TERRACE HOUSES OF EPHESUS






Terrace Houses

Terrace houses: Diagonally across the street from the Temple of Hadrian, one can see a row of shops, and behind them, private houses. These are the "terrace houses," or "the houses of the rich," since only rich people could afford such houses in the middle of the city.

The slope is laid out in terraces, on each of which two houses stand next to one another on an "island"; each island is bounded on the east and west side by streets giving access to the houses, in a sort of checkerboard pattern (the "Hippodamian plan").

Terrace Houses

The exteriors of the houses were left quite plain, while inside, the highest standards of comfort for the time held sway. Typical of Roman architectural style, the terrace houses had interior courtyards (peristyles) in the center that were open to the sky, and around which the rooms and other areas of the house grouped themselves.

The light coming from the open peristyle illuminated the rooms, some of which remained dim or even quite dark because of this. The heating system was similar to that in the baths: clay pipes beneath the floors and behind the walls conducted hot air through the house.

The houses also had hot and cold running water. The toilets were similar to the public ones in Ephesus, only smaller: in the houses, as well, several people could use them at the same time. The system of drainage was relatively sophisticated. Waste water flowed through pipes to the street, and from there, to the main drainage pipe beneath Kouretes Street.

The terrace houses, which were constructed during the reign of Augustus, were inhabited until the seventh century CE. At that point, the houses were filled in with earth, and used as supports for water-driven mills.

Two of these houses have been excavated, restored, and made open to the public. The first is known as "House A." It stands on a plot of land measuring 900 square meters. It once had two stories, but nothing of the upper one remains.

The main entrance led to the foyer, and to the ground floor, which consisted of twelve rooms. On one side of the fountain in the foyer, a staircase led to the upper story. An arch leads from the foyer to the peristyle. Four columns surround the peristyle, which was left open to the sky.

North of the peristyle are the remain i of a fountain, and behind this, two rooms, the floors of which are decorated with mosaics, and the walls, with frescoes. East of the peristyle is a room with extensive frescoes, the so-called Theater Room. On the right is a scene from the "Sikyonioi" by Menander, and on the left a scene from Euripides' "Orestes."

A further fresco depicts the struggle between the river god, Akhelaos, and Heraldes, over the favors of Deianeira. Mosaics cover the floor of this room. The bath and, next to it, the kitchen, lie south of this room.

One reaches "House B," with its two peristyles, from "House A." Peristyle Bl is better preserved. Its columns have Corinthian capitals made to the highest standards of ancient stonemasonry.

Both black and white, as well as colored mosaics, decorate the court in front of the basin. Behind it is a particularly beautiful mosaic. It portrays Triton with his trident, the symbol of his father, Poseidon, in his left hand. With his right, he holds the reins of a seahorse, on which a Nereid (sea nymph) sits.

In the center of the peristyle is a well, surrounded by a basin that collected rainwater. Southwest of the peristyle, a staircase led to the upper story. South of the peristyle is the area called the "tablinium," the most beautiful part of the house, the vaulted roof of which is covered with a mosaic. The rooms on the east have floors paved with mosaics, and frescoes on the walls.

Other rooms include the "Room of the Muses," the bedroom, the kitchen, the toilet, the dining room, and the service room. In the "Room of the Muses," one sees frescoes portraying Thalia, the muse of comedy, Terpsikhore, the muse of dance, and Melpomene, the muse of tragedy.

In the kitchen is the "mesura," the stone that regulated the distribution of water and drainage. If water was not needed in one room or another, the openings of the "mesura" could be closed. An arched entrance leads to the toilets, which had space for use by several people at the same time.

Frescoes with male figures decorate both walls. Over their heads are the proverbial remarks, "Wait for the appropriate moment, or die," and "five before nine."

In the Roman period, hospitality held high significance. Thus, the dining room was particularly beautifully appointed. Statues of influential ancestors were prominently displayed. It was the custom that the host, after dinner, would present laudatory speeches about his family.

Servants used both the dining room, called the "triclinium," and the service room to wait upon the guests.



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