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Glimpse of Roman Luxury on Display in Ephesus

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 27th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

South of the Turkish city of Izmir, two Roman houses are being excavated. Known as "Slope Houses" for their location on the side of Mt. Coressus, they were once the homes of some of the Eastern Roman Empire's upper class citizenry from the 1st to 7th centuries AD.

LOS ANGELES, CA. (Catholic Online) - Often compared to similar homes found in Pompeii and Herculaneum, historians assert their relative importance to the surrounding area. Some very important and influential Roman citizens lived here and the excavations have revealed a trove of information about their lifestyles.

The houses were abandoned in the 7th century in the face of increasing Arab raids, and the filling in of the local harbor with silt, which made the location less desirable. Landslips, (small landslides) eventually filled the houses with soil and thus preserved their contents.

Archaeologists have been impressed with the finds. The two houses, designated 1 and 2, contain traditional Roman art, including mosaics and frescoes that adorned the homes of the Roman and Byzantine elites during the period. Each house has three stories, complete with heating, running water, atriums, and street level entrances. House 1 has a beautiful black and white mosaic and a marble floor with a fountain in the center. Its frescoes feature scenes from popular Roman dramas leading archeologists to speculate its owners were connected to the local theater. The larger House 2, features a beautiful 5th century glass mosaic in its atrium. The artwork in the house is clearly pagan, but the owners, given the date, were likely Christians which makes the choice of pagan art all the more interesting.

The slope houses are still being excavated and are sometimes covered by tents, but they are usually open to the public.  Major finds of artifacts from the houses can be seen in the nearby Ephesus Museum.

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