fumiture around, or their small children scratched them with sharp objects; moisture would then enter the walls and ruin the fresco. Earthquakes also caused cracks in the walls, which made the workers prepared a better surface by making indentations in the wall with a hammer; on top of this, they would then spread a layer of mortar about 2 or 3 cm thick. At some places on the walls, one can see several layers of frescoes. The top fresco is clearly visible, but the layers beneath this can only be guessed at. Figures of Eros and the Muses were the most popular, which were usually portrayed in flight, along with imaginative drawings of fish and birds, objects from everyday life, scenes from theater, or mythological events.

The terrace houses, which date from the age of Augustus, were added to, restructured, and inhabited in various ways until the seventh century CE. After this point, the buildings filled up with sand and debris. A few served later as storage depots for foodstuffs, and as frames for water milis for many years. Two of these terrace houses have been restored, and were opened for viewing in 1985. The finds in them are replicas; the originals are on display in the Ephesus Museum.

HOUSE A: The restored houses A and B are located across from the Temple of Hadrian. A steep stepped Street leads up to the houses. House A has two doors that öpen onto this Street. The lower door leads to the heating room, the bathrooın, and the kitchen. The employees used this door of the house. The two-storied house stands on a plot of land that measures about 900 square meters. Since the second story has collapsed, not much can bc said about it. Theıe were about ivvelve rooms in it, used for various purposes. The actual main entrance of the house opens onto a few stairs which lead down into the vestibule (A 1). This hail had a black and white marble floor with an elegant border of interlocking circles. This mosaic dates back to the year in which the building was constructed; the westem part, hovvever, was later removed and replaced with another mosaic with a geometric pattem. The vestibule has a fountain, which is lined with slabs of marble. Only half of the tiling in the dome of the niche now remains. Right next to the fountain, a staircase önce led into the upper story.

An arched passageway across from the main doorway opens onto the peristyle court (A 2). The peristyle, which provided light and ventilation, is almost square, and has an impluvium surrounded by columns. Eight columns önce lined the impluvium, but in later renovations, the number was reduced to four. The columns have Doric capitals. Slabs of marble served as dividers between the columns. The impluvium is paved with marble. A very damaged and fragmentary fountain stands on its northem side. Behind the fountain are the rooms A 10-11, which are paved with mosaics. Frescoes arranged in sections cover the walls. They were repaired or redone in the fourth century.

The peristyle was decorated in exactly the same way. The mosaic in the southeastern part presents a geometric surface in various primary colors, bounded by two narrow black borders. On the walls, garlands of flowers border the main frescoes; tones of red and yellow predominate. They show everyday scenes, such as a worker stirring lime.

THE THEATER ROOM (A 3): East of the peristyle is a very well-preserved room. Together with the vestibule, it önce formed one large room that opened onto the impluvium and was used for the reception of guests. In the reconstructions that follovved an earthquake in the second century CE, a wall was erected between this room and the vestibule, so that two separate rooms resulted. The floor of the theater room has a geometric mosaic. Panels of frescoes dating from various eras cover the walls. Geometric pattems in square and rectangular frames fiil the lower zone of the frescoes. Masks appear in the upper zone. Columns with Corinthian capitals separate the individual panels of the main frescoes, in the middle zone.
The room was given the name “theater room” because of the two theater scenes to the right and left of the entrance. The panel on the right shows a scene from the comedy “Sikyonioi” by Menander, and the one on the left, a scene from the tragedy “Orestes,? by Euripides. Orestes is lying down, conversing with his sister Elektra, who is standing. Other panels also show figures from theater. The characters are mostly naked or half-clothed. One of them holds a plate of fish in his right hand. On the left, northern wall, in the upper zone, the first panel shows a mask; next to it is a scene of struggle between Herakles and the riveı* god, 
Achelaos. The scene also contains four other characters, one woman and three men.
The neighboıing rooms A 4 and A 5 also have mosaic floors. The frescoes here show human figures, birds, and flowers.

The “tablinium,” A 6, in the south, is the main room, and has the most beautiful location in the house. Colored fabric probably covered the walls. A square mosaic, with a border in a double-braided pattern, covers the floor. Crescent shapes fiil its çenter panel.
The bath  lies south of the foyer. its foundations and system of hypocausts are stili preserved. Hot air önce flowed through the baked clay pipes. During the excavations, the remains of an earlier system of hypocausts vvere also found.
Right next to the employees’ entrance are rooms that could belong to the kitchen area.

ROOMS A 16 AND AB 2: This section of the house was altered dramatically in later eras. There vvere not many finds, but in the passagevvay A 10 an African head was found, which belonged to a wall fixture for a light.

