Lee is a Masters in Management graduate who has been working as a freelance writer and researcher since 2009.
The Spartans in Physical Appearance and Mental Attitudes
The Spartans have been the standard of real men not just in physical appearance but also in virtues. They are the concept of the ideal men lifted from Plato’s The Republic. They are the guardians of the people who were separated from their mothers at a very young age to be trained and to be prepared physically and mentally with skills that they need to help preserve Sparta. Mental toughness and physical strengths are the great attributes of a Spartan. Sparta itself is also a representation of the ideal Greek society.
The Spartans were represented as a group of people that value perfection. Upon birth, each Spartan is inspected by a sorcerer for any defect. If a newborn is found to have any flaw— the body is deformed, missing body part, blind or ugly, that newborn will be discarded. Each Spartans are the perfection of humans. From the military down to the artisans, each Spartans physical appearance should not be flawed. There are no beggars, no pitiful looking person. Each Spartans are delegated and expected to perform their own tasks, each playing a major role for Sparta—artisans, farmers, state men and the military. Without each one to support the other, Sparta will not be a prosperous, balanced city.
Among the entire Spartan citizen, the King and his Army were specifically interpreted to be muscular-built men, each of them looking like Adonis’. At the age of seven, these Spartan boys are removed from their family and the society takes the responsibility of rearing these children to be warriors. This is done so that each warrior will be detached from its mother to limit the emotional bond between the two. In this manner, the warriors will not rely on emotion to motivate their actions. They are also mentally tough, not allowed to feel any fear. For Spartans, to be in the military is the ultimate profession. They are the guardians of Sparta and its people so to be one is both a prestige and an honor.
Depiction of Persians
The Persians were depicted to be extravagant people who gather their strength based on their diverse culture, technique, and methods of combat. They are portrayed with a milieu of negative imagery. This is done to show the contrasting culture of Persia and Sparta. Sparta was an organized, structured, clean and peaceful city while Persia was ruled by fear, extravagance, chaos, and terror with an anarchic ruler who’s delusion himself to be a God-King.
The Persians are illustrated as conquerors led by a God-King--Xerxes, who relies not on military prowess, but on sheer intimidation and a show of force. The first scene with a Persian would be that of the God King’s messenger arriving in Sparta. He was accompanied by elaborately dressed guards (he was elaborately dressed as well) and bearing the heads of kings and noblemen on his hand, he seeks an audience with the Spartan King.
Other Persians are like him, odd-looking, queer, bizarre and strange people from all over the land that the Persians have conquered. Its Army made use of exotic animals that no Spartans have seen before. The army itself is a curious mix of magicians, performers and some hint of military men. The Persians are led to war as if the men are bound to what they are told, the military heads were slave drivers and they were slaves. Those who failed and went back to camp alive were killed. The God King himself is a man who believes he is immortal. The main reason he conquers land is for other nations to worship him.
Specific Scenes That Stood Out
1. "This is SPARTAAAA!!!"
The first scene I like the most is the confrontation between Leonidas and the Persian messenger. He replied with rage to the Persian that he was choosing his words well but it was the messenger who has insulted Sparta when he brought the heads of the kings and noblemen to the city and even insulted the Spartan queen. I really like this scene because the emphasis was on how Sparta was ahead and “modern” beyond its time. It was a place depicted to be a utopian society wherein the welfare of its people is at the utmost interest through the refusal of the king to bow down or acknowledge the Persian’s warning. By also killing the messenger, Sparta waged war with the Persian as a sign of defiance. It was a city that does not get intimidated. Though politics is another issue, that scene brought to life an ideal utopian society.
2. The Ephors
Another was when Leonidas seek the ephors--high priests, for advice. It was the scene wherein Leonidas climbed the mountain of the ephors to show his military strategy to them and seek what the oracle has to say. It showed that any Spartan, even the king is bound by the rules and regulations that apply to everyone else. He discussed among the ephors the impact of the presence of Persia on their shores and his plan of attack. It was logic versus religious belief. The oracle was used by the ephors to tell Leonidas that he should respect the decision of the Gods. When actually, the oracle only said a bunch of gibberish. It was up to the ephors to put in her mouth whatever they fancy. Also, it gave light that even the most ideal looking society is not perfect (and can never be found). These ephors are high priests of Sparta and yet they succumb to temptation and connived with the Persians to put down the efforts of Leonidas. They were motivated by greed— of gold and lust for women. Another point is that even if Sparta was advanced beyond its years as compared to the technology of its counterparts, religion still plays a major role in the society.
3. Meeting with the Arcadian Army
The third is when the Spartan army was joined by an ally, the Arcadians. The Arcadians were surprised by the small number of troops that King Leonidas has with him, and that they have brought in more troops than him. King Leonidas then pointed to some Arcadians asking them about their professions. It was then that the king made his point that it was him who actually did bring more warrior than the Arcadians. This part was very meaningful because once again, Sparta does not rely on a show of force or intimidation. They might be few in numbers, only 300 Spartan men, but all of these men are seasoned warriors. They are trained to fight and to die if need be. Unlike the Arcadians, who are easily terrified and frightened by the intimidating strength of the Persian military.
4. Spartan king and the Persian God King
Another is when the Spartan king was thought to succumb to the Persian God King. During this scene, King Leonidas let go of his shield and spear. Xerxes, the Persian God-King thought he has Sparta, this prompted him to stand--probably due to his excitement. Unknown to him, it was a plot to spear him to death. Unfortunately, the Spartan warrior missed and only scratched Xerxes on the cheeks. Though it was a failed attempt and the last stand of the brave 300, or 299 since one went back to Sparta, it was a very important scene in the movie. It was the point were Xerxes’ perception of himself as an immortal vanished. Upon seeing his blood, the Spartans were able to prove that he was just indeed like any other men. He was neither a god nor immortal, he bled like any other men.
