The Battle of Thermopylae has been lauded as one of the most important battles in ancient European history. It demonstrates the power an army of…

The Battle of Thermopylae has been lauded as one of the most important battles in ancient European history. It demonstrates the power an army of freemen can wield when defending their homeland.
In 480 BCE King Leonidas of Sparta gathered a small group of men to fight the invading Persians. Although vastly outnumbered, the Spartan men planned to stop King Xerxes invasion at the Thermopylae (literally: “Hot Gates”), a small road that provided passage from the Aegean Sea into Greece.  Leonidas’ men planned to use the geography of the land to their advantage as a way of preventing their being overwhelmed by Xerxes army which number 100,000 to 300,000 respectively.  This small group of Spartans held the Persians off for two days and 2 nights.  On the third day the Spartans were betrayed by Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan who had been prohibited from fighting. Ephialtes tells the Persians of a narrow pass that will lead behind the Greek lines jeopardizing the Spartan position.  On the third day the Spartans are surrounded and ultimately all killed in the subsequent battle.
The events of this historic event have been told numerous times. Three of which will be studied for this discussion.
Selections from “The Histories” by Herodotus.  Herodotus chronicled the events of his time.  Although his stories contain facts he also took some liberties with the events.The 1998 comic book series 300 written and illustrated by Frank Miller. This graphic novel presents a fictional retelling of the three day event through the eyes of Leonidas of Sparta. Miller was inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans which he had seen as a child.  Also read the Text interview with Miller.Opens in a new windowThe movie 300 produced in 2007. Hollywood adapted a film version of Miller’s comic by the same name.Based on your reading of Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, and either Herodotus or the comic 300, as well as your viewing of the Hollywood film 300:
Analyze the historical context of the movie and either the writings of Herodotus or the comic as compared with what we know from history. Discuss the kinds of “liberties” the director chose take with the film version. In what ways is the film historically accurate and in what ways does it deviate from known history? From the comic? In what ways might the film make visible the limits of recorded history–i.e., especially when analyzing something from thousands of years ago, what do we do with the idea of “accuracy”? When does it make sense to take “liberties” when addressing periods in history? Are there other film or media examples that might shed additional light on this discussion?
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