North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › The Danger of the "300"

The Danger of the "300"

A former member
Post #: 12
The Danger of the "300"


Last night I discovered a movie was being released about the "300". This of course refers to the three hundred Spartans who in 481 B.C. defended the pass of Thermopylae from the greatest Empire the world had yet seen, the Persians, and their Great King, Xerxes, son of Darius, who commanded in person.

Having seen only the trailer for the movie, I am both excited about the possibilities and cautious about the results.

The trailer makes it seem as if the object of the Persian invasion was Spartan submission. While that may have been one possible objective, the main objective was the crushing of Hellas (Thucydides' name for Greece), especially Athens. Years before (494 B.C.) when Persia invaded and conquered the Ionian Greek (known as the Ionian Revolt) cities of Western Asia Minor only Athens came to their defense. In retribution, Darius, Great King of Persia, dispatched a mighty force to crush Athens. The Athenians asked the Spartans to help--they refused. And so the full force of the wrath of Asia fell on the citizen-soldiers of Athens on the plain of Marathon. It was Athens who defeated Darius under the waning moon. The event was ever after commemorated on the coins of Athens, the first international coinage, to Sparta's great shame.

It was Athens, above all, who the Persian Great King wished to punish. But the idea of three hundred standing against a multitude has a romantic quality that popular history as embraced. The Spartan King, Leonides, defiantly telling Xerxes when he was asked to lay down his arms "Molon lave" -- Come and take them, rings out across time as a refusal to submit. Inspiring.

But I also heard, in the trailer, comments about living free. The Spartans were the least free people in Greece. They were bound in a uniquely stable but repressive system designed to stop change, stop growth, and freeze the human imagination. They had no coinage and no trade-goods. No great literature. No monumental building. No great historians or philosophers. Their entire bequest to history is their military innovation and reputation. So it is with some caution that I approach the movie's understanding of freedom.

The Greeks viewed the Persians as barbarians. Even great Aristotle had called the minions of Asia such. For they did prostrate themselves before the Great King and such an act was repugnant to the Greeks. I might add that this is something that nearly cost the thug Alexander the Great his crown.

And did the three hundred stop the advance of the Persian juggernaut into the heart of Hellas? No. In fairness it did two things:

1) It provided a heroic, if somewhat sacrificial, act for the Greeks to rally around.

2) It slowed the Persian advance enough to give the other Greeks time to prepare.

Athens was still the target. And in September of 480 B.C. the full measure of Persian Imperial wroth descended like a scourge into the sacred plain of Attica. No doubt Xerxes' men enjoyed their view of tiny Athens surrounded by her mountains. Mount Hymettus, Mount Pentele, Mount Parnes and Mount Aigaleon, she was open only to the sea to the south.

And it was to the sea that Athens turned. Her merchant navy became the lifeline of civilization. Virtually the entire population of Attica emptied and left, from the mountains of Marathon to the lowlands of Eleusis. The brilliant strategy of Athens general Themistocles was a masterpiece of planning and organization.

Athens, and the rest of the Greeks who joined them, met the Persians in one of the largest navel confrontations in the entire history of mankind. In the waters of the Straits of Salamis the Greeks broke the back of Persian domination before the eyes of the Persian Great King--and history.

This victory ushered in the Golden Age. The great building projects, the literature, the histories, the philosophy, that has passed down to us are the result of the men, women, children of Athens and their brave leader Themistocles.

Where is their movie?

And this is why I approach this entire movie with some caution. We've seen "Troy", a useless war caused by a faithless Spartan wife, and now, again, a retelling of Thermopylae. We've been treated to "Alexander", the tale of a thug told by a worshiper of dictators, but what of the glory of Athens?

Has the goddess left her temple?



NOTE:
I hope Jeff does not mind my typographical edits in this post.
Meetup's system only recognizes a limited character set. Commonly used character symbols that Meetup's system does not recognize include curly quotes, curly apostrophes, or em-dashes, and it replaces those unrecognized "smart" or extended typographical characters with question marks. This is very annoying. I took the liberty of fixing them in this post.
-- Todd
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 408
Jeff,

Thanks for making this post. I have long been intrigued by this history, and your post places the parts in more perspective for me.

