OK, so it's pretty firmly established that the reason the Persians are so afraid of Xerxes is that they think he's some kind of invincible god. It's also established that Leonidas is not afraid of dying. Shortly before going to speak with Xerxes, Leonidas actually says that he hopes the Persians kill him during the negotiations because then all of Greece will unite and go to war against them. So why not kill Xerxes then and there? Two birds, one spear. Leonidas kills Xerxes, the guards kill Leonidas, the rest of Greece stops twiddling its thumbs and starts fighting back, and the entire Persian army is thrown into disarray from the death of their "god-king".
Because in that case it would be entirely on Leonidas's shoulders. If the Persians kill Leonidas during parley, then they're the bad guys for breaking the cardinal rules of negotiations, and the rest of Sparta goes to war. If Leonidas kills Xerxes during parley, then he is the one out of line and breaking the laws (which he was at best skirting already), meaning that Sparta will be obligated not to avenge him.
But there were no other Spartans present. Only the Persians would actually know that Leonidas started it, and they would probably just lie and say that they acted in self-defence even if they had attacked first. Who's going to believe them?
Phrases like "Don't shoot the messenger" stem from rules like these. The Spartans would have a reasonable expectation that the Persians will follow the rules, as do the Persians. If either side breaks them then neither side can expect to trust the other in any sort of negotiating or diplomacy. So chances are the Persians would not lie because there would be little gain in it. If they're going to kill Leonidas, then they do so fully knowing they breach the rules and there is no point in denying it because they don't intend to deal with Sparta with any level of civility at that point (the Spartans will fight when a Persian army comes bearing down on them either way) and if Leonidas breaches the rules then it's valid for them to hold Sparta accountable for that, and the Spartans would be bound by honor to be held accountable by the same laws. Leonidas is fully aware of the nuances of such laws, as well as political strategy, and he wouldn't jeopardize Sparta's standing by doing something stupid. Nor would someone portrayed as heroically as Leonidas be willing to break a law so essential as that.
May have been a case of Honor Before Reason (Leonidas is seen teaching his young son "respect and honor" at the beginning of the movie).
Absolutely. Remember, Leonidas is an honorable man. Yeah, there was that whole kicking of the Persian messenger down the well, but he had been forewarned ahead of time not to act like an ass and threaten the Spartans. So when going to a fair parley with the Persians, Leonidas is not going to outright murder Xerxes - that's an act of treachery completely unbefitting a king.
That was supposed to be a well? And here I was thinking that, being Spartans, they just happened to have a huge pit in their city for the express purpose of kicking obnoxious ambassadors into it.
The real purpose of the Pit of Death is to give Leondias an excuse to yell "This! Is! Sparta!!"
This all happened a good 2,000 years before Louis Pasteur proved that germs are responsible for disease. It's not too out there to say that the Spartans had no idea polluting the drinking water with corpses was a bad idea.
Except poisoning the wells was a widely accepted tactic to prevent the enemy from operating in your terriroty - it was certainly used against Alexander only a couple of centuries later. They may not have understood why pushing a dead body (usually an animal) into your source of drinking water was a bad idea, but they certainly realised it was bad for your health.
If memory serves, in Real Life the Athenians threw their messenger off a cliff, and the Spartans said "shit, we can do better than that," and threw theirs down a well.
There's also the issue of honor and convention. Xerxes came forth in fair parley to meet with Leonidas. Rulers are always protected under the rules of fair parlay. There's no real difference between what Leonidas and Xerxes did and the usual convention of the kings or generals leading armies meeting before the battle to negotiate. By all moral standards and codes of conduct at the time, they were both protected men and to perform treachery in such an instance would be an unthinkable act that would degrade either of them in the eyes of their followers.
Its worth pointing out that this is the entire reason why Sparta would go to war if Xerxes killed Leonidas during parlay: such an act of absolutely treacherous dishonor would doubtless inflame the entirety of Sparta and send them to war. There's a reason Leonidas was goading Xerxes, and why Xerxes was so furious that he couldn't touch Leonidas during that meeting.
The village that Leonidas and company come across on their way to the Hot Gates had been attacked and ravaged by Persian Immortals, presumably. This means that the Persians had already entered into Greek territory! Where did they go, then?
