Leonidas - King of Sparta, 300 and Facts

Leonidas - King of Sparta, 300 and Facts

Leonidas (c. until his death at the Battle of Thermopylae against the Persian army in 480 B.C. Although Leonidas lost the battle, his death at Thermopylae was seen as a heroic sacrifice because he sent most of his army away when he realized that the Persians had outmaneuvered him. Three hundred of his fellow Spartans stayed with him to fight and die. Almost everything that is known about Leonidas comes from the work of the Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-c. 425 B.C.).

Training as a Hoplite

Leonidas was the son of the Spartan king Anaxandrides (died c. 520 B.C.). He became king when his older half-brother Cleomenes I (also a son of Anaxandrides) died under violent, and slightly mysterious, circumstances in 490 B.C. without having produced a male heir.

As king, Leonidas was a military leader as well as a political one. Like all male Spartan citizens, Leonidas had been trained mentally and physically since childhood in preparation to become a hoplite warrior. Hoplites were armed with a round shield, spear and iron short sword. In battle, they used a formation called a phalanx, in which rows of hoplites stood directly next to each other so that their shields overlapped with one another. During a frontal attack, this wall of shields provided significant protection to the warriors behind it. If the phalanx broke or if the enemy attacked from the side or the rear, however, the formation became vulnerable. It was this fatal weakness to the otherwise formidable phalanx formation that proved to be Leonidas’ undoing against an invading Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.

Xerxes and the Persian Invasion

Ancient Greece was made up of several hundred city-states, of which Athens and Leonidas’ Sparta were the largest and most powerful. Although these many city-states vied with one another for control of land and resources, they also banded together to defend themselves from foreign invasion. Twice at the beginning of the fifth century B.C., Persia attempted such an invasion. In 490 B.C. the Persian king Darius I (550-486 B.C.) instigated the initial such attempt as part of the First Persian War, but a combined Greek force turned back the Persian army at the Battle of Marathon. Ten years later, during the Second Persian War, one of Darius’ sons, Xerxes I (c. 519-465 B.C.), again launched an invasion against Greece.

Battle of Thermopylae

Under Xerxes I, the Persian army moved south through Greece on the eastern coast, accompanied by the Persian navy moving parallel to the shore. To reach its destination at Attica, the region controlled by the city-state of Athens, the Persians needed to go through the coastal pass of Thermopylae (or the “Hot Gates,” so known because of nearby sulfur springs). In the late summer of 480 B.C., Leonidas led an army of 6,000 to 7,000 Greeks from many city-states, including 300 Spartans, in an attempt to prevent the Persians from passing through Thermopylae.

Leonidas established his army at Thermopylae, expecting that the narrow pass would funnel the Persian army toward his own force. For two days, the Greeks withstood the determined attacks of their far more numerous enemy. Leonidas’ plan worked well at first, but he did not know that there was a route over the mountains to the west of Thermopylae that would allow the enemy to bypass his fortified position along the coast. A local Greek told Xerxes about this other route and led the Persian army across it, enabling them to surround the Greeks. Much of the Greek force retreated rather than face the Persian army. An army of Spartans, Thespians and Thebans remained to fight the Persians. Leonidas and the 300 Spartans with him were all killed, along with most of their remaining allies. The Persians found and beheaded Leonidas’ corpse–an act that was considered to be a grave insult.

After the Battle

Leonidas’ sacrifice, along with that of his Spartan hoplites, did not prevent the Persians from moving down the Greek coast into Boeotia. In September 480 B.C., however, the Athenian navy defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis, after which the Persians returned home. Nonetheless, Leonidas’ action demonstrated Sparta’s willingness to sacrifice itself for the protection of the Greek region.

Leonidas achieved lasting fame for his personal sacrifice. Hero cults were an established custom in ancient Greece from the eighth century B.C. onward. Dead heroes were worshipped, usually near their burial site, as intermediaries to the gods. Forty years after the battle, Sparta retrieved Leonidas’ remains (or what were believed to be his remains) and a shrine was built in his honor.

Leonidas was the second son of King Anaxandridas and his first wife. Because of their difficulties conceiving, Anaxandridas had been allowed to have a second wife alongside the first, and as a result had several potential heirs.