THE IVORY ROOM (AB 3): This room also has a mosaic floor and frescoes on its vvalls. On the eastem wall is a vvinged Eros with a bow and arrow in his hands. In the niche on the vvestern wall, one sees a half-reclining, half-clothed vvoman who might be Aphrodite; and the Southern wall shows a trotting horse. In this room, the archaeologists found a burnt ivory frieze portraying the wars of emperor Trajan in the east. This find was restored and is on display in the Ephesus Museum. The room derives its name from its most important find.

HOUSE B: This house, with its two peristyles, is larger than House A. It was constructed in the second century CE, and renovated in the seventh century for further habitation. It shows the typical characteristics of a Roman house. Peristyle B 1 is stili in particularly good condition. It has slender Corinthian columns. At some point, during repair work on the Southern side, the columns vvere cobbled together out of various unmatched components.

The elongated courtyard south of the peristyle is completely paved with a black- and-white mosaic. In the middle of this, a border with a pattern of double braids encloses a colorful representation of a mythical scene. The triton is holding a trident, a symbol of his father Poseidon, in his left hand; in his right hand, he is holding the reins of a seahorse (hippokampus), on vvhich a half-dressed sea nymph is sitting. This mosaic, located in front of the niche B 3, vvhich opens tovvards it, is fairly lively and colorful. The square impluvium is paved vvith marble. In the middle vvas a vvell, in case the vvater supply of the city vvas interrupted. Gutters around the circumference of the impluvium caught rainvvater. South of the impluvium, betvveen tvvo columns, is a fountain that vvas added later. In front of the fountain are tvvo niche-like pools lined vvith marble.
The vvalls of the peristyle are also reveted in marble. In its southvvest corner, a staircase önce led into the second story. A rider is portrayed on a block of marble there. It comes from another structure, but the builders incorporated the block into the south vvall vvhile constructing it. In the excavations here, the archaizing statue of Artemis, the büst of a young prince, a basket made of marble, and bronze table
legs were found. The originals are now on display in the Ephesus Museum.
The most beautiful part of the house, the tablinium (B 3), is south of the peristyle. The floor of this barrel-vaulted niche is paved in black and white marble, in a basket-weave design. The most beautiful mosaic in ali the terrace houses decorates its vault. The entire ceiling is tiled with small pieces of colored glass. In the exact çenter of the design is a medallion with the heads of Dionysos and Ariadne; round about them are representations of animals, such as peacocks, ducks, and roosters, and bunches of grapes and twining vines. The mosaic dates to the fifth century. A figüre of Eros with a bluish garland decorates each side of the vault.
Ali the rooms on the east side of House B have mosaic floors, and frescoes of bird and flower motifs fiil the walls. The house is exceptional in the excellent interior decoration of its rooms; chief among them are the room of the muses (B 1), the bedroom (cubiculum, B 7), the kitchen (cusina, B 8), the earlier kitchen (B 12), the dining room (triclinium, B 9 and 10), and the toilet (latrina, B 13). THE ROOM OF THE MUSES, B 1: This was later restructured. A symmetrical mosaic covers the floor, and frescoes of the muse of comedy, Thalia, the muse of dance, Terpsichore, and the muse of tragedy, Melpomene, decorate the walls.

BEDROOM (CUBICULUM), B 7: Like the other rooms, it has a marble floor, and frescoes on its walls. Those that are identifiable show diadem and bird motifs. Traces of burning suggest that a conflagration önce destroyed part of this room. KITCHEN (CUSINA), B 8: When the house was first built, the mosaics on the floor of this room, and its frescoes, continued those in the atrium, of which it vvas a part. The original kitchen was the room B 12, a square room south of the atrium dating to the time the house was first built. The “mesuna” in this room regulated the water supply with a system of pipes and stones. The openings in the various parts of the stone filtered the water supply to various parts of the house. If water vvas not needed, the openings vvould be closed.

TOILET (LATRINA), B 13: This had an arched entryvvay, and could serve more than one person at a time. Like the public Iatrines, this one also had a canal of flovving vvater in front of the seats. Frescoes of male figures decorated the north and south vvalls. Över these, sayings were vvıitten, such as, “Wait for an appropriate time, or die!” or, “Five to nine.”

DINING ROOM (TRICLINIUM), B 9 AND 10: Of these two rooms, the one identified as B 9 served as the dining room. These two rooms north of the peristyle vvere intended, from the beginning, to be the dining room and the service room. Important guests vvould be entertained here. Tvvo different mosaic motifs cover the floor of the dining room, one of them a snovvflake pattern, the other a design vvith crosscs. Marble revetment covers the vvalls. On both sides of the entrance to the triclinium are fountains lined vvith opus sectile. The female figüre reclining vvith tvvo svvans that is portrayed in the arch of the vvestern niche may be Aphrodite. The corresponding figüre on the east side is male. A marble bench stands in B 10, the service room, vvhich opens onto the peristyle.

This vvas probably the everyday dining room. Frescoes cover the vvalls, and a mosaic vvith a snovvflake pattern paves the floor. Excavations here tumed up valuable small finds.