Matthew R. Christ

Matthew R. Christ

Professor, Classical Studies

Department Chair, Classical Studies

Adjunct Professor, History


  • B.A., Carleton College, summa cum laude, 1982
  • M.A., Princeton University, 1984
  • Ph.D., Princeton University, 1987

Research areas

  • Athenian legal and social history
  • Greek historiography
  • Greek rhetoric and oratory

About Matthew R. Christ

Much of my work has focused on how institutions (e.g., antidosis, conscription, ostracism, and taxation) functioned in democratic Athens (508-322 BC) and how Athenian citizens worked within, and sometimes around, civic regulations. I have been especially interested in tensions between the actual practices of individuals and the civic ideals invoked in public discourse. In my first book, The Litigious Athenian (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), I explored the Athenian discussion of the abuse of law and legal process under the democracy, arguing that this gives us access to how Athenians conceived of, and responded to, problematic aspects of their personal and collective legal experience. In The Bad Citizen in Classical Athens (Cambridge University Press, 2006), I investigated the nature and scope of bad citizenship in connection with military service and financial obligations and the city’s responses—institutional and ideological—to this, with the aim of illuminating the relationship between citizen and city under the Athenian democracy. More recently, in The Limits of Altruism in Democratic Athens (Cambridge University Press, 2012), I studied helping behavior in Athens as an ideal and reality in private and public life, and argued contrary to recent scholarship that Athenians felt little pressure as individuals to help fellow citizens whom they did not know and little responsibility collectively to assist the peoples of other states. My most recent book, Xenophon and the Athenian Democracy: The Education of an Elite Citizenry (Cambridge University Press, 2020), takes me in a different direction from my earlier work, as I examine how Xenophon instructs his elite readers concerning the values, knowledge, and practical skills they need to lead the Athenian democracy.

Courses taught

  • Xenophon
  • Herodotus
  • The Athenian Aristocracy
  • Golden Age of Athens
  • Survey of Greek Literature

Selected publications


Xenophon and the Athenian Democracy: The Education of an Elite Citizenry, Cambridge University Press, 2020. 215 pp.

The Limits of Altruism in Democratic Athens, Cambridge University Press, 2012. 215 pp.

The Bad Citizen in Classical Athens, Cambridge University Press, 2006 (hb); 2008 (pb; and hb [reprint]). 250 pp.

The Litigious Athenian, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. 317 pp.


“Demosthenes on philanthrōpia as a Democratic Virtue,” Classical Philology 108.3 (2013) 202-22.

“Helping Behavior in Classical Athens,” Phoenix 64.3-4 (2010) 254-90.

“Helping and Community in the Athenian Lawcourts,” in Valuing Others in Classical Antiquity, edited by R. Rosen and I. Sluiter (Leiden 2010) 205-32.