Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blatant pro-Athenian bias in the Star

via Ezra Klein:
This touches on 300's most noteworthy abuse of history: the Persians are turned into monsters, but the non-Spartan Greeks are simply all too human. According to Herodotus, Leonidas led an army of perhaps 7,000 Greeks. These Greeks took turns rotating to the front of the phalanx stationed at Thermoplyae where, fighting in disciplined hoplite fashion, they held the narrow pass for two days. All told, some 4,000 Greeks perished there. In 300 the fighting is not in the hoplite fashion, and the Spartans do all of it, except for a brief interlude in which Leonidas allows a handful of untrained Greeks to taste the action, and they make a hash of it. When it becomes apparent they are surrounded, this contingent flees. In Herodotus' time there were various accounts of what transpired, but we know 700 hoplites from Thespiae remained, fighting beside the Spartans, they, too, dying to the last man.

No mention is made in 300 of the fact that at the same time a vastly outnumbered fleet led by Athenians was holding off the Persians in the straits adjacent to Thermopylae, or that Athenians would soon save all of Greece by destroying the Persian fleet at Salamis. This would wreck 300's vision, in which Greek ideals are selectively embodied in their only worthy champions, the Spartans.

This moral universe would have appeared as bizarre to ancient Greeks as it does to modern historians. Most Greeks would have traded their homes in Athens for hovels in Sparta about as willingly as I would trade my apartment in Toronto for a condo in Pyongyang.
Now this is far more interesting than the schoolyard snickerings about how gay it is, isn't it?

2 comments:

celestialspeedster said...

Actually, the article still tackles the gay topic but with a more academic air:

300's Persians are ahistorical monsters and freaks. Xerxes is eight feet tall, clad chiefly in body piercings and garishly made up, but not disfigured. No need – it is strongly implied Xerxes is homosexual which, in the moral universe of 300, qualifies him for special freakhood. This is ironic given that pederasty was an obligatory part of a Spartan's education. This was a frequent target of Athenian comedy, wherein the verb "to Spartanize" meant "to bugger." In 300, Greek pederasty is, naturally, Athenian.

Spartanizing...heh heh

Gar said...

As Celestialspeedster points out you can do both. Homosocial combined with extremely buff mail near nudity is going to be pretty homoerotic. And homoeroticism is not exclusively for the male gaze. Ask the first ten thousand woman fanfic slashers you meet. Those reviews that spent too much time on the homoeroticism, and paid no attention anything else were taking a cheap shot. But I honestly think mentioning it in describing this particular film is no more out of line than mentioning it in discussing professional wrestling. Or some woman friends of mind who got hooked on season one Smallville because of the "Pansexual Pretty-Boy Orgy".

As to whether we are focusing too much on the subject here: well, I'll stop if you will.