Dr Matteo Barbato

Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

I am a trained classical philologist and a researcher focusing on the cultural, institutional and political history of Athenian democracy.

Feedback and office hours

  • Tuesday 14:00-15:00
  • Thursday 14:00-15:00


  • BA in Classical Literature (Università degli Studi di Macerata)
  • MA in Classical Philology, Literature and Tradition (Università di Bologna)
  • PhD in Classics (University of Edinburgh) 
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


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.


I teach Ancient Greek history at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and have developed and run an undergraduate module on Athenian democracy. I am also experienced at teaching Ancient Greek language at all levels.


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.


Recent publications


Barbato, M 2020, The Ideology of Democratic Athens: Institutions, Orators and the Mythical Past. New Approaches to Ancient Greek Institutional History, Edinburgh University Press. <https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-the-ideology-of-democratic-athens-hb.html>


Barbato, M 2021, '"For Themistocles of Phrearrhioi, on account of honour": ostracism, honour and the nature of Athenian politics', The Classical Quarterly, vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0009838821000963

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Barbato, M 2020, Athenian identity and the ideology of autochthony: An institutionalist approach. in J Filonik, B Griffith-Williams & J Kucharski (eds), The Making of Identities in Athenian Oratory. Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies, Routledge, London, pp. 83-101.

Barbato, M 2017, Using the past to shape the future: ancestors, institutions and ideology in Aeschin. 2.74-8. in E Franchi & G Proietti (eds), Conflict in communities. Forward-looking memories in Classical Athens. QUADERNI, vol. 7, Università degli Studi di Trento, Trento, pp. 213-253. <https://iris.unitn.it/retrieve/handle/11572/191741/170695/Quaderni_7.pdf>

Book/Film/Article review

Barbato, M 2021, 'Review: Attic Oratory and Performance, by Andreas Serafim', Rhetorica, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 114–116. https://doi.org/10.1525/rh.2021.39.1.114

Barbato, M 2021, 'The Rhetoric of the Past in Demosthenes and Aeschines: Oratory, History, and Politics in Classical Athens, written by Guy Westwood', Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 355-357. https://doi.org/10.1163/20512996-12340334

Barbato, M 2020, 'Review of Carugati, F. (2019), Creating a Constitution: Law, Democracy, and Growth in Ancient Athens, Princeton and Oxford', Classical World, vol. 114, no. 1, pp. 112-113. https://doi.org/10.1353/clw.2020.0068

Barbato, M 2018, 'Review of Bourke, G. (2018), Elis. Internal Politics and External Policy in Ancient Greece, London and New York', The Classical Review, vol. 68, no. 2, pp. 488-489. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0009840X18001464

View all publications in research portal