Tsakopoulos Collection: A treasury of Greek civilization
intellectuals playground and a scholars delight, the
Tsakopoulos Collection for the Study of Hellenismone of the
largest collections of its kind in the countryis moving to
Sac State where it will be readily available for use by scholars,
students and the community. Named for its benefactor and steward,
Angelo Tsakopoulos, the collections depth and diversity reflect
the care and investment that he has made in the library over nearly
This is a love affair of the heart, Tsakopoulos says, thumbing
through the Peloponnesian Wars by Thucydides in Classical Greek.
Surrounding him are rows and rows of books on the history, politics,
culture, religion and many other aspects of ancient to modern Greece
and the surrounding area. There are even some paintings and artifacts.
If it is in writing and is Greek, or of Greek descent, there will
probably be reference to it in this collection.
collection is a veritable treasure including some rare books from
as early as the 1500s. These include two volumes from 1559 and 1560
that are among of the earliest commentaries on Homers Odyssey,
written by Eustathius, a Byzantine bishop of the Greek Orthodox
Church. From 1541 there is an edition of the Greek New Testament
edited by Desiderius Erasmus. There is also a superb collection
of cartography of the Mediterranean region from the 16th century
forward, and ancient dictionaries.
Tsakopoulos and his daughter, Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, decided
to transfer the collection, valued at several million dollars, to
the University, he explains, because, My daughter and the
Board of Directors decided the library might be better used in association
with a major learning institution. We did a national search to determine
where best to locate it. With a gleam in his eye, he recounts
the wooing by academics from several East Coast universities who
promised many things. But in the end, his alma mater became the
recipient as he and his daughter thought that this collection should
stay on the West Coast in the capital of the fifth largest economy
of the world.
daughter says, My feeling was that these (East Coast) institutions
are already rich in classical resources. It would be wrong to remove
the collection from Sacramento just because we have fewer scholars
here who would take advantage of it. In fact, it is only by making
the collection broadly accessible in the region that we can hope
to encourage more people to elect this field of study, or to come
to our region to pursue it.
Henry Chambers, chair of the Sac State history department and a
professor of ancient history, is extremely pleased by the acquisition.
He feels it will bring many new academic opportunities to students
as well as stronger ties with the large Hellenic community in the
region. He also believes that the integration of this academic resource
into a university assures its long-term survival as a significant
Chambers said the collection will strengthen the already excellent
masters program in history and humanities.
attraction of international scholars who will use the facility and
who may be available for campus lectures will also benefit the academic
life of the campus and the community. Chambers says, The collection
and the center have been able to attract world class scholars. Moving
this resource to campus moves it up another notch. We have the unique
programs of the Center for California Studies, the joint doctorate
in public history and this center, which will bring eminent scholars
to this University. This is a substantial thing for the improvement
of the visibility of the University and the history/humanities departments.
Numerous scholars throughout the world already have relied on the
center for academic research. They include Nicholai Todorov, the
first non-communist prime minister of Bulgaria, who spent a year
researching, writing his memoirs and writing about his country.
The collection began in 1985 in Los Angeles with professor and scholar
Speros Vryonis. Tsakopoulos recounts that then-State Senator Nick
Petris introduced him to the professor, and their association and
the collection began to grow from there. One of the primary additions
was the archival collection of Basil Vlavianos, publisher of the
Greek American newspaper Ethnikos Kyryx (National Herald) from the
1930s to 1990s. Since then other prominent collections have been
added through donations and purchases. Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis
notes that the Center will make a substantial donation to
fund qualified students to continue the ongoing study of the Vlavianos
We needed a library like this to provide a place for scholars
to do their work and to get factual and accurate information,
Angelo Tsakopoulos says. As one of the primary backers, he was instrumental
in enlarging the center and eventually moving it to Sacramento in
1989. Over the years 30 major academic publications have emerged,
as have national conferences and a wealth of scholarly lectures
on various aspects of the Greek and Eastern Mediterranean world.
For the past 12 years it has been housed in a spacious building
in Rancho Cordova. In the next few months it will move to the third
floor of the University Library.
The center takes an expansive role in collecting the culture, with
the primary academic emphasis on the study of ancient, medieval
and modern Greece. But because of the enormous influence of Greek
culture throughout the world, the collection also includes materials
of the areas encompassed by the empires of Alexander the Great,
the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
The center has had on staff over the years experts in Byzantine
Greece, Homeric Greece, Greek-Turkish relations, Persia and the
Ottoman Empire. Visiting scholars have added expertise in other
related areas including Cyprus, Georgia and the Pontic Greeks.
Nearly all of the 70,000 volumes plus archival materials have been
catalogued and arranged in subject area collections that provide
something for everyone, including Greek cooking, comic books, and
the arts. It also includes the entire published acts of the Greek
Parliament from 1832-1860 and from 1898 to the current, probably
the most extensive such collection outside of Greece.