Spartans Didn’t Paint on Abs
is a film about the Battle of Thermopylae. Dictated by a Spartan soldier, Dilios, the film begins by telling the story of King Leonidas’ childhood. The story skips ahead to his kingship, where messengers from the Persian godking Xerxes threaten the Spartans and demand their surrender. Leonidas refuses, and attempts to take the Spartan army to meet Xerxes’ forces. However, the senate denies his request so Leonidas is forced to take only 300 soldiers to fight Xerxes’ army of over 200,000. The Spartan army makes a stand at the Hot Gates so that the vast number of Persians cannot overwhelm them. After the Spartans hold steady for three days, Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan citizen, defects to the Persians and tells them of a hidden path that leads behind the Spartans. The Persians use this information to defeat the Spartans, who make a valiant last stand in which every remaining Spartan dies. The actual Battle of Thermopylae was significantly less epic. Herodotus reports a force of over 5000 Greeks, including the 300 Spartans. This entire force was led by Leonidas. The reason that so few troops were sent is that both the Carneian festival and the Olympic festival took place during the battle, so cities only wanted to send advanced guards. After sending a spy, Xerxes waits for four days for the Greeks to retreat. On the fifth day, Xerxes sends Median troops to fight and they fall in large numbers to the Greeks. Xerxes then sends his Immortals, expecting them to be more successful. Instead, they fall in similar fashion to the Median forces. Eventually the Persians realize the futility of fighting the Greeks in the confined space of the pass, and temporarily retreat. Xerxes is then approached by Ephialtes, a man from Malis, who betrays the Greek forces for money. Ephialtes reveals the existence of a pathway across the mountain. This pathway was guarded by 1000 Phocian men, and they were attacked and forced to retreat from Persian forces. The Phocians told the rest of the Greek soldiers about the flanking Persians, The
Greeks considered a full retreat, and everyone was ordered to leave by Leonidas except for the Spartans, the Thespians, and the Thebans. At sunrise, the remaining Greeks advanced beyond where the pass is narrowest, knowingly headed to their deaths. Again, the Greeks fought well 1
above their numbers, however eventually they succumbed to the Persians.
takes many liberties with history to tell the story of King Leonidas. The filmmakers portray Leonidas and his Spartans as supermen, and their enemies as mythical monsters. The changes that they knowingly make are made in order to turn the story into a fully fledged action movie, and secure a larger audience. In order to do this, the filmmakers mold historical figures together for simplicity and fabricate events to define Leonidas’ character. Several historical figures were rolled into single movie characters for various reasons. The fact that the Spartan government had two kings was neglected so that Leonidas could stand out as a wise king who knew better than the senate. The often quoted line in the film where the Persians boast that their arrows blot out the sun and Leonidas quips “Then we shall fight in the shade.” is actually attributed to a Spartan named Dieneces. Herodotus points out Dieneces as distinguishing himself above other Spartans, but the filmmakers give his line to Leonidas to make him the badass one. Two Spartan soldiers were sent away by Leonidas because of damage to their eyes, they were tasked with delivering a message to Sparta. One returns to fight while the other returns to his home. Dilios takes place of these two men in the film, and leads the final ...
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