First sons of Spartan kings were exempted from the agoge, the rigorous training regime all other male Spartan citizens were put through. As Leonidas was not expected to inherit the throne he was one of the few Spartan kings to receive agoge training, which included combat, tolerance of pain, stealth, communications and loyalty to Sparta.

Leonidas, the king of Sparta

Leonidas (540-480 BC), the legendary king of Sparta, and the Battle of Thermopylae is one of the most brilliant events of the ancient Greek history, a great act of courage and self-sacrifice. This man and the battle itself has inspired since then many artists, poets and film-makers that hymn the spirit of him and his Spartans.

Little is known about the life of Leonidas before the Battle of Thermopylae. Historians believe that he was born around 540 BC and the he was son of King Anaxandrias II of Sparta, a descendant of Hercules, according to the myth. Leonidas was married to Gorgo and had a son. He must have succeeded his half-brother to the throne at around 488 BC, till his death in 480 BC. His name meant either the son of a lion or like a lion.

In summer of 480 BC, Xerxes, the king of Persia, was attacking Greece with a big and well-equiped army. As he had already conquered northern Greece and he was coming to the south, the Greeks decided to unite and confront him in Thermopylae, a narrow passage in central Greece. Leonidas and his army, 300 soldiers, went off to Thermopylae to join the other Greek armies. The Greeks altogether were about 4,000 soldiers, while the Persian army consisted of 80,000 soldiers.

Xerxes waited for 4 days before he attacked, believing that the Greeks would surrender. When Xerxes sent his heralds to the Greeks, asking for their weapons, as a sign of submission, Leonidas said the historical phrase Come and get them!, declaring the beginning of the battle.

The first days, the Greeks were resisting, until a local man, Ephialtes, revealed to the Persians a secret passage to circle the Greeks and win the battle. Seeing that the Persian army were about to circle them, Leonidas asked the other Greeks to leave the battlefield. He proposed that he and his army would stay back to cover their escape, while the other Greeks would leave to protect the rest of Greece from a future Persian invasion.

Therefore, Leonidas with his 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians, who refused to leave, stayed back to fight the huge Persian army. They were all killed in the battlefield, in this deathtrap, protecting theie homeland and their values. After all, it was disgraceful for a Spartan to return to Sparta beaten in war. A Spartan would either return from war as a winner, or he should not return at all.

Today, a modern monument lies on the site of the battle in Thermopylae to remind of this courageous action, while the tomb of this legendary king lies in his homeland, Sparta.

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What Do You Really Know About King Leonidas and His 300 Spartan Warriors?

In 499 BCE, the Greek empire was vulnerable as it was comprised of city-states located in close proximity to the powerful Persian empire. Sparta — one of the central, more important city-states — was then ruled by the Agiad Dynasty — a paragon of Spartan values who were believed to descend from Hercules himself. This reality, and this royal family, are the setting Leonidas was born into. Leonidas’s father was King Anaxandrides, and he passed away when his son was only 10 years old.

The army

Along with incredible physical shape and stamina, Spartan warriors were also mentally trained to never give up or show signs of weakness. Officially known as Hoplite warriors, the Spartan soldiers trained and fought using short iron swords, round shields, and 8-foot-long spears. Their fighting technique involved getting in a formation called a phalanx — a tight rectangle made of rows of warriors standing shoulder to shoulder. This formation was very effective at the frontline but left the warriors stationed on the sides and the back vulnerable.

Assuming the throne

Since Leonidas wasn’t the eldest son, he wasn’t raised to become a politician but rather to command an army. But Leonidas’s older brother died as well, leaving his warrior of a brother to command an army as well as rule Sparta. For ten years, Leonidas co-led Sparta with another king and watched a war unfolding with the neighboring Persian empire headed by King Xerxes I.

Going to war

When learning that Xerxes was planning to invade Greece, King Leonidas had to protect his land and his people. Being trained in military tactics, he chose to position his troops in a narrow passage called Thermopylae — a strategic location the Persians will need to cross in order to reach Sparta. He gathered 300 of his best-trained men and went to meet Xerxes and his army. They were joined by 7,000 more warriors from other Greek city-states and managed to hold off the opposing army. No easy feat considering they were greatly outnumbered by the Persian army of 80,000 soldiers.

