Purity of form/line
Ugliness / the grotesque
Nudity and near-nudity
Things floating in the air -- like embers, blood, birds, insects
Stylistic elements like, desaturation and tinting, CGI effects, blue screen, etc.
Reason vs. mysticism
Heroic ideal – definition of heroism
Honor, Duty, Glory
Compare/contrast Leonidas as a boy leading the wolf into the rocky crevice and Leonidas’ strategy to fight the Persians at the Hot Gates.
Nudity and near-nudity: is it meant to sexualize or homosexualize the Spartan men? What about female nudity and sex scenes?
The aesthetics of the film: what is portrayed as beautiful? What is ugly or grotesque? Why?
Referring to “the freelance shot in battle 1,” the director says, “It’s lyrical. It’s like an opera, but it’s violent. It’s all the things I wanted the movie to be.” Discuss.
Was Leonidas a good king? What do you think of Leonidas’ strategy of leading his top 300 warriors into almost certain death?
What do you make of Queen Gorgo's decision to sleep with Theron?
King Leonidas I, King of Sparta. (historical figure)
Queen Gorgo, Queen of Sparta (historical figure)
Pleistarchus, son of Leonidas and Gorgo (historical figure)
Captain Artemis, Leonidas' loyal captain and friend. (fictional)
Stelios, a young, spirited and highly skilled Spartan soldier. (fictional -- probably based on the historical figure Dienekes)
Daxos, an Arcadian leader who joins forces with Leonidas. (fictional)
King Xerxes, King of Persia (historical figure)
Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan outcast. (historical figure)
Pythia, an Oracle to the Ephors. (legendary)
|Jacques-Louis David, Leonidas at Thermopylae, 1814, oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris|
|(Left) Soldier carving on the rock with his sword pommel: " Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."|
|(Left) Soldier with helmet: Eurytus who was blind but insisted on fighting; he is being led by a servant.|
The events depicted in the film are based on the historical narratives of ancient Greeks like Herodotus, Simonides, Aeschylus, Diodorus, and Plutarch.
The Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) was a three day battle between Greek forces led by Leonidas and his Spartans and the Persian Empire at Thermopylae (The Hot Gates).
In addition to the Spartan contingent, there were between 5,000 and 11,000 other Greeks fighting under Leonidas (according to ancient sources).
The fame and glory of the 300 Spartans is based on ancient sources which claimed that after the other Greek forces either retreated or surrendered, there remained only 300 Spartans led by Leonidas and that these men refused to retreat or surrender.
King Leonidas I of Sparta was believed to have descended from Hercules.
There is no report from ancient sources of Leonidas violating the law or defying the Oracle or committing sacrilege in order to go to war, neither was there reluctance on the part of Sparta's council to send more troops.
Leonidas' response to the Persian Ambassadors: "If you had any knowledge of the noble things of life, you would refrain from coveting others' possessions; but for me to die for Greece is better than to be the sole ruler over the people of my race." (Plutarch)
The Immortals were Xerxes elite fighting men, and it was they who used the Goat Path to surround the Greek rear guard on Day 3 of battle.
Phrases like “come and get them” and “we’ll fight in the shade” were reportedly uttered by Leonidas and one of his generals, Dienekes; “come and get them” was also reportedly accompanied by a rude gesture.
As in the film, Xerxes offered Leonidas kingship over all of Greece. Leonidas refused, saying he would rather die for Greece than rule it under Xerxes.
It is an historical mystery as to why Leonidas chose to stay with his 300 Spartans after he knew the Persians knew about the “goat path.” Theories include:
It was Spartan law not to retreat or surrender (though it's possible this came about after Leonidas' sacrifice, to honor and justify it).
Leonidas had a prophecy from the Pythian Oracle that he would die or Sparta would fall, and he chose simply to make the sacrifice. (O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus, or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles. (Herodotus, Book VII))
Leonidas intended to protect the retreating 3000 Greek troops.
Herodotus writes of the final moments of the last day: "Here they defended themselves to the last, those who still had swords using them, and the others resisting with their hands and teeth."
Simonides epigram, carved in stone and placed upon the burial site of the 300:
Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
That here, obedient to Spartan law, we lie.
The movie’s depiction of the Spartan lifestyle was accurate to a degree. For instance, infanticide, the exposure of sub-par and sometimes female babies or babies with some ominous birthmark, was a practice throughout Greece. Removing a 7 year-old boy from his mother for warrior training was a Spartan practice. The toughness of Spartan women is well attested and necessary considering the toughness of their men. The emphases on reason and the purity of form and the idealization of the male body were common Greek concerns.
Consider these three characters and their roles in the film:
Gorgo as the subversive politician
Leonidas as defiant of the laws of Sparta
Theron as the law and order politician and traitor
Note that the film's ethical paradigm is ...
rebellion and subversion and blatantly defying the Constitution of Sparta is GOOD
people who insist on the rule of law are BAD
a military, unchecked by civil government, is GOOD
a civil government reluctant to engage in an illegal war is BAD
soldiers are GOOD
old, smarmy politicians are BAD
The film's ethics are based on fantasy
Leonidas was both a soldier and a politician
Leonidas did not defy the rule of law, he obeyed it
Sparta did not cower behind old men and corrupt poiliticians
Comparison of the film with a frame from the graphic novel
Film scene before and after CGI
Actor Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes)
|Monument to Leonidas I in Thermopylae (1955); "Come and take"|
Behind Leonidas' Monument
Persian warriors (possible the Immortals), 5th century B.C.
1. Spartan Education [5:15]
2. Messenger From Persia [5:06]
3. Sparta's Reply [2:53]
4. The Ephors [3:35]
5. The Oracle [2:52]
6. What Should A Free Man Do? [2:43]
7. With Or On Your Shield [4:35]
8. More Soldiers Than You [2:12]
9. Hunters of Men's Souls [4:01]
10. Glorious Rain [1:48]
11. Fraction of the Monster [2:42]
12. Wall of the Dead [2:56]
13. Ephialtes' Request [3:23]
14. Hot Gates Battle [5:06]
15. Today No Spartan Dies [3:28]
16. Make Theron Your Ally [2:47]
17. Meeting Xerxes [1:32]
18. Immortals Put to the Test [4:34]
19. Uber Immortal's Fall [3:39]
20. Numbers Count for Nothing [3:22]
21. Blood-Drunk [4:00]
22. Betrayer's Bargain [3:07]
23. Queen's Bargain [2:47]
24. Prepare for Glory [3:42]
25. Tell Them Our Story [4:20]
26. Trickster in True Form [2:29]
27. Victory in Surrender [4:47]
28. Fallen Hereos [4:55]
29. Go Tell the Spartans [4:31]
30. End Credits [5:36]