Persian scouts, not the main army. Scouts tend to, y'know, move ahead of the main army.
Assuming that scouts could accomplish an atrocity that size (scouting units tend to be small and stealthy by design), Leonidas doesn't seem the least bit concerned that they might double back to the beach to link up with Xerxes and thus come up on the Spartan formation from behind.
Remember that general bragging about how their scouts were crawling across the land when the Spartans were building that wall? Now remember the building materials. There weren't any scouts left.
There couldn't have been more than a dozen men in that wall, which again throws into question how they were able to pull off such an atrocity - especially since scouts are supposed to gather information clandestinely.
"Scouts" is a general term. it can mean small numbers of clandestine troops, or it could mean hundreds of riders moving ahead of the main force, raiding and pillaging. A classic application of light cavalry was to ride ahead of the main force and, while gathering information, to maraud and kill and raid enemy villages to deny the enemy supplies and hurt morale.
Why would Dilios change the tale so as to make his king seem like an idiot? Let me clarify. He's telling his tale to soldiers, after all, and they would know that the power of the Greek soldier in such a situation would come from discipline and their tight formation around the pass; telling the soldiers that the Spartan army charged blindly (and stupidly) forward like we see in the movie more than once would have ruined Leonidas reputation, not enhanced it.
Except the one way to prove someone is even more impressive and powerful is to show them breaking away from a superior position to engage an enemy in an unadvantageous position, and still win quite handily. It's analogous to a soldier who casts aside his rifle and wades into combat with only a knife, and still wins. It's an act of complete balls-out insanity, but the fact that he survives, and more impressively, wins such an engagement, proves just how incredibly insane and aggressive he is.
And, come to think of it, this is even worse when we SEE the Spartans charging like madman in the end of the movie. They would never run and tire themselves needlessly before battle, they would either: march towards their enemy and then get into formation (if the enemy is far away); or just get into formation from the start!
Spartans charging about is commonplace in the rest of the movie. The entire movie is depicted in the style of a Greek epic.
It's worth noting that the reason they would get tired easily in real life is because the actual Spartans wore heavy bronze armour. The ones in the movie? Not so much.
Actually there are some historical claims that spartans and hoplites sometimes preferred not to wear the armor because it was so uncomfortable and restricting, particularly if they were in the rear guard or were expected to do a lot of marching about the battlefield.
There seems to be a great deal more "charging about" remembered by other tropers than by this troper.
Kicking the messenger into the well is pretty stupid when you think about it. Would you really want a rotting corpse down there? On the other hand, it doesn't look like it is in use: You'd expect a wooden rig to lower and raise buckets of water or something ti that effect, but there's nothing, just a deep pit.
A review somewhere makes a funny point about how they have a specific well/pit to "kick annoying people into".
Why don't we go ask the actual Spartans who actually threw the Persian messengers down the well how they dealt with it?
Not too long ago, doctors didn't see any need to wash their hands before performing surgery, needlessly killing patients due to infection. Why? They didn't know that germs existed. Now rewind about 2,000 years, to when anything bad that happened to you was cuz you've pissed off the gods. Spartans would hardly have equated rotting corpses with bad drinking water.
Leonidas made a big mistake in rejecting Ephialtes. Yes, his deformity would've kept him from holding a shield in the phalanx, but couldn't he have been put in the back? Or couldn't Leonidas have just told him to charge the Persians at the start of the battle by himself and kill as many as he could? Yes, I know the movie wouldn't have worked had Leonidas NOT rejected Ephialtes, but still, there would've been plenty of places to put him in a combat role.
Perhaps Leonidas believed that having a deformed Spartan would be an insult to Sparta itself. Even if he did recruit him, I imagine the other manly men of manliness would've gotten angry over it.
