Who doesn’t adore the movie 300?! I love 300. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE 300. And when we were asked to do a history blog post about anything, it had to be about 300. Don’t know about you guys but I am one of those kinds of people that would analyse the details in the movie and ask myself if it made any sense at all. So this post was based on some of the things I have thought about after watching the movie!
Were the weak babies were really thrown away?
Were the ‘Immortals’ real?
Was the traitor really a hunchback?
Good news peeps, I do have answersss! But for those who have not caught the movie, don’t worry because this post DOES tell you a little about the history of the famous Sparta. So here goes.
Sparta is a city-state in Greece (as mentioned in class) that was best known for having one of the finest militaries and for their emphasis on military fitness.
So… a little more about ancient Sparta. Apparently they had a very controlling government (equivalent to an over possessive girlfriend) that wanted to be in control of EVERYTHING that went on in the lives of its citizens.
This resulted in them implementing some practices (which I will talk about below) that were great in some aspects but…not so great in others. Now, let’s talk about some of the scenes and practices that were seen in the movie 300. Were they accurate accounts of what actually happened?
1. Were the infants really discarded?
YES. At birth, every Spartan new born would be immediately examined by elder council members for birth defects or deformities. According to Evan Andrews, babies that were puny or deformed would be left to die at the foot of Mount Taygetus. However, it was said in The Ancient History Documentary: The Rise and Fall of the Spartans that some of these babies would be adopted by others who may have pitied them.
I’m guessing maybe women that were infertile? Who knows, people might even go to the foot of the mountain to exchange their babies! Jokes aside, it wasn’t mentioned in the movie but this process applied to female babies too. The practice was brutal but there were good reasons for it too. Their aim was to produce the best warriors that were capable in fighting, defending, and also leading their country. They felt that the best way to achieve that would be to breed the strongest that they could.
It is really quite straightforward. Kill the weak, reap the strongest. Not only that, Sparta can save on resources! More resources to better groom the finest men! ^^ And to be frank, ending the life of a weak child would be to put him out of his misery. Just imagine how horrible he would feel about himself being constantly compared to the others. The same logic applied to women too.
“Only Spartan women produced real men”- Lena Headey (starred as Queen Gorgo in the movie 300). And that was really what the Spartans believed in - the strongest women produce the strongest men. So... kill. the. weak.
2. Did the ‘immortals’ really exist?
The ‘immortals’ (named by Herodotus) was indeed based on a real Persian fighting unit. They were an elite force of soldiers that were 10,000 strong and never decreased in number or strength. Whenever a soldier is killed or wounded, he would immediately be replaced by another. Thus, it would seem as though each member was ‘immortal’. This ensured that the army would remain strong both physically and emotionally, which would help increase their chances for a victory. Unlike in the movie, the ‘immortals’ did not wear any of those fancy scary shiny masks to conceal their hideous faces. In reality, they wore felt hats and a special headdress that was made of cloth which wrapped around the side of their faces to protect them from dust and dirt.
How the ‘Immortals’ looked in 300…
How they looked in real life!
Why then, you might ask, were they wearing those horrifying masks in 300? Well it was an element of friction created by the 300 author Frank Miller.
I suppose the whole idea behind it was to make the Persian army look intimidating, strong, fierce and maybe even detestable. That way, the audience would turn towards the all so humble Spartans (underdogs) and root for them.
Honestly Frank Miller, you didnt have to go through that much trouble to get me rooting for those bare-bodied (six-pack lovin’) Spartans. Come on’ girls/guys?? you’ve got to admit that they are the hotter and sexier bunch right??
3. Was the traitor Ephialtes really a hunchback?
In the movie 300, Ephialtes (a synonymous in Greek for "nightmare" ) was a hideous, horribly disfigured hunchback that betrayed the Greeks in exchange for women and wealth. He told Xerxes I (the Persian King at that time) about the Spartan’s strategic plan to hold the Persian army to a bottleneck at Thermopylae and revealed a secret path that the Persians could take around Thermopylae.
According to a study done by the Disability Studies Quarterly, it said:
“There is nothing in Herodotus to indicate that Ephialtes exhibited any deformities nor disabilities, nor that he was a Spartan, so the entire Ephialtes subplot in 300 can have only one purpose: to explicitly justify the practice of murdering inferior babies, who have no role to play in a democracy that must fight to stay alive, and in any event they will only grow up to betray us. The stripped-down democracy that the film advocates thus associates disability with everything else it considers "weakness"; mysticism, tyranny, sexual deviance of all sorts, effeminacy, and, well, being foreign.”
Wow. I certainly did not go into that much details and I would have never been able to make such complicated links! Anyway, I felt that the main reason why Ephialtes was portrayed as an ugly hunchback was merely because he was a traitor and traitors are generally not well liked by people (especially when you’re a Greek!). So, the script writers would want to create the most horribly looking person to match that label ‘traitor’. Make sense right? That was about the furthest i've got. But then again, I am sure much more thought went into creating the look for Ephialtes.
With that being said, people who have not caught 300, please go and watch it! I assure you it is worth your time. I hope you enjoyed my post and learned one or two new things about Ancient Sparta. Thank you and see ya around peeps! :)
- Spartans thought all men should marry and have children. Any adult men not yet married had to walk naked through town once a year!
- The Spartans practiced night fighting by creeping about in the darkness hunting helots (slaves).