Dr Matteo Barbato (The University of Birmingham)

This paper offers a new interpretation of ostracism and explores the significance of this Athenian institution for our understanding of democratic politics. The predominant scholarly view of ostracism is that it was an instrument for pursuing or regulating conflict among aristocratic politicians, which assumes that Athenian democracy was dominated by a restricted elite competing for power and prestige. This paper will re-assess this picture by investigating ostracism in the light of recent studies of honour, which stress this value’s potential for balancing competition and cooperation within a community. By using the ostracism of Themistocles as a case-study, it argues that ostracism was a manifestation of an institutionalised concern for honour in Athenian democracy. On the one hand, ostracism could punish politically active citizens who, in excessively enhancing their own honour, failed to respect democratic equality. On the other, it could be employed for tackling shameful behaviour that placed the agent below the community’s standards of honour. The paper thus sets ostracism against Athens’s broader institutional framework and argues that Athenian democracy was not so much concerned with policing intra-elite conflict as much as it was with fostering a balance between competitive and cooperative values and ensuring broad participation in the political domain.

Research seminars are held at 4 pm (Queensland time) on Fridays.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they will be conducted entirely via videoconferencing in 2nd semester 2020.


About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity