Fact or Fiction? 300 Gets the Big Ideas Right.

Victor Davis Hanson, historian, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution has this take on 300

Crowds are flocking to see the film 300 about the ancient Spartans’ last stand at the pass at Thermopylae against an invading Persian army. Yet many critics, in panning 300, have alleged that the film is essentially historically inaccurate. Are they right?

Here are some answers. But first two qualifiers. I wrote an introduction to a book about the making of 300 after being shown a rough cut of the movie in October. And, second, remember that 300 does not claim to follow exactly ancient accounts of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Instead, it is an impressionistic take on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, intended to entertain and shock first, and instruct second.

…the main storyline mostly conveys the message of Thermopylae.
A small contingent of Greeks at Thermopylae (which translates to “The Hot Gates”) really did block the enormous Persian army for three days before being betrayed. The defenders claimed their fight was for the survival of a free people against subjugation by the Persian Empire.
Many of the film’s corniest lines — such as the Spartan dare, “Come and take them,” when ordered by the Persians to hand over their weapons, or the Spartans’ flippant reply, “Then we will fight in the shade,” when warned that Persian arrows will blot out the sun — actually come from ancient accounts by Herodotus and Plutarch.

…that good/bad contrast comes not from the director or Frank Miller, but is based on accounts from the Greeks themselves, who saw their own society as antithetical to the monarchy of imperial Persia.

Victor Davis Hanson

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