He was perfectly ready to recruit a deformed Spartan before said Spartan was unable to hold up a shield. He even offered Ephialtes a position in the back "Your father should have taught you how a Phalanx works...I'm sorry, but not all of us were meant to be soldiers. If you want to help, clear the battlefield of the dead. Tend the wounded. Bring the men water." Ephialtes refused it. He was horrified at the thought of being the force's sole REMF instead of a frontline warrior: he had come to regain his family honor, and in The Spartan Way, there is no honor in being in the rear with the gear. Save the arguments of being a 'force multiplier' by allowing the warriors to be well watered (assuming they'd drink or bathe in water a hunchback brings them: the revolted reaction of the Captain suggest otherwise), they don't apply to the Spartans.
Not necessarily. Maybe he was just looking for an excuse to refuse. He never told Ephialtes he would hire him if he COULD hold up a shield.
He wasn't "perfectly ready" nor was he "looking for an excuse". He took one look at Ephialtes and knew he wouldn't work in the formation; he was just demonstrating that fact to Ephialtes.
Sending him forward like a berserker wouldn't have restored his or his father's honour; it was considered more valourous to fight while still trying to stay alive.
He seems to maneuver around the cliffs pretty well, stick him atop the sheer wall over looking the battle and have him drop rocks on Persians.
Why couldn't Leonidas simply put him on the flank, where he wouldn't need to cover anyone but himself? Ephialtes can cover himself and use a speak pretty well.
How about we turn the question around: Why didn't Leonidas kill Ephialtes? Considering A. Leonidas didn't see him as an asset (at best a gopher for supplies), B. he was a genetic reject who had escaped "just" death and C. the Persians capturing and questioning him would give them valuable intel (let alone him turning, which point A took care of), it was foolish not to either use or kill him (or both!).
Just to clarify, while Ephialtes betraying the Spartans is historical fact, there's no mention of him being a hunchback or deformed in any way. So, Movie/Comic Leonidas couldn't just kill Ephialtes because Historical Leonidas didn't.
Also, think back to their first meeting. Ephialtes is just so damn proud to be the son of a Spartan. It's likely that Leonidas didn't even consider that he'd turn traitor because of that.
Well then maybe Snyder shouldn't have included this idiotic piece about Ephialtes approaching Leonidas in the first place.
Why doesn't Leonidas just kill Ephialties? Simple. He's the good guy. Leonidas doesn't commit random, wanton murder; he always has a reason to kill his foes, even if that reason is simply because they barged into his home and insulted his wife. Ephialtes is a friendly, eager person who wants to help him. Killing him would be, quite simply, wrong, pointless, and unwarranted.
He's not "a good guy" - he's a king and a general. He should think about the good of the campaign, his men and his country, not some "moral implications". Killing or at the very least imprisoning Ephialtes wouldn't be pointless or random - it would prevent a possible information leak that could doom his operation.
More on that point, the movie is a tale being told to the other soldiers. You think he'd mention the fact that his great king killed an innocent man that was perfectly willing to help in the fight?
A. No, he wouldn't. He's an Unreliable Narrator so he'd only tell what facilitates his cause. B. Ephialtes was a freak, perfectly killable by Spartan laws.
This troper felt it was to show that there were advantages and disadvantages to being SPAR-TAN. Their demand for perfection made them able to pull off such feats as were seen at the Hot Gates but also costs them in situations like Ephialties betraying them or losing children randomly to wolves and frostbite and such.
Also, imagine the uproar the movie would've gotten from the disabled rights activists if it depicted Leonidas murdering the shit out of an innocent hunchback that just wanted to help assure a Spartan victory.
You mean like the upproar they made when it depicted Spartans murdering defective babies? How is this any different?
But at the very least, the dude just told Leonidas valuable military intelligence (ie: The Goat Path). Shouldn't he have exercised caution and had him remain with the army (though distantly. Far away where they won't bump into him every minute yet close enough they could keep an eye on him so he doesn't go wandering off)? That way they could ensure that he doesn't reveal this very crucial and very critical peice of information to the PERSIANS!! I'm not saying treat him like a Spartan warrior, I'm saying keep him as close as the manly Spartans allowed and just check on his whereabouts.
That's pretty much what Leonidas offered him. Ephialtes refused. The only other way to keep him around would've been to take him prisoner.
So? Why not take him prisoner?
"You there, you're not going to get your chance of glorious battle today. I want you to guard this freak instead. Hey, I'm your King, you can't talk to me like that...hey, where's everybody going?"