...The Spartans were the least free people in Greece. They were bound in a uniquely stable but repressive system designed to stop change, stop growth, and freeze the human imagination. They had no coinage and no trade-goods. No great literature. No monumental building. No great historians or philosophers. Their entire bequest to history is their military innovation and reputation.


I especially liked this comment. The Spartan society bore little resemblance to the more civilized society of Athens, and even today, the word "spartan" means "severely simple" or "unsparing and uncompromising in discipline."

My understanding is that the Spartan society was highly segregated.

The Spartans depended on slaves. The slaves worked the fields, supported, and served the Spartans.

The women, male children under the age of seven, and elderly men lived in simple dwellings. All the dwellings were as identical as they could be made. All the furniture was identical as it could be made. All the tableware was identical. There was little or no art. The women, children, and elderly men were served and well fed by the slaves.

When a male child turned seven, he was sent to the military. The young boys and men lived in military camps. They basically lived outside. Each child was assigned an older man in some kind of mentor/guide relationship, which was intended to be very close. They trained endlessly with very simple but efficient weapons, including in the famous phalanx formation. The Spartan army was a terribly self-disciplined and fearsome killing machine. Once committed to a battle, they would not be expected to break or retreat, but only win.

They were extremely poorly fed, food that was badly cooked, not enough, and perhaps even disgusting. This was intentional. The men were expected to forage and steal to supplement this hideous standard fare. Theft was guarded against, but was not considered immoral. Only getting caught was considered immoral and shameful. I think the idea was that they should be able to steal and forage when necessary, without getting caught.

There is a story where a very young man had managed to steal an animal; I think it was a fox. While standing in formation for some sort of an inspection, the story goes that the animal was biting and scratching to get out, and tore into the man's abdomen. The man stood there in silence rather than get caught. Later, he may have died from the wounds, but his action was celebrated as a moral ideal.

I think all the marriages were arranged. A man would basically be directed to a particular dwelling one night to "steal" into the room of the woman to be his wife. They were only allowed together at night, only occasionally, and only for extremely short periods of time. The only purpose was reproduction. A married man and woman would not be likely to be able to recognize each other on the street if they happened to pass by one another.

The military supervised the slaves in the fields and guarded the Spartans from the slaves day and night. A Spartan would kill any slave that stood out in any way, that showed any sign of being rebellious or even of merely being above average in any respect.

The government was interesting, too. They did vote for some things. But if I remember right, it was only men over the age of 60 who were able to vote. (perhaps we could have that as a standard for NTOS?) They had two kings at the same time, on some division of power theory. I am not sure, but I think the kings were elected for life, but the votes also dealt with certain matters such as war. For example, the first order of business every year was to declare war on the slave population.

The Spartans had no money, and little or no trade, among each other or with the outside world. Travelers and visitors were not much welcome to Sparta, and they did not want their members to travel outside, either. They actually had very little contact with the rest of Greece, and their society was very different from those around them. By others, it was not considered a good place to live or visit.

It is amazing to me that Sparta lasted for several hundred years in this form.

Being so different, the Spartans were not inspired to help the other Greece city-states around them. Sparta actually only rarely used and risked its army in warfare. For example, when asked for help by others around them, the Spartans would see no benefit to themselves in doing that. They generally had poor relations with those around them. It was only in the face of the Persian invasion, which threaten all of the Greek city-states, that Sparta decided to cooperate, and then almost too little, too late.

The Spartans at Thermopylae were fighting for their lives, but they were certainly not fighting for their freedom.

The Spartans contributed nothing of their own to Western Civilization. But for the stand of one of the Spartan kings and 300 men at Thermopylae in defense of Greece, the cradle of Western Civilization, the Spartans would probably have been forgotten to history.

-- Todd
A former member
Post #: 13
Thanks Todd,

I don't mind that you made the edits. I wrote it in Word and not in the posting system.

I really don't hold out much hope for the movie. It's based on Frank Miller's graphic novel and Mr. Miller has a flair for the grotesque. As far as the actual history goes we'll have to wait and see. Most hollywood types can't spell history much less make a movie about historical events.

Based on the trailer it looks like more of an action pic with gratuious sex and violence LOOSELY based on the Battle of Thermopylae. It still might be an interesting movie, the cinematograhy looks neat.