The legacy

After a bloody battle where many of Greece’s warriors found their death, Persia overpowered Greece. Still, the courage Leonidas and his 300 men demonstrated earned them the reputation of national heroes. They were honored with statues and monuments, and their legendary battle went down in history for centuries.

40. Oh What’s in a Name?

The name “Thermopylae” translates to “Hot Gates” in the original Greek. This name was given to the narrow pass because of the warm sulphur springs which originated there. According to the Greek myths, the mighty warrior Heracles (often Latinized as Hercules) was tricked into putting on clothes which had been soaked in the blood of the Hydra. He was unable to take the clothes off and they began boiling him alive. When he jumped into the waters to cool himself down, the poison actually heated up the water and made it toxic, creating the sulphurous springs that gave the pass its name.

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Leonidas - King of Sparta, 300 and Facts - HISTORY

One such legend, which remains a model of heroism for White people everywhere, was the great battle at Thermopylae, which took place in the year 480 BC. The man of the hour was Leonidas of Sparta, a selfless warrior-hero, a strategist king and fearless commander.

The Spartans are renowned to this day for their expert fighting skills and warrior prowess. Only the strong survived in the disciplined Spartan armies. Trained only for battle, a young soldier knew but one home -- his barracks, one family -- his unit. Physical training was the chief occupation, and each man's day was spent in exercise or on the drill-ground.

Absolute devotion

By the age of twenty, each cadet became a fully-fledged warrior. On his thirtieth birthday, a Spartan was invested with the remainder of his civic rights and duties. Thenceforth he attended the Appela, the assembly of the people, and could vote on measures proposed by the two kings or by the Ephoroi, Sparta's five-man judiciary. At this time he was also allowed to marry and to establish his own household, although still bound to dine in common with his peers.


Women in Sparta were accounted the most beautiful in all of Hellas, while at the same time they were known to be as tough in spirit as the men. It was common for mothers to order their warrior sons as they went off to battle: "Come back with your shield, or on it."

The men were encouraged rigorously to procreate. Just as cowardice was recognized as most despicable and abhorrent, so likewise was chastity among men. Celibacy was a crime, and street gangs of women were known on occasion to beat up bachelors. "Sparta was hardly famous for chaste women," commented Euripides. However, aside from their procreative responsibilities, the Spartans were recognized as the freest people in all of Greece. The citizens themselves were called 'the equals', and in theory all were equal in both war and government.

The states of Ancient Greece and the Persian Empire were separated by the Aegean Sea. By 500 BC, the Persians, led by King Darius, began to thrust westward, taking many of the cities which formed the outposts of Greek civilization. The conquered Ionian Greeks revolted in 499, and Athens and Eretria sent help. But Darius stamped out the uprising by 490 BC and, by 481 his son Xerxes had succeeded to his throne and was busy amassing a vast army to invade Greece proper.

The Greeks held a superb defensive position at the Pass of Thermopylae ("Hot Gates" -- so named for its thermal springs). Flanked by mountains, the pass narrowed at one point to a path just fifty feet wide. Leonidas, the Spartan King, who had command over the whole Greek army, held the pass with about 7,000 troops. They included his own royal guard, all the fathers of sons, chosen so that even if a guardsman fell his name and his blood would live on.

The studied fearlessness of the Spartans was illustrated by the reply one of them made when told that the Persian army was so vast that the arrows of its archers would darken the sky: "So much the better, we can fight in the shade."


Confident in their abilities, the Spartans had no fear of confrontation with anyone, regardless of how vast an army approached. Xerxes felt certain that the sheer weight of numbers of his men would force the Spartans to decamp. He let four days pass with this notion. On the fifth day he concluded that his opponents must indeed be obstinate fools, and sent forth his men with orders to capture them and bring them to his presence alive.

The attack proved both costly and futile. With his regular troops being butchered, Xerxes was forced to dispatch his best fighters, the 'Immortals'. Again, however, the Spartans outfought the Persians. A written account from the Greek historian Herodotus records that: "The Spartans' remarkable handling of the battle, too, showed the superiority of their tactics. Often they would feign flight and then, when the noisy rabble pursued, they would swing round and slaughter them in heaps. Three times, it is said, Xerxes leapt from his throne in terror for his army." [Image: Hoplite killing a Persian, from a cup by the Triptolemos Painter.]