Well, he could have offered him the position of scout. The guy was damn near ghostlike in the Hot Gates, and would have made an excellent lookout in case the Persians ever found the goat path, or even helped use it as an ambush tactic for the Spartans or their allies. Leonidas could be very diplomatic when it suited him, he could have sold it as an equally valuable job for him.
Ephialtes wanted to fight. He wanted to march alongside the other Spartans and sink his spear into soft Persian flesh. Leonidas knew that because of the former's deformities, this would not be possible and present a great risk for the phalanx formation. Being a medic or a scout wasn't gonna cut it.
I mean, I don't mean to be offensive to hunchbacks when I say look at how fast Ephialtes walks or raises his shield and compare that to the Spartans marching or getting into formation. He'd just slow them down and leave them open for a Perisan spear. To put it simply: It was not a good time for hunchbacks (and other disabled folks) back in those days.
In the original Frank Miller comic, Ephialtes jumped off a cliff in despair after Leonidas rejected him. Leonidas assumed he was dead and thought no more of him. In the movie, with this scene omitted, it just looks like Leonidas mishandled Ephialtes. But that's not necessarily surprising. Leonidas just made a mistake that was very consistent with the prevailing attitudes of the Spartans of his time.
While it would be a departure from history (although that rarely seemed to worry Zack Snyder!) you'd think the best thing Leonidas could have said would be "Well, we've built our defences here and I can't spare the men/time to scout out this goat path, so I'll need YOU to keep an eye on it in case the Persians try to sneak around our rear." Whether Ephialtes actually does it or not is irrelevant as it gives him an honourable job and prevents him from selling valuable intel to the Persians for a natty uniform.
Why not just put him with the Arcadians? Leonidus has work for brawlers and the guy is good with a spear.
In Sparta, you could not retire from the army until you were 65 — so what is Theron doing in the Senate???
That's a good point. Maybe his daddy was a famous Spartan warrior and bribed them to not force his iccle Theron-boo to join the army.
That makes no sense. To not join the army was to be not-a-Spartan.
I was under the impression a Spartan could hold office from age 30. The Spartan army is never shown assembled while Theron is alive; isn't it possible he was still a member of the army AND the Senate?
Liked the movie...but was the story of Thermopylae so lacking in "drama" that they had to add the supernatural creatures? Is history not "exciting" enough on its own w/o "enhancements?"
In a word, no. The real story wasnt anywhere near as epic as this. IRL the Spartans were not nearly as outnumbered as the film depicts, and the Persians still completely kicked their asses. IRL, the Spartans ultimately tried to stealthily assassinate the Persian leader, because they were getting soundly defeated. Their attempt failed, and they were slaughtered. not exactly epic and heroic.
Also, the Athenian troops depicted as scrubs in the film kicked Spartas ass every time they fought (superior technology and strategy)
Uh, Sparta WON the war against Athens and became the dominant power in Greece. No Spartan army at full strength was ever defeated until the Thebans came along. Due to the values dissonance of their day, Sparta was actually very well respected and admired among the other Greek city states, and even as late as the 1700s Samuel Adams wanted America to be a "Christian Sparta". As for the original point, phalanx combat was very repetitive and the actual battle lasted for 3 days. No one wants to watch two spear walls stabbing at each other for 2 hours, which is likely why it was only done in one scene.
Sparta won the war in the end (ironically the turning point was when they managed to beat the Athenian NAVY) but over the course of it they lost quite a number of battles to the Athenians. Never a head-to-head phalanx-to-phalanx direct confrontation (the Athenians weren't stupid), but war consists of a lot more than just infantry skirmishes.
The main issue is that the Battle of Thermopylae was lost by Greek incompetence, so portraying it from the Greek standpoint requires excessive alteration.
The Greeks were no where near as outnumbered as depicted. There were far, far more Greek soldiers, the Spartan forces alone numbered 2,200+ (Helots and Leonidas's other non-Spartan allied soldiers under his command aren't counted in half the sources, but were there). The Persian forces are widely believed to be over exaggerated significantly, though there is no question they did have a numeric advantage, even so, there was no way the entire force they were supposed to have at Thermopylae to be deployed and used at once.
