Frank Miller Movie vs. Spartans History - Battle of Thermopylae
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A Spartan boy's right of passage was not to kill a wolf, it was to sneak out and murder a slave Helot. If you were discovered, then you would be punished severely, not for taking the life of another human being, but rather for getting caught.
Murdering a slave was meant to train you in the art of evasion. Did Sparta go up against the Persians alone? Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie is that the film leaves the audience believing that the Spartans were the only Greek force to lead an attack against the Persians. The movie leaves out the decisive amphibious battle that took place in the straits adjacent to Thermopylae, where allied Greek fleets led by Athens held off the Persian fleets.
Soon after, this Athenian led fleet saved Greece by destroying the Persian fleet during the Battle of Salamis, which marked the turning point in the war. Sparta and Athens working together also marked the beginning of Greece as a unified nation, instead of a collection of warring city-states.
Prior to these battles, it was originally the Athenians who had asked Leonidas to help them defend against the Persians. Was the Persian King Xerxes really bald and 9-feet-tall? The real Persian King Xerxes had a beard and was much shorter. He never went to the front line at the Battle of Thermopylae as his character does in the movie Actor Rodrigo Santoro portrays the 9-foot-tall Xerxes in the film. Rodrigo, who starred on ABC's Lost, is around 6'2".
His height and voice were both altered for the role of the Persian King. Director Zack Snyder talked about Xerxes' exaggerated features in an interview, " He was out of scale of his voice, not that it wasn't commanding.
Did Leonidas really consult an Oracle to aid in his decision to go to battle? King Leonidas consulted the Oracle at Delphi. Similar to the movie, the Oracle was located in a temple that had been erected over a small chasm. The Oracle was a woman considered to posses a certain prophetic wisdom, often spiritual in nature. She was consulted prior to all major undertakings such as wars, the founding of colonies, etc. She would usually babble something almost incoherent, and the elders priests would take her word.
Like in the movie, she advised the Spartans that a king's death would save Greece. Some historians believe that this is why King Leonidas decided to stay and fight until death at the Battle of Thermopylae, instead of falling back to regroup.
Did the Persians really use charging elephants and rhinos at Thermopylae? The Persians didn't bring any charging elephants or rhinos to the Battle of Thermopylae. This was a liberty taken by author Frank Miller and the filmmakers, in order to add to the movie's elements of fantasy. The Persians did use horses in battle, as their army was twenty percent cavalry.
Is the movie's hunchbacked traitor Ephialtes based on a real person? However, the real Greek traitor Ephialtes, a local shepard, was most likely not a horribly disfigured hunchback. Graphic novelist Frank Miller chose to alter Ephialtes' appearance in order to emphasize the practice of eugenics that is introduced early in the film. This is underscored in the movie when Ephialtes Andrew Tiernan tells King Leonidas that his family fled Sparta to avoid having to kill him, as it was Spartan policy to kill babies with birth defects.
After Ephialtes requests to fight alongside the Spartans, Leonidas proves to him that his distorted physique prevents him from fitting into a Spartan hoplite battle formation.
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Rejected, Ephialtes goes to the Persian King Xerxes and informs him of a narrow passage that will lead the Persian soldiers behind the Greek army. In reality, there is no record of Ephialtes being rejected by the Spartan King Leonidas. Like other Greeks who helped Xerxes, Ephialtes most likely became a traitor out of fear or hope of reward. In the movie, we hear the deep-voiced Xerxes Rodrigo Santoro promise him women and wealth. Are the Immortals based on a real Persian fighting unit?
The Immortals were Xerxes personal bodyguards. See an ancient rendering of the Immortals. They were an elite fighting unit. In the film, they wear shiny masks to hide their horrific faces, which is an element of fiction created by author Frank Miller. In reality, the Immortals wrapped their faces in cloth that they could see through.
The downfall of the Immortals was that they were lightly armored when compared to the Greek hoplites. Their shields were only made of wicker and were no match for the Spartan weapons. They were called the Immortals because they always maintained a strength of exactly 10, men. Whenever an Immortal was killed or wounded, he was immediately replaced by a new one; thus maintaining the cohesion of the unit.
Does accurately represent Spartan women? The movie presents a strong willed Queen Gorgo Lena Headeywho advises her husband on both military and political matters. At one point in the film, a Persian messenger insults the Queen after she offers her input during a political discussion.
The Persian felt that the Queen a woman should not speak on such matters. The film's depiction of the role of Spartan women is accurate. The relative freedom and empowerment of their women helped to further set the Spartans apart from other cultures. The empowerment of Spartan women could be compared to the freedoms of modern day American women versus the restricted roles of many present day Middle Eastern women.
Did Queen Gorgo really kill council member Theron? This is an element of fiction added by the filmmakers to enhance the role of the Queen in the storyline.
In an Entertainment Weekly interview, author of Frank Miller stated his opposition to this alteration of his graphic novel, "At first I very much disagreed with it.
My main comment was, 'This is a boys' movie. Let it be that.
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But Zack had his reasons. He wanted to show that King Leonidas was fighting for something, by giving him a romantic aspect and by lingering in Sparta a little bit. Leonidas and Gorgo's father Cleomenes were paternal half-brothers.
Did Queen Gorgo really have an active role in the Spartan political arena? Greek historian Herodotus mentions her several times in his writings. When she was only eight or nine-years old, she advises her father to not trust Aristagoras: She makes a second appearance in Herodotus' Histories when a message from Demaratos reaches Sparta: This was done; the message was revealed and read, and afterwards passed on to the other Greeks.
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At least that's what Spartans history tells us. The catchphrases that fill the movie were taken from the writings of the Greek historians Herodotus, Plutarch, and other sources. True to history quotes from the movie include Leonidas' response on the first day of battle when Xerxes demands that the Greeks surrender their arms.
The Oracle, Ugly Bettyreveals that Leonidas will die should he go to war. After reaching a decision while spending the night with his wife, Leonidas meets the soldiers assembled for his departure to Thermopylaeand finds that only thirteen were accepted in the army due to stringent requirements. Among them are Captain, his son Sonio, and a slightly unfit Spartan named Dilio.
Once at the Hot Gates, they encounter a deformed Paris Hilton also played by Parkerwho tells Leonidas and the Captain about a secret goat path above the Hot Gates that Xerxes could use to outflank the Spartans. When she asks to be made a Spartan soldier, Leonidas rejects her as unqualified due to her inability to use a spear correctly. Leonidas and his platoon soon face off with Xerxes' messenger and his Immortals, beating them in a dance contest before driving them off a cliff.
Xerxes Ken Davitianimpressed, personally approaches Leonidas and attempts to bribe him with a trip to the Palms Hotel and Casino. Leonidas declines, and the Spartans face the Persian army in a " Yo Momma " fight, which the Spartans win, but Dilio has his eyes scratched out and wanders away. Hilton decides to betray the Spartans and reveals the location of the goat path to Xerxes in return for various gifts and for having her deformed hump removed.
Xerxes meets the twelve remaining Spartans and the war begins. Meanwhile, back in Sparta, Queen Margo has several confrontations with Traitoro, as he is the vital vote in sending more troops to assist her husband. Following her address to the Council, Traitoro publicly betrays the Queen. The Queen then battles Traitoro in a parody of Spider-Man 3 and defeats him using a dust buster. With Traitoro's deceit exposed, the council is united with the queen.
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At the Battle of Thermopylaethe Persians introduce their secret weapons, Ghost Rider and Rocky Balboawho kills Sonio with a decapitating uppercut. Captain avenges him with Botox poisoning before being struck down by Xerxes.