Birgitta Bergquist was one of the first professors in classical archaeology and ancient history at Stockholm University. Her research mainly focused on antique Greek saints, cults and cult practises.
Birgitta Bergquist was born in 1935. She grew up in Uppsala, where her father, Olof Zetterholm, was a docent in Nordic languages employed by what was then Uppsala landsmålsarkiv (today Institute for Language and Folklore). Her mother Margareta worked as an editor. Birgitta Bergquist completed her studies at Uppsala University, where she was awarded a Bachelor’s degree with top marks in 1962. She met the medical student Eric Bergquist while she was studying and they got married in 1957. They both had ties to Norrland and were members of the Norrland students’ union at the university. The couple divorced in 1986.
In 1967 Birgitta Bergquist defended her doctoral thesis, The archaic Greek temenos. A study of structure and function. She was appointed docent and was awarded a docent stipend. Her thesis was considered to be a significant piece of work and one of the experts who awarded Birgitta Bergquist her professorship in Stockholm in 1975 believed that it should be considered “a very important effort, which has barely received the international recognition it deserves”. Birgitta Bergquist’s journey from Bachelor’s degree to doctorate was filled with teaching assistant work and certain periods of teaching. Shortly after gaining her doctorate she also served as an interim professor.
Birgitta Bergquist studied ancient languages as well as classical archaeology as part of her basic training. This led not only to her gaining an academic post at both Uppsala and Stockholm University but also led to engagement and active participation at the Swedish institutes both in Rome and Athens. After finishing her doctorate, Birgitta Bergquist published another two books of great significance. In 1973 she released Herakles on Thasos: the archaeological, literary and epigraphic evidence for his sanctuary, status and cult reconsidered. This was followed by A head of Sarapis [from the Gustavianum Collections in Uppsala 2], 1978.
Like many other women who had obtained their doctorates at that time, Birgitta Bergquist was the lone woman in a masculine context. When she was promoted on 31 May 1967, she was the only woman of 83 promovendi.
Birgitta Bergquist’s final years were marked by illness. She died in Uppsala in 1998, leaving behind her adult son, Love Bergquist. She bequeathed parts of her inheritance to the Institute of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Stockholm University. In accordance with her last will a scholarship fund was set up in her name in order to promote “the publishing in internationally disseminated journals of research in ancient history, written by teachers and/or former students of the Institute of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Stockholm University or with ties to the same”.