The two passes being defended were so narrow that numbers didn't play a big role.
Greek arms and armor were vastly superior to the Persians. A Greek spear or sword could go straight through most Persian armor and shields, while Persian weapons were very unlikely to penetrate either.
The Immortals were not deployed very often, and mainly used in a couple of skirmishes off the main battle that they won easily.
The "goat path" used to flank the Greek forces was widely known and heavily guarded.
The Persians won the battle through superior tactics rather than throwing wave after wave of soldier at the Spartan Phalanx. The Greeks should have won the battle easily, since they had every advantage outside numbers, which should have been offset by the terrain, training (outside the Immortals, who were very equivalent to the Spartans in terms of training and culture, just not tactics, most Persian soldiers had little training), arms and armor and a better supply chain advantage.
Basically, the Greeks lost a Curb-Stomp Battle where they should have been the stompers, so to make them the heroes requires a lot of justification.
Actually, the Greeks were outnumbered by at least 10 to 1. Modern historians estimate they had roughly 7,000 men, while the Persians had at least 70,000 men. To say that they should have been the stompers is pretty inaccurate.
Yes, the terrain made the numbers less of an advantage. That was, if you remember, the whole point of fighting there in the first place. And yes, the Greek arms and armor were superior—that's why they had a chance of success at all. You're just listing the reasons the battle played out as much as it did in the Spartans' favor.
I fail to see how them loosing Greek incompetence, they used the terrain very effectively and placed guards on the one pass round them. It's not their fault they were betrayed.
The movie also completely fails to mention the Battle of Artemisium, which, admittedly, was also a Persian strategic victory. Instead, the movie shows the Persian ships simply being destroyed by a storm.
The establishment in Iran really didn't like this film. Why couldn't they have just taken a more triumphant propagandic position and stated that the trumped-up weird Persians were an example of pagan decadence before the rise of the glory of Islam?
Because they're actually quite proud of their cultural history and thus don't see shame in the Persians of said time?
Exactly. The Persians were the ancestors of Modern Iran so this movie's depiction of the Persians as bad dudes who look like porno stars might seem offensive. How would you feel if someone made a movie depicting George Washington as the bad dude? Know that British officer from The Patriot? Imagine a movie like that, but his role is being played by George Washington and the hero is a plucky young British boy who looses his family to the man at the start of the movie. Americans like me will react differently. Some might see it as amusing, an interesting look at the American Revolutionary War, while others would see this as offensive to the first US president.
I understand that Dilios was the only Spartan survivor, hence why no one called him out when he claimed there were grenades and rhinos and ogres-what-chopped-off-their-hands-to-replace-them-with-blades at Thermopylae. And, for all we know, no one at the assembly was present when Leonidas left, and were just envisioning him and his entourage in capes and Speedos. But how could Dilios get away with claiming that the well was a giant death-pit?
Because that was what actually happened in real life. Hence they believed it because it happened in the middle of Sparta.
I'm not talking about kicking him in. I'm talking about the size. You telling me that's a well?
Yes. The spartans aren't big on practicality, it's all about the flashiness.
But... the Spartans were just the opposite of that. Where do you think the connotations of "Spartan" as a descriptor of something not of or relating to Sparta came from?
Public wells in the middle of ancient cities did have to be large, so many people could draw water at once. If you're thinking of wells as little one-bucket affairs, that's what you'd find on a family farm with just a few people living there.
I see. I never imagined wells as anything but the little bucket things. But were public wells ever deathpit huge?
Yes- not deep enough that the impact would kill you, but deep enough that there's no way out unless someone lets you out. The Bible records that Jerimiah's enemies tried to kill him by throwing him into one once.
Think about it - that scene was one of the few that actually took place in the middle of Sparta in the middle of the day. If it was obviously false, they would have known and called him out on it.
That's what confuses me.
Spartans weren't flashy, but they weren't straight either. There's a lot of liberties taken here.
That one Spartan that got stabbed through the guts with a spear: He roars in defiance and starts killing all the guys who stabbed him. WHY DIDN'T THEY LET GO OF THE SPEAR!? That last Persian soldier especially. He looked like he was about to crap his pants but he still hung on to the spear, like his hands were stuck.
