Barbara Tsakirgis, Renowned Scholar of Classical Archaeology

Photo by Daniel Dubois
Photo by Daniel Dubois

Barbara Tsakirgis, a noted scholar on ancient Greek domestic architecture as well as a strong community advocate for Nashville’s Parthenon, died Jan. 16. Tsakirgis, 64, had been diagnosed with ALS three years ago and died at her home.

She was a professor of classical studies, emerita, and history of art, emerita, who joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1984.

Tsakirgis was born in Boston and earned her bachelor of arts from Yale University, where she graduated cum laude in 1976. As a graduate assistant at Princeton University, she began excavating and studying the domestic architecture of the Hellenistic and Roman periods at Morgantina, an ancient town in central Sicily. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1980 and studied at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

At Vanderbilt, Tsakirgis was an educational pioneer by contributing an archaeological dimension to the curriculum in Greek and Latin. She focused on the complex relationship between private and public spaces and the experiences of households and communities in the ancient Mediterranean world.

Tsakirgis co-edited a groundbreaking study of houses, brothels and taverns in ancient Greece and published noted articles in the American Journal of Archaeology and Hesperia.

She chaired the Department of Classical Studies from 2005 to 2011 and served on the Faculty Senate. She also led overseas tours, for which she twice received the Alumni Education Award.

Tsakirgis served many organizations related to her field of expertise with distinction. She was an academic trustee of the Archaeological Institute of America for six years, and led a delegation to the U.S. State Department to testify concerning the international antiquities market. In 2017 her dedication to the institute was recognized with the Martha and Artemis Joukowsky Distinguished Service Award.

She was the longtime coordinator of the institute’s Nashville Society, hosting many prominent visitors to the Parthenon and Vanderbilt. In addition, she served on the board of the Conservancy for Centennial Park.

Tsakirgis gave generously of her time and talents to the American School for Classical Studies at Athens, serving one year as a Whitehead Visiting Professor and as a lecturer for many summer sessions. She also was a longtime member and frequent officer of the managing committee.

Tsakirgis is survived by her husband, Jeremy Spinrad, an associate professor of computer science in the Vanderbilt School of Engineering; and two daughters, Demetria and Thalia.