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300, 7000, Whatever

March 13th, 2007 · 3 Comments

Hellenic scholar Ephraim Lytle outlines some of the dubious departures from history in 300.

Tags: Art & Culture



3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brian Moore // Mar 14, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    As much as I’m aware of them, historical inaccuracies in movies like this don’t really bother me. This is a story of heroic myth with a basis (however mutated) in history, like the Iliad.

    I think Lytle puts too much on the idea that 300 is saying “this (Sparta) is how everyone should be.” The points in which the Spartans mock the Athenians, other Greeks and the Persians is not a command to be Spartan, but rather how Spartans would actually act. They were contemptuous (for better or worse) of the commerce and politics minded Athenians — which is why they eventually conquered them. It’s a little too much to ask that a brutal society of warrior zealots (for whatever good traits that might have) also have an educated, modern, worldly outlook towards things.

    I also disagree with the claim that 300 implies that Xerxes is homosexual, or that it claims it is a negative thing. He is portrayed as effeminate and unwilling to get his hands dirty — which is worthy of contempt from the manly Spartans. It seems pedantic to point out that stereotyping every effeminately portrayed character as homosexual is a rather ugly claim on its own.

    Like Lytle says, homosexuality itself would not have been cause for a Spartan to dislike someone, as Frank Miller no doubt is aware.

    Is it propaganda? Sure! The entire story of the 300 is based on pro-Greek propaganda produced by contemporary historians. They (and we) gloss over the details of how the Spartan helot society was radically at odds with the “for freedom” message that it sends. We forgive it for being propaganda because it’s propaganda for a good cause: “you must fight for freedom against oppression.”

    It made no claim to be strictly historically accurate — that job is done by the dozens of Thermopylae specials that the Discovery and History channels have been running over the last few weeks.

  • 2 Antonio Manetti // Mar 14, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    “We forgive it for being propaganda because it’s propaganda for a good cause: “you must fight for freedom against oppression.”

    It’s propaganda alright but of an insidiously vicious sort. Notably that used by the Nazis to portray the aryan ‘Volk’ as a beleagured minority and the last bastion of Kultur under threat from jews and the hordes of subhuman slavic ‘barbarians’ to the east. It’s exactly the kind of propaganda described by Orwell in ‘1984’.

    Once such vile tropes take root it becomes a lot easier to justify the slaughter of the dehumanized ‘untermensch’.

  • 3 The Mechanical Eye // Mar 15, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Godwin’s law strikes again! This action blockbuster will lead us to the Holocaust once again!

    To be fair, “300” has a simplistic view of the Greeks versus the Persians. But the movie celebrates our notion of the Greeks, this outnumbered people on a tiny, ragged peninsula, fighting an ancient empire. I don’t think this movie will lead to a grand-reopening of the gas chambers.