Victor Davis Hanson on the film 300

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Classicist and historian Victor Davis Hanson has written a nice essay on the history behind the film 300:
History and the Movie �300�
The phrase �300 Spartans� evokes not only the ancient battle of Thermopylae, but also the larger idea of fighting for freedom against all odds � a notion subsequently to be enshrined through some 2500 years of Western civilization.

Even today we remember the power of the Spartans� defiance. �Come and take them,� they tell the Persian emissaries who demand their arms. �Then we will fight in the shade,� the Spartans boast when warned that the horde of Persian arrows will soon blot out the very sunlight. �Go tell the Spartans that here we lie obedient to their commands� the tombstone of their dead reads.

In 480, an enormous force of more than a quarter-million Persians under their King Xerxes invaded Greece, both to enslave the free city-states, and to avenge the Persian defeat a decade earlier at Marathon. The huge force of ships and soldiers proved unstoppable on its way west and southward until it reached the narrow pass at Thermopylae (�The Warm Gates�) in northern Greece. There a collection of 7,000 Greeks had blocked the way. They hoped to stop Xerxes� horde outright � or at least allow enough time for their fellow countrymen to their rear to mobilize a sufficient defense of the homeland.

Among the many Greek contingents was a special elite force of 300 Spartans under their King Leonidas � a spearhead that offered the other Greeks at Thermopylae some promise that they could still bar the advance of the vastly superior invader. And that hope proved real for two days of hard fighting. The vastly outnumbered, but heavily-armed Greek infantrymen in their phalanx � taking advantage of the narrow terrain and their massed tactics � savagely beat back wave after wave of advancing Persian foot soldiers and cavalry.
A lot more at his site. Jen and I are soooo looking forward to this movie. Hanson's closing paragraphs strongly echoes the task we face today:
If critics think that 300 reduces and simplifies the meaning of Thermopylae into freedom versus tyranny, they should reread carefully ancient accounts and then blame Herodotus, Plutarch, and Diodorus � who long ago boasted that Greek freedom was on trial against Persian autocracy, free men in superior fashion dying for their liberty, their enslaved enemies being whipped to enslave others.
Indeed -- the word 'islam' means submission.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on March 11, 2007 10:18 PM.

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