The next day proved no better for the Persian hordes, whose casualties littered the field. As evening fell on the second day of battle, Xerxes was at a loss as to how the iron grip of the Spartans on the pass could be broken. A Greek traitor came to his aid, informing him of a mountain top trail by way of which the Persians could outflank their hardy enemies.

Grim determination

Facing overwhelming numbers, the Spartans fell back, forming a compact body on a hillock. Herodotus would later recall this final stand: "They fought with their swords, if they had them, but if not, with their hands and teeth."

Leonidas fell fighting bravely, and a fierce struggle raged over the body of the Spartan king. Four times the Persian advance was repulsed with heavy losses, including two of Xerxes' brothers, until the Spartans were overwhelmed by the arrows they had mocked a few days before.

Xerxes himself did not set foot on the battlefield until it was all over, but he knew that he had just seen the most extraordinary fighting men in the world. Viewing the carnage before him, he turned to the Greek, Demaratus: "Now tell me, how many men of the Lacedaimon remain, and are they all such warriors as these fallen men?"

"Sire," replied Demaratus, "there are many men and towns in Lacedaemon. But I will tell you what you really want to know: Sparta alone boasts 8,000 men. All of them are the equals of the men who fought here."

Xerxes had the body of Leonidas beheaded and crucified. But such an example was wasted on the remaining Spartans, only heightening their avenging anger. Indeed, only a few months later, they caught up with Xerxes and, in the climactic Battle of Plataea, drove the Persian horde forever from Hellenic soil.

History would repeat itself at Thermopylae, during World War Two. This time the British held the pass, only to be outflanked and overwhelmed by the Germans.

The place remains, however, best known for the earlier clash of arms. Following the defeat of Leonidas the Spartan, the Greeks built a monument to mark the spot where the heroes died. Upon it were carved no lofty words of praise, no boasts or laments, but one simple, concise verse:


In 479 B.C., one year after the Battle of Thermopylae, Dilios, a hoplite in the Spartan army, begins his story by depicting the life of Leonidas I from childhood to kingship via Spartan doctrine. Dilios's story continues and a Persian herald arrives at the gates of Sparta demanding "earth and water" as a token of submission to King Xerxes—the Spartans reply by throwing the envoy and his escort into a deep well. Leonidas then visits the Ephors, proposing a strategy to drive back the numerically superior Persians through the Hot Gates. His plan involves building a wall in order to funnel the Persians into a narrow pass between the rocks and the sea: negating the Persian advantage in numbers, and giving the Greeks' heavy infantry the advantage over the vast waves of Persian light infantry. The Ephors consult the Oracle, who decrees that Sparta may not go to war during the Carneia. As Leonidas angrily departs, an agent from Xerxes appears, rewarding the Ephors for their covert support.

Although the Ephors have denied him permission to mobilize Sparta's army, Leonidas gathers three hundred of his best soldiers in the guise of his personal bodyguard. They are joined along the way by a force composed of a few thousand Arcadians and other Greeks. At Thermopylae, they construct the wall, using slain Persian scouts as mortar. Stelios, an elite Spartan soldier, orders an enraged Persian emissary to return to his lines and warn Xerxes, after cutting off his whipping arm.

Meanwhile, Leonidas encounters Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan whose parents fled Sparta to spare him certain infanticide. Ephialtes asks to redeem his father's name by joining Leonidas' army, warning him of a secret path the Persians could use to outflank and surround the Spartans. Though sympathetic, Leonidas rejects him since his deformity physically prevents him from holding his shield high enough, potentially compromising the phalanx formation.

The battle begins soon after the Spartans' refusal to lay down their weapons. Using the Hot Gates to their advantage, as well as their superior fighting skills, the Spartans repel wave after wave of the advancing Persian army. Xerxes personally approaches Leonidas and offers him wealth and power in exchange for his submission. Leonidas declines and mocks the inferior quality of Xerxes' fanatical warriors. In response, Xerxes sends in his elite guard, the Immortals the Spartans nonetheless defeat them with few losses, with slight help from the Arcadians.

