Suitcase and World: Efes. The Grand Terrace Houses.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Efes. The Grand Terrace Houses.

I visited the Terrace Houses on my 2008 visit but I swear, either I didn't notice a whole lot of things back then or there's more to see now. I'm so glad had the opportunity to revisit the place.  I left with a much richer memory of this most amazing set of ruins.

The Terrace Houses are located on the hill, opposite the Hadrian Temple. They are the homes of the wealthy citizens of Ephesus and therefore, give a glimpse into how the upper class lived. It's sort like the luxury community of its day; there are six residential units on three terraces at the lower end of the slope. The oldest building dates back to the 1st century BC and continued to be used as residence until the 7th century AD.

The ruins of Terrace House 1 can be seen outside, along Curetes Way.

Ruins of Terrace House 1 in the foreground.  the protective cover behind is where the remaining houses are located.

Bordering the two Terrace Houses is Alytarch's Stoa, a 4.7 to 5.5. meter wide hall.  The floor of the hall was covered with mosaics in geometric, floral and figurative designs.

The wet spot was created by a woman who splashed water on the floor to show
the pattern to her son.  You can see just how vibrant the color of the tile is even
after all these centuries under the harsh sun.

Terrace House 2 is housed under protective cover to shield the ruins and the people working to recover them, from the elements. While the main archaeological site was crowded with tourists - Efes, is a popular stop for cruise shippers - Terrace House 2 was far less crowded as it is a museum and requires a separate entry ticket.  It was also nice to escape the heat.  It was well past noon by the time we made it inside and it was brutally hot outside.

Inside, I remember there was a glass floored walkway that wound its way up the hill so you admire the stunning mosaic floors and you can see the homes from various vantage points.  That walkway was still there.  What was different on this visit versus the previous time I was here was all the restoration work that was going on.   

Tray upon tray upon tray of shards of stone waiting to be pieced together.

Some poor person, most likely the intern, has to put the puzzle together. What a task!

The mosaic tiles are so small, it's unbelievable!
Artisans, 2000+ years ago put all these little bits of stone together to create the patterns.  Amazing!

In addition to restoring the marvelous mosaic floors, archaeologists are also recovering walls and stone plaques, piece bits together to bringing them back to life.

The first major building you encounter is the Basilica.  This hasn't changed much since my last visit  - a bit more restored, perhaps.  It's easily recognizable because of the arches.

Fresco inside the basilica.

After the Basilica, the walkway takes you around the seven luxurious houses that make up Terrace House 2.   

The houses were designed in a style that was typical of their day. They had interior courtyards (peristyle) in the center, with the ceiling open. They were mostly two-storied though the upper stores have collapsed over time. On the ground floor there were living and dining rooms opening to the hall, and upstairs there were bedrooms and guest rooms.

Clay pipes beneath the floors and behind the walls carried hot air through the houses. The houses also had cold and hot water to provide heating.  The Romans were geniuses when it came to engineering. The rooms had no windows and were only illuminated with light coming from the open hall. 

Reflecting the upperclass status of their inhabitants the houses were richly furnished. In addition to marble decoration and mosaic floors almost all rooms of Terrace House 2 (about 60 rooms) were decorated with wall paintings, dating from the 1st to the 3rd century AD. The walls give insight into the daily life in in Efes. 

With the houses pretty much in ruins, it's really difficult to imagine the layout with the rooms and the courtyard.  But what can be easily appreciated are the lovely frescoes that still decorate the walls of the rooms.  The colors seem to be as vibrant today as they were when they were painted more than two centuries ago!

Of all the mosaic floors, this one of the lion stands out in particular for me.  There were no lions in Turkey but the Romans had been in Africa so someone at the time reconstructed the lion from memory.  What a luxury it must have been to walk over this beautiful floor everyday.....and it was heated too!

This wall of frescoes of three painted Muses was my favorite; they line a stretch of space called the Hall of Muses.

Thalia, Muse of comedy.

Euterpe, Muse of music

Clio, Muse of history.

The one photo shows some vertical pipes, perhaps to bring water into the bath?

Floor mosaic of Poseidon riding with Amphitrite, his wife or consort, on a sea horse.

Last view of Terrace House 2 before exiting.

When you exit the building, you're at the top of the hill.  Standing here, it was not hard to see why the rich citizens of Efes chose to build their homes here - the view of the city is spectacular!

Marble Way leading to the Great Theatre.  The arches in the lower left the Library of Celcus.

Leaving the Terrace Houses, we were finished with our visit to Efes.  What an amazing place and I have to admit, I appreciated it more on my second visit as I definitely noticed more and I paid more attention to what I was seeing.  It's obvious that excavation and restoration work is still ongoing.  It would be interesting to come back some time in the future to see what's new.  I'm glad Bro got a chance to visit Efes as well as in my humble opinion, this is one of the best Greco Roman sites to be seen.  Anywhere.  Period.

Next, it's time to do something we both really love.  We're off to the weekly market in Selçuk!