Matteo Barbato

Colleges, School and Institutes


I first became acquainted with Classics and Ancient History during my high-school studies at the local Liceo Classico. I pursued the study of the ancient world further during my undergraduate and postgraduate career in Italy and obtained a PhD in Classics at the University of Edinburgh.

Before joining the University of Birmingham in 2018, I was a Teaching Fellow in Greek at the University of Edinburgh.

Research interests

My research focuses on the ideology and institutions of democratic Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BC, and adopts an interdisciplinary approach based on the most fruitful trends in the social sciences.

My recently published monograph, The Ideology of Democratic Athens (EUP, 2020), reconciles Marxist and anthropological approaches to Athenian democratic ideology through a study of the social memory of Athens’ mythical past. The book provides a close study of the evidence from Attic oratory and tragedy and adopts a methodology based on the New Institutionalism in political science. I make the case that democratic ideology was a fluid set of ideas and values shared by the Athenians as a result of a process of ideological practice influenced by the institutions of the democracy. I argue that this process entailed the active participation of both the mass and the elite and enabled the Athenians to produce multiple and compatible ideas about their community and its mythical past.

My current research project investigates political power and ideology in democratic Athens. It tackles the issue of the existence and nature of a political class in democratic Athens and aims to reassess the role of the elite (and of elite competition) in Athenian politics. As part of this project, I organised two international workshops and produced an article (forthcoming for CQ) that analyses the Athenian institution of ostracism through the lens of recent studies of honour in the social sciences.