On the second day, Xerxes sends in new waves of armies from Asia and other Persian subject states, including war elephants, to crush the Spartans, but to no avail. Meanwhile, an embittered Ephialtes defects to Xerxes to whom he reveals the secret path in exchange for wealth, luxury, women, and a Persian uniform. The Arcadians retreat upon learning of Ephialtes' betrayal, but the Spartans stay. Leonidas orders an injured but reluctant Dilios to return to Sparta and tell them of what has happened: a "tale of victory".

In Sparta, Queen Gorgo tries to persuade the Spartan Council to send reinforcements to aid the 300. Theron, a corrupt politician, claims that he "owns" the Council and threatens the Queen, who reluctantly submits to his sexual demands in return for his help. When Theron disgraces her in front of the Council, Gorgo kills him out of rage, revealing within his robe a bag of Xerxes' gold. Acknowledging his betrayal, the Council unanimously agrees to send reinforcements. On the third day, the Persians, led by Ephialtes, traverse the secret path, encircling the Spartans. Xerxes' general again demands their surrender. Leonidas seemingly kneels in submission, allowing Stelios to leap over him and kill the general. Angered, Xerxes orders his troops to attack. Leonidas throws his spear at Xerxes, barely missing him the spear cuts across and wounds his face, proving the God-King's mortality. Leonidas and the remaining Spartans fight to the last man until they finally succumb to an arrow barrage.

Dilios, now back in Sparta, concludes his tale before the Council. Inspired by Leonidas' sacrifice, the Greeks mobilize. One year later, the Persians face an army of 30,000 free Greeks led by a vanguard of 10,000 Spartans. After one final speech commemorating the 300, Dilios, now head of the Spartan Army, leads them to battle against the Persians across the fields of Plataea.

    as Leonidas, King of Sparta. as Dilios, narrator and Spartan soldier. as Queen Gorgo, Queen of Sparta (Gorgo has a larger role in the film than she does in the comic book, where she only appears in the beginning). [6]
  • Giovanni Cimmino as Pleistarchus, son of Leonidas and Gorgo (Pleistarchus does not feature in the comic book). [6] as Theron, a fictional corrupt Spartan politician (Theron is not featured in the comic book). [6] as Captain Artemis, Leonidas' loyal captain and friend. as Astinos, Captain Artemis' eldest son. In the film Astinos has a constant presence until he dies. In the comic book, the Captain's son is only mentioned when he dies. [6] as Daxos, an Arcadian leader who joins forces with Leonidas. as Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan outcast and traitor. as King Xerxes, the powerful and ruthless god-like supreme king of Persia. as the Loyalist, a loyal Spartan politician. as Stelios, a young, spirited and highly skilled Spartan soldier. as a Persian messenger who gets kicked into the well by Leonidas. as Pythia, an Oracle to the Ephors.
  • Eli Snyder as young Leonidas (7/8 years old). as young Leonidas (15 years old). as Über Immortal (giant), a muscular and deranged Immortal who battles Leonidas during the Immortal fight. as the Persian General who tries to get Leonidas to comply at the end of the battle.
  • Leon Laderach as Executioner, a hulking, clawed man who executes men who have displeased Xerxes. as the whip-wielding Persian Emissary.

Producer Gianni Nunnari was not the only person planning a film about the Battle of Thermopylae director Michael Mann already planned a film of the battle based on the book Gates of Fire. Nunnari discovered Frank Miller's graphic novel 300, which impressed him enough to acquire the film rights. [7] [8] 300 was jointly produced by Nunnari and Mark Canton, and Michael B. Gordon wrote the script. [9] Director Zack Snyder was hired in June 2004 [10] as he had attempted to make a film based on Miller's novel before making his debut with the remake of Dawn of the Dead. [11] Snyder then had screenwriter Kurt Johnstad rewrite Gordon's script for production [10] and Frank Miller was retained as consultant and executive producer. [12] Frank Miller's original graphic novel 300 was inspired by the film The 300 Spartans, which Miller first saw at age 6. [13]

The film is a shot-for-shot adaptation of the comic book, similar to the film adaptation of Sin City. [14] Snyder photocopied panels from the comic book, from which he planned the preceding and succeeding shots. "It was a fun process for me… to have a frame as a goal to get to," he said. [15] Like the comic book, the adaptation also used the character Dilios as a narrator. Snyder used this narrative technique to show the audience that the surreal "Frank Miller world" of 300 was told from a subjective perspective. By using Dilios' gift of storytelling, he was able to introduce fantasy elements into the film, explaining that "Dilios is a guy who knows how not to wreck a good story with truth." [16] Snyder also added the subplot in which Queen Gorgo attempts to rally support for her husband. [17]

