I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard people ranting about how historically inaccurate the movies “300” and its sequel “300: Rise of an Empire” are. The best place to find this is in the comments section of pretty much ANY 300-related clip on Youtube. People get really passionate about it, getting into lengthy
arguments debates about not only its portrayal of Spartans and Greek history, but also how negatively the Persians are portrayed. Whenever I feel like jumping into such… discussions, I try to explain that these movies are based on a comic book by Frank Miller, and NOT the historical events they depict.
So, just for the heck of it, I thought I’d summarize here. For those who don’t know, “300” was a limited comic mini-series released back in 1998. It was written by Frank Miller, who most people know as the author of The Dark Knight Returns – the comic that is largely credited for Batman’s resurgence in the late 80’s. He’s also worked on things no one has ever heard of, like Daredevil, Sin City, and The Spirit. Oh, and he created some character called “Elektra”. And in case you’re not catching the sarcasm here, these bits on his resume makes him one of the top 10 comics writers in… well, the history of comics writing, I guess.
See, when the 300 comic came out, it got a lot of the same guff that the movies get – it’s historically inaccurate, it portrays the Persians in a terrible, almost racist light, and the other Greeks not much better. Oh, and the Spartans come out looking like God’s gift to supermen. Well, there’s a reason for that. These comics are NOT supposed to be history, they’re a visual representation of stories told BY the Spartans to OTHER Spartans. Naturally, there’s going to be a bit of spin to the stories, and that’s where most of the vitriol gets confused. The very POINT of these tales is to show the Spartans in an incredibly good light as compared to other Greeks, and especially when compared to their opponents – the Persian armies of Xerxes.
This fact is clearly shown in the films as well, with the first movie being narrated by Dilios (David Wenham‘s character, whom you probably know as Faramir from the first three Lord of the Rings movies.) He is, in fact, telling the story to get his fellow Spartan soldiers psyched up for the battle. The second movie, which is based on a sequel comic that Miller wrote but never published, is likewise a story being told by Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey, probably best known for her current role as Queen Cercei on Game of Thrones).
If you liked the movies & read comics, I encourage you to track down the comics and read them. The second isn’t available yet AFAIK, but the first can be found in either the original 5 issues or in a collected hardback edition. Here’s an Amazon link to the hardback for your convenience. And, by all means, if you see someone ranting about how inaccurate the movies (or comics) are, feel free to jump in there and tell them WHY they’re inaccurate. Or just sit there and shake your head at the ignorance being displayed… sometimes that’s fun, too.