Pytheus
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 384
Personally, I am a HUGE fan of Frank Miller. But I would never go to one of his movies and expect to get an accurate history lesson. I am looking forward to the movie.
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 258
Where is their movie?

And this is why I approach this entire movie with some caution. We've seen "Troy", a useless war caused by a faithless Spartan wife, and now, again, a retelling of Thermopylae. We've been treated to "Alexander", the tale of a thug told by a worshiper of dictators, but what of the glory of Athens?

Has the goddess left her temple?

This movie is simply an adaptation of a pretty good graphic novel that is a dramatization of the battle, not about Sparta or Persia or Greece, just the battle. There are many historical inaccuracies, and if you're really looking for a good historical account, I would not suggest going to see it. This movie is all about defiance and the idea that sometimes you have to lose to win, it's the Alamo in Greece. I fail to see any danger in it and am looking forward to seeing another great Frank Miller movie.

- Travis
A former member
Post #: 14
That's interesting. Lose to win? Do you care you explain that?

I haven't run into any Frank Miller fans before, especially among Objectivists, so I'm curious about what aspect you consider good. I'm familiar with his Dark Knight take on Batman. Have I missed some heroic aspect? Or is there some specific technical aspect of his writing that makes it good? I often like really otherwise bad writers because of some special charateristic of their writing.

The dangers in the story are of course the altruistic presumptions and the glorification of sacrifice. Of course Frank is famous for his "flawed" hero's. The anti-hero. Based on the trailer the Spartans are gifted with many exceptional powers of unnatural origin, so I would agree any sort of historical accuracy is out the window.

I wasn't expecting a discussion on the work of Frank Miller, so this comes as quite a surprise.

Pytheus
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 259
That's interesting. Lose to win? Do you care you explain that?

I haven't run into any Frank Miller fans before, especially among Objectivists, so I'm curious about what aspect you consider good. I'm familiar with his Dark Knight take on Batman. Have I missed some heroic aspect? Or is there some specific technical aspect of his writing that makes it good? I often like really otherwise bad writers because of some special charateristic of their writing.

The dangers in the story are of course the altruistic presumptions and the glorification of sacrifice. Of course Frank is famous for his "flawed" hero's. The anti-hero. Based on the trailer the Spartans are gifted with many exceptional powers of unnatural origin, so I would agree any sort of historical accuracy is out the window.

I wasn't expecting a discussion on the work of Frank Miller, so this comes as quite a surprise.

Pytheus

It's a comic book. It's entertaining. I like his style of presenting a story, I like the artistry and I like how his previous movie adaptations came out. I try not to over-analyze my entertainment to the point where I can't enjoy anything anymore.

As for the lose to win, sometimes to win at chess you have to give up your queen.

- Travis
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 385
The more I get to know Objectivists, the more I realize that although most are similiar in many ways, they are still very different in others. I think choice of entertainmnet and taste is a huge area of difference.

Personally, I enjoyed reading a lot of Miller's comic books many years ago. I enjoyed Sin City (the movie- I never read the comic book.) I would never consider his works "dangerous" because I don't see him as someone that is trying to shape some sort of philosophical mind set for others.

Now, Michael Moore, and others that have littered our screens with "documentaries", those are people that I consider perhaps a little dangerous. Though that may be giving them too much credit even. But they are the ones that cause damage, twisting reality.

Frank Miller is just one of many artists/writers that put out interesting stories, in my opinion. There are other artists and writers that I love too, that one could say just doesn't fit the "objectivist" taste if one were to try to stereotype what Objectivists are supposed to like.

Frank Miller is out to entertain, and while his style is definitely not for everyone (Objectivist, altruist or vegatarian, whatever). It is a matter of taste, that's all.
Tom
TAA1
McKinney, TX
Post #: 28
Jeff,

Great post! Love the history!

I'm very interested in seeing this movie.

Two reasons:

The first is the overall look of the film. I think it looks fantastic! I love the heightened realism--the bad guys are evil looking to the point of grotesque and the good guys are as heroic as greek statues.

The second reason I'm looking foward to it is that appears that freedom is the central theme. A barbarian society trying to enslave a free society--accurate or not it could be good popcorn entertainment.

Tom
A former member
Post #: 15
Cool. Thanks for the feedback.

Pytheus
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