Movie Monday: 300

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Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.(1)

I love this movie. I got my start in Classics, and stories of men and women like those depicted in this fictionalized account of Leonidas and his defense, with three-hundred fighting men, of a pass called Thermopylae (the “hot gates”) never cease to inspire. While the movie is somewhat fictionalized, the event it depicts actually occurred. In 480 B.C.E., Greece was facing invasion and erasure by Xerxes I and the Persian empire. There was no unified Greece at this time, only independent city states many of which (like Athens and Sparta) were relatively hostile to each other. They came together, in part inspired by the battle of Thermopylae, to repel the Persian threat.

This battle stands as one of the defining moments of Greek (and Roman heroism), even though it was in and of itself a bloodbath. The story of the 300 is just that: a story of heroism, and we need those stories. They inspire us in cultivating the same virtues of patriotism and courage, valor and honor in ourselves. They inspire us to preserve our culture and our traditions, to value what we have created, to work hard to sustain it. They unify a people across boundaries and differences, and they teach us the necessity of sometimes sacrificing for something greater than ourselves. Those are good things, necessary things where the cultivation of virtue is concerned. These were the stories passed down to our grandparents, great grandparents, and beyond. They helped form the cultural and moral consciousness of the “greatest generation” that saved Europe from [actual] Nazis – and in 1941, allies defended Thermpylae again, this time against Nazi invasion– and maybe that shared cultural and moral heritage is precisely why stories like this are now under fire in our morally incomprehensible world today. But I digress.

The movie “300” is an adaptation of this story (a loose adaptation I grant you) from a graphic novel and it does take liberties. It is told from the perspective of a veteran of Thermopylae, rallying and inspiring later troops to fight the Persians. Because of that, the Persians are exaggerated in their presentation so that the valor of those that stood against them, may likewise be highlighted. It’s an excellent tale (though I think the original is even better! The most accessible account is probably Herodotus’s Histories,Book VII) (2).

Several people have asked me lately out of the blue, what some of my favorite movies are, or what I’m watching (most recently “Lovecraft Country”) or reading (a lot of Jane Austen atm). So, for those interested, I’ll try to do a post each Monday on a wholesome (by my definition, keeping in mind I really like action and horror – you have been warned lol) movie. I might miss a Monday here and there as school is just starting back up, but I’ll try to recommend some good things. Here’s your first:

better 300
Notes:

  1. “Stranger, tell the Spartans that we lie here, obedient to their laws.” In the 2007 movie, Frank Miller uses this translation, which I like, “Go tell the Spartans, passerby: that here, by Spartan law, we lie.” There are multiple translations of this epitaph. Cicero even translated it into Latin: Dic, hospes, Spartae nos te hic vidisse iacentes | dum santis patriae legibus obsequimur. Tusculanae Disputationes, 42.101.
  2. Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, and Ktesias (among others) also mention it.

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on August 24, 2020, in hellenic things, Hero Cultus, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I recently learned something interesting about Gerard Butler, who stars in this movie. He has described the process of preparing for the role as channeling. He is a meditator, and has described the sensation of the spirit of Leonidas coming into him and contributing to his performance. It sounds like it was a spiritual experience for him.

    Here is the video of the interview where he described it: https://youtu.be/-3rtedLsJFw

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      that’s really awesome! thank you for sharing this. I know several polytheists who honor Leonidas as an honored hero, so this doesn’t surprise me in the least.

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  2. As much as I enjoy watching this movie, I have problems with how it portrayed the Spartans as fighting for freedom from foreign tyranny. Spartans considered themselves to be foreign occupiers rather than the natives of their land, and their entire culture was made possible by a particularly vicious form of slavery. The Spartan ephors declared war on their native helot slaves every year so that they could be killed at any time as an attempt to prevent any kind of slave uprising. This fear of a slave uprising and the view of themselves as foreign occupiers was a large part of what sparked the Spartan militaristic obsession. I respect the sacrifice Leonidas and his men made, but we should not forget that the Spartans considered themselves to be foreign occupiers and that their culture was built on the backs viciously oppressed slaves.

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    • That’s pretty much how everyone was and we’re fools if we think we are any better today . For me, that in no way detracts from the heroism of their stance at Thermopylae.

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  3. ganglerisgrove

    My only complaint and criticism about the movie is the negative portrayal of the priests, the ephors early on. That was disgusting and they should have done better.

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    • I’m going to have to disagree with you about “that’s pretty much how everyone was”. Other cultures depended on slaves too, but I know of no other culture that officially declared war on its slaves every year in order to be able to kill them at any time without violating the law, nor am I aware of a culture that considered itself to be a foreign occupier even after multiple centuries of living in the region. Spartan culture was very different from others of the time, which is what makes it so fascinating to me. You’re right that these facts don’t detract from their heroism, but part of honoring someone well is doing so honestly. Leonidas stood firm knowing he and his men would die, and they did so willingly to protect their people. He was also part of a brutal culture built from the ground up to keep the natives of the land terrified and oppressed. The two are not mutually exclusive, and neither should be ignored in favor of the other. We can and should learn from both.
      And yes, the portrayal of priests was repugnant, though I expect nothing less from mainstream entertainment these days.

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      • ganglerisgrove

        i think i’ve read and taught the material so much that it always surprises me when people find the brutality surprising. I’m just like, “uh..yeah. they were.” For me, that’s a given and maybe I assume too much when I assume people know that. btw, for a fictional account of this battle, that highlights a helot’s POV, there’s a novel called “The HOt Gates”…I think the author is Steven Pressfield but i’m not 100% sure.

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