It was the unnamed Captain that got impaled. As for the Persian who stood there, he was probably shocked that the guy he had just run through treated it like a minor nuisance. Shock and terror have been known to keep a person paralyzed.
The Idealized Sex page claims that the scene where Leonidas and Gorgo make love is more realistic and awkward than sex in most movies. How? From what I recall, it wasn't in any way different from a sex scene in any other mainstream Hollywood movie.
Maybe they were watching it with the Rifftrax commentary, where Bill and Kevin had a non-sequitur conversation between Gorgo and Leonidas the whole time.
I am wondering why Persian army didn't just conquer Sparta after they defeat 300 Spartans and waited 1 year to let Greek armies merge. Without Hot Gates, Persian army could use they're number advantage.
In the story or in real life? In real life, the Athenians crushed the Persian fleet at Salamis, and the fleet was crucial in providing logistical support to the army, so after Salamis the army was more or less stranded.
Why doesn't Leonidas aim for Xerses' chest?
Maybe he did, but he missed.
I've always been annoyed by the inconsistency of the terrain in the movie. One moment, it's a tightly packed area that genuinely makes Xerses's numbers useless and the next, it's a Braveheart-sized battlefield that individual Spartans can casually slaughter Persians to.
The story was told from the POV of a half-blind Spartan. Dur.
Before anyone comes in to bite you with the "Dude, Not Funny!" quote, I'm half-blind myself and I found it hilarious! XD Yeah, it could totally make sense. Maybe the dude misjudged distance?
It's not inconsistent, it's just that we're looking at different sections of the battlefield terrain. There's a tight, high cliffs on either side of the path which the Spartans block the initial assault. Past that the cliff path widens into a very wide area, which is the "Braveheart" area, where the Spartans fight the grenadiers, rhino, and other disorganized Persian infantry. Past this, the cliff narrows again with a sheer drop on one side and a high wall on the other. This is where the Spartans see off the Immortals, the Persian cavalry, and the elephants.
The YMMV page sez: "Ephialtes now 'lives down to his physical unfitness' by betraying the athletic - and correspondingly morally upstanding - heroes to the Persians. This element was added to give Ephialtes a more interesting motive than simple greed, but also seems to suggest that their systematic eugenic cleansing practice (directly inspiring similar practices by the Nazis) was fully justified, and the problem was simply that one of them got away". Can't this be interpreted the other way around? As in, Ephialtes' act was brought by some well-motivated spite for the hardcore eugenicist society he was an outcast from, and thus the lesson is that the program is a bad idea, not that he escaped it?
That line was meant to be from the Spartan point of view. Of course we who don't live in a society that chucks imperfect babies off a cliff can see it from Ephialtes' point of view.
Okay, this isn't about the movie itself, but why do so many people insist on calling this film out on its historical inaccuracy? If the ab-ulous "armor" and frigging blade-handed monstrosity wasn't a dead giveaway, it was repeatedly stated by everyone in the production crew that this is based off a comic book.
And comic books are incapable of historical accuracy? (Admittedly, I haven't read 300, so it may be just as bad in places, but seriously, just because the film is based on a comic, it automatically gets a pass for failing history?)
Quite simply, yes, it does. The purpose of the comic was to tell a good story, and this is transferred to the film. Comics and movies are not incapable of historical accuracy, but it matters far less than the narrative. I don't see anyone attacking Watchmen for claiming a giant blue man won the Vietnam War for the United States, so 300 shouldn't be held to the same level of scrutiny.
Actually, somewhat hilariously, there is at least one idiot critic who complained about Watchmen "getting history wrong".
Of more importance is the fact that the comics author admits that it is in no way supposed to be historically accurate. Especially when you remember that he based the comic (at least in part) on a film he remembered from when he was a boy)
Because the director said it was 90% historically accurate, thus inviting this criticism.
Specifically: 90% of the things that happened in this movie, happened. That 10% covers things that didn't happen (like a freak storm handling the Persian ships instead of the Greek navies) or were just embellished ridiculously (like the Persian armies being hideous half-men instead of... Y'know, men.)