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Behind the outlets on the south side of Curetes Street near the Library of Celsus are magnificent private houses, known as the Slope Houses for their position on the slants of Mt. Coressus (Bulbuldag). Occupied from the 1st century to in 7th place century AD, the Slope Houses have been likened to the first century villas of Pompeii in relevance.
The Slope Houses are also known as the Terrace Houses and Hanghausen (in German, because the archaeologists are Austrian).
The Slope Houses were used from the 1st century to 7th century AD, and then were abandoned. Around this time, after the devastating Arab raids and the continuing silting up of the harbor, the outstanding population of Ephesus moved to Ayasuluk hill (near the Basilica of St. John).
After being abandoned, the Slope Houses slowly and gradually fell into decay. However, a number of them were filled with soil from landslips, which preserved them and their material.
The houses at Ephesus are not unfavorable to those found at Pompeii and Herculaneum in terms of availability and magnitude. Their decor and home furnishings provide a great deal of information about the life-style of the Ephesian higher class in the Roman and Byzantine periods of time.
What to See
The Slope Houses are still being excavated and are from time to time covered by a tent, but are usually open to the public. They can be reached by a flight of steep steps from Curetes Street. The ruins have been divided by archaeologists into Slope House one (south) and Slope House two (north, closer to the Library). Each house had three stories, running water, heating, and an atrium with an appearance on to the side street.
In Slope House one, room A1 has a fine black-and-white mosaic. Room A2, the atrium, has a pebble floor with the continues as of a fountain in the centre. The walls of rooms A10 and A11 are designed with frescoes.
The most entertaining room in this house, nevertheless, is A3, dubbed the “theater room” based on the theatrical subjects of its frescoes. One of the owners of the house may well have overseen theater performances in Ephesus for a living. The right-hand wall has a scene from Menander’s comedy, Perikeiromene (“The Girl Who Gets her Hair Cut”), and the left wall bears a scenario from Euripides’ Orestes.
The room also contains a fine fresco of the mythological battle between Hercules and the river god Achelous for the hand of Deianeira. The shape-shifting Achelous assumed the form of a dragon and of a bull during the struggle, and only established defeat when Hercules tore off one of his horns.
Slope House two is bigger than its neighbor. Built in the first century AD, it was altered and extended several times before being abandoned in the 6th century. Many of its rooms feature mosaics and frescoes. Rooms B9 and B10 have frescoes of the muses. The house has two atria, the larger of which has several fine Corinthian columns lining a lobby paved with a wonderful mosaic of a triton and sea-nymph.
The most interesting room in Slope House 2 is the atrium, because of a beautiful and unusual fifth-century glass mosaic in a niche. The niche is flanked by a decorating fresco of erotes promoting a garland. Inside the niche is a fragile glass mosaic of the heads of Dionysus and Ariadne against a background of luxuriant foliage and an array of glittering animals and birds. As the light adjustments, the glass tiles sparkle and glow, making the figures in the mosaic appear to move. The late date indicates the owners were likely Christians, making the pagan topic interesting.
Some of the major finds within the Slope Houses can be see in the Ephesus Museum, rooms one and three.