5. Death of Leonidas
Last would be the death of Leonidas. It was heart-wrenching to see him die. The most moving scene was when he looked up at the sky and uttered “…my queen, my love….” It was such an intense emotion to see the king of Sparta finally shows his emotion in public. It proves that even with all of his training, battles, and standards of what Spartan men should be, he was just like any other man who loved his wife. He also showed his wisdom yet again when he knew that his death would finally lead Sparta to battle against the Persian. It is quite unusual to look forward to your death but he knows the implications of his death to Sparta. He would die so Sparta could be preserved even at the cost of his life, his love, and his family.
Pace of the Movie
The movie was fast-paced as it moves from one scene to the other with a different context in continuity with regards to the plot of the story. The music was also something different than the scores used traditionally on such kinds of movie settings. I was amazed and taken aback by how a rock genre of music could aptly fit the fight scenes. It was a breakthrough and a first. Most movies set on ancient era uses instrumental musical scores with a mellow or soothing sound effect. The musical score in 300 was upbeat, heavy and loud. It gave a modern twist on an ancient story.
The movie was too fast-paced to be coherent at times. The continuity of the scenes was not fluid enough that it leaves the viewers hanging or guessing to fill in the gaps between some the scenes. The music, on the other hand, is a different matter. I would give kudos to the musical score for being able to break free from the traditional background music that is often associated with these kinds of movies. The background score during the fight scene was very unique. It blends perfectly well with the pacing of the film. The film was fast-paced and so was the music. It’s a new way of telling a classic story set in ancient Greece with a modern twist. But not all themes and story will fit into this pattern. But in this case, I like the music very much.
Shading and Tones of the Film
The film utilized a classic story and turns it into a cinematic eye-candy. But the film also used unnecessary nudity and violence.
The effects and graphics backdrop of the movie reflects the technology used. The movie was very detailed in every aspect of the film—from the setting to the individual costumes. Though the film does have educational value in terms of academic discussion, the gore, violence, and nudity of the film limit its viewers to young adults to adult viewers. The director, in my opinion, probably used vivid representation to make the movie as realistic and effective as possible in eliciting a reaction among its viewers. But for me, less could actually be more. Since it seems as if they somewhat used a minimalistic approach with respect to the interiors and background props, they felt as if they needed to exaggerate or compensate on these aspects to make the movie interesting. For case in point, the oracle in a trance could have easily been asked to wear a silhouette brassiere or use a not-too-sheer fabric for her garment that would still flow with her movements. Leonidas and Gorgo having sex could have been portrayed in a more “romantic” manner without losing the intensity and emotion of the scene.
Pop or Flop
Sparta was portrayed as a modern city with its pave city streets and moderate infrastructure. At the heart of the city is a great unending well. Sparta was a prosperous city, modern beyond its time. Its fields surrounded the city. The rural areas were big farming villages burned to ashes by the Persians. The Hot Gates were most of the scenes and fighting took place was a barren land. It was situated near two rocky mountains. It was a strategic place for a small army to take defense because even with the great numbers of Persians attacking them, the Hot Gates funnel the attacking force making their number useless.
The movie attempted to recreate an ancient city but viewers will, at some scenes feel that the movie was shot inside a studio. There was not much depth in the background and the exterior. The view of Sparta is limited from a few city structures. It also gave me the impression of inconsistency in the setting. For example, when Leonidas was contemplating his reply to the Persian messenger, a scene was shown wherein a woman with his son was standing on the fields looking at him in anticipation as to his decision. Yet when you consider the structures from where Leonidas and the party were standing, it is as if a totally different setting--inside the city walls maybe. I guess the director was attempting to impress to the viewers that Sparta was a walled city surrounded by wheat fields.
Another observation I had was that most of the background environment is bare and very limited. The scenery seemed to be restricted to rocks, mountains, sky or sea. There was not many composites of articles or colors to make the background more interesting and appealing. It also gives the impression that there was not much effort given in creating a "realistic" environment that fits the story and the setting.
Role of Women in Spartan Society
The Spartan women’s role and societal status are different from the ancient concept of second-class citizenship. The women from Sparta are highly esteemed because it is them who “give birth to true men.” The Spartans acknowledge that they owe it to their women their lives.
Women have a very specific role in Sparta. Though still patriarchal, women are highly regarded and respected with a very important role in the society. They are considered as the lifeline of the city because it is through them that true men are born. Another privilege that women play is that of the oracle. The oracles are chosen among beautiful young women all over Sparta, they are tasked to be the messenger of Apollo.
The Spartan queen, Gorgo, also gets to enjoy the same prestige that her status brings. She can freely express her opinion and talk among men. Unlike other societies during their time wherein it is considered taboo to mingle on men’s affair, the Spartan queen can and does say her opinions with regards to public business and military concerns. She also gets to influence her king. Her opinion is highly valued and heeded to by the King. In return, her support for her husband is truly astounding to the point that she would give away herself just to be able to rally more troops to support her husband. Though I admire her character, I do not acquiesce with her choices of action.
Queen Gorgo was courageous in so many ways. One, she let her husband go to the mission even if she knows that there is little to no chance that she will see him alive. Second, she has to control her emotion and must act brave at all times so that she will not dishearten her husband. Lastly, she would rather see her husband dead than for him to fail in his mission. That kind of love truly takes courage beyond compare.
lee custodio (author) on December 10, 2011:
thanks lorenzo! :)
Lorenzo27 from Pistoia, Italy on October 27, 2011:
Very interesting hub! Voted up!