Barbara Tsakirgis is Associate Professor of Classics and Art History, and Chair of the Department of Classical Studies at Vanderbilt University. She received her Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from Princeton, and her areas of specialization are Greek domestic architecture and Greek architecture in general. She has excavated in Italy, Sicily, and Greece, and has been conducting research at the Athenian Agora since 1993. She has written a number of articles for the American Journal of Archaeology, Hesperia, and Acta Hyperborea and is the author of The Domestic Architecture of Morgantina in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods (Morgantina Studies, forthcoming) and “Living Near the Agora: Houses and Households in Central Athens (in The Athenian Agora: New Perspectives on an Ancient Site, J. Camp and C. Mauzy, eds, 2009).
The third century BCE was a time of great prosperity at Morgantina. Many comfortable homes were built in the residential areas of the city. While there is evidence for equal-sized housing lots in the earlier city, by the third century these divisions were ignored and in many parts of the city spacious houses spread over what had been two or even three lots in the original urban plan of the 5th c. BCE.
The typical house of Hellenistic Morgantina was organized around a central, unroofed courtyard or sometimes two. Vestibules provided both access from the street and a buffer to the outside world. The function of many rooms is difficult to ascertain, given the paucity of both small finds and fixed features, but some surviving assemblages, the location of rooms, comparanda from other sites, and the evidence of interior decoration provide evidence for recognizing specific activities in some rooms. Most rooms were accessible directly from the courtyard, but anterooms preceded entrance to some bedrooms and dining rooms. In houses with two courtyards, the open spaces allowed household activities to be separated, with spaces for private domestic activities arranged around one courtyard and rooms for the entertaining of guests located around the other.
The large houses of the third century were in many cases divided into two or more smaller dwellings in Morgantina’s Roman period. While the later dwellings were less commodious, their good quality flooring and painted wall plaster attest to the continued prosperity of the city in its final centuries. The tessellated mosaics and wall painting, the latest of which has been identified as early Second Style, find parallels in domestic architecture at other late Hellenistic Sicilian sites.
My study of the houses concentrates on the architectural layout, forms, and décor of the houses, but where the material survives, it also includes discussion of the domestic equipment and assemblages.
Relevant to this entry:
“The Decorated Pavements of Morgantina I: The Mosaics,” AJA 93, 1989, 395-416.
“The Decorated Pavements of Morgantina: The Opus Signinum,” AJA 94, 1990, 425-43.
“Recent Work at Morgantina, Sicily,” ArchNews 17, 1992, 26-30.
“Morgantina: A Greek Town in Central Sicily,” in T. Fischer-Hansen (ed.), Ancient Sicily (Acta Hyperborea 6) Copenhagen, 1995, 123-47.