Zack Snyder’s 300 is celebrating its 15th-anniversary, which makes it a great time to look at how the film differs from actual historical events.
Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 is now 15 years old, and while’s it’s a great adaptation of the comic, it’s a completely inaccurate retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae and of Spartan history as a whole.
300 is a visually appealing film, with detailed animation and great production design, but that doesn’t stop it from rewriting history. Now that it’s celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, let’s go over just how exactly Snyder’s film changes history and the true story of the Battle of Thermopylae.
300 Forgets 6,700 Men
The namesake of 300 comes from the supposed 300 men that stood against the massive Persian army, but that wasn’t the case at all. When Leonidas led his men to the Hot Gates, he was leading around 7,000 men from multiple allied Greek city-states. While the Persian army was suspected to have over 100,000 men, the Greeks had no choice but to go with what they had, which was a measly amount in comparison.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view.
In 300, Leonidas’ men make up all aspects of the army. But the truth is that the 300 men comprised the rearguard that stayed behind while the rest of the army retreated. After three grizzly days of battle and more than 20,000 dead on the Persian side, Leonidas decides they can’t hold their position much longer without incurring a significant loss of life, so he and the Spartans elect to stay behind and guard the rear while the rest of the army retreated out of the Hot Gates. Therefore, 300 isn’t entirely wrong, it just forgets to mention the rest of the army.
Spartans Didn’t Wear Speedos
The most obvious change from an accurate historical perspective is Snyder’s choice of costume design. For starters, no soldier ever fought in just a cape and speedo. Rather, the Spartan army favored the traditional Roman hoplite equipment to the sheer naked body. They did carry spears and shields, although the shields were not fully made of steel like in 300.
In addition, while Leonidas is the only one with a feathered plume in his helmet, that wasn’t actually the case. One quick look at any historical image of the Spartan army will confirm that all soldiers wore a feather plume. However, while it’s an inaccurate choice, it makes sense for the film because the plume makes Leonidas stand out as a leader.
The Persians Weren’t Monsters
Snyder took a lot of liberties when it came to the depiction of the Persian army and their war tactics. 300 portrays some of them as hideously deformed and others as actual monsters, such as the massive man who has blades for hands. In addition, the movie features Xerxes using elephants and rhinos as weapons of war. Unfortunately, this fantastical depiction is nothing more than that — pure fantasy.
While it’s a genius way to really make the enemy look more antagonistic and intimidating, these depictions are wrong. Xerxes never used rhinos and elephants in battle, but he did use horses. Likewise, the Persian soldiers were not deformed or monstrous entities. Sure, it’s a great way for Snyder’s movie to enhance the fantasy element that originated from Miller’s comic, but it serves no greater purpose.
Pythia Is Living the Dream
The Oracle scene in 300 seems supernatural, but it’s actually based in reality. Unfortunately, the film didn’t accurately portray the Oracle and all the honor that comes with such a job. Pythia, the most beautiful girl in all of Sparta, is selected by the Epheros to be their oracle and deliver messages from the Gods. When one of the Epheros approaches her, his movements seem creepy and slightly perverted, considering his monstrous appearance.
This gives the impression that Pythia is ultimately subject to their whims and not in a position of control, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The job of a priestess, especially the Pythia (a title held by many women over the years), was a highly respected career for women. In reality, the Pythia had many liberties and perks for their social standing, including the right to own property and a salary provided by the state.
The Betrayal Wasn’t Personal
300 did Ephialtes no favors with his hunchbacked appearance, but he really did betray the Greek army. The film depicts him as a Spartan who was turned down by Leonidas when he offered to fight by his people’s side, which makes his betrayal extremely personal and a little justified. However, in reality, Ephialtes wasn’t a Spartan.
The only reason Ephialtes betrayed his homeland was in hopes of a reward from the Persians. He led the Persians down a trail over the mountains to cut the Greek forces off before they could escape, only for Leonidas to send away the bulk of the army and stay behind with 300 Spartan soldiers to defend their retreat. In Greek culture, the story of Ephialtes epitomizes the archetypal traitor and his name eventually became another meaning for “nightmare.”
KEEP READING: Zack Snyder Reveals His Favorite Parts of WW84
Malcolm & Marie: 5 Romantic Breakdown Films to Watch After the Netflix Movie