Two months of pre-production were required to create hundreds of shields, spears, and swords, some of which were recycled from Troy and Alexander. Creatures were designed by Jordu Schell, [18] and an animatronic wolf and thirteen animatronic horses were created. The actors trained alongside the stuntmen, and even Snyder joined in. Upwards of 600 costumes were created for the film, as well as extensive prosthetics for various characters and the corpses of Persian soldiers. Shaun Smith and Mark Rappaport worked hand in hand with Snyder in pre-production to design the look of the individual characters, and to produce the prosthetic makeup effects, props, weapons and dummy bodies required for the production. [19]

300 entered active production on October 17, 2005, in Montreal, [20] and was shot over the course of sixty days [19] in chronological order [17] with a budget of $60 million. [21] Employing the digital backlot technique, Snyder shot at the now-defunct Icestorm Studios in Montreal using bluescreens. Butler said that while he did not feel constrained by Snyder's direction, fidelity to the comic imposed certain limitations on his performance. Wenham said there were times when Snyder wanted to precisely capture iconic moments from the comic book, and other times when he gave actors freedom "to explore within the world and the confines that had been set". [22] Headey said of her experience with the bluescreens, "It's very odd, and emotionally, there's nothing to connect to apart from another actor." [23] Only one scene, in which horses travel across the countryside, was shot outdoors. [24] The film was an intensely physical production, and Butler pulled an arm tendon and developed foot drop. [25]

Post-production was handled by Montreal's Meteor Studios and Hybride Technologies filled in the bluescreen footage with more than 1,500 visual effects shots. Visual effects supervisor Chris Watts and production designer Jim Bissell created a process dubbed "The Crush," [19] which allowed the Meteor artists to manipulate the colors by increasing the contrast of light and dark. Certain sequences were desaturated and tinted to establish different moods. Ghislain St-Pierre, who led the team of artists, described the effect: "Everything looks realistic, but it has a kind of a gritty illustrative feel." [19] [26] Various computer programs, including Maya, RenderMan, and RealFlow, were used to create the "spraying blood". [27] The post-production lasted for a year and was handled by a total of ten special effects companies. [28]

In July 2005, composer Tyler Bates began work on the film, describing the score as having "beautiful themes on the top and large choir," but "tempered with some extreme heaviness". The composer had scored for a test scene that the director wanted to show to Warner Bros. to illustrate the path of the project. Bates said that the score had "a lot of weight and intensity in the low end of the percussion" that Snyder found agreeable to the film. [29] The score was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and features the vocals of Azam Ali. [30] A standard edition and a special edition of the soundtrack containing 25 tracks was released on March 6, 2007, with the special edition containing a 16-page booklet and three two-sided trading cards. [31]

The score has caused some controversy in the film composer community, garnering criticism for its striking similarity to several other recent soundtracks, including James Horner and Gabriel Yared's work for the film Troy. The heaviest borrowings are said to be from Elliot Goldenthal's 1999 score for Titus. "Remember Us," from 300, is identical in parts to the "Finale" from Titus, and "Returns a King" is similar to the cue "Victorius Titus". [32] [33] [34] On August 3, 2007, Warner Bros. Pictures acknowledged in an official statement:

… a number of the music cues for the score of 300 were, without our knowledge or participation, derived from music composed by Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal for the motion picture Titus. Warner Bros. Pictures has great respect for Elliot, our longtime collaborator, and is pleased to have amicably resolved this matter. [35]

The official 300 website was launched by Warner Bros. in December 2005. The "conceptual art" and Zack Snyder's production blog were the initial attractions of the site. [36] Later, the website added video journals describing production details, including comic-to-screen shots and the creatures of 300. In January 2007, the studio launched a MySpace page for the film. [37] The Art Institutes created a micro-site to promote the film. [38]

At Comic-Con International in July 2006, the 300 panel aired a promotional teaser of the film, which was positively received. [39] Despite stringent security, the trailer was subsequently leaked on the Internet. [40] Warner Bros. released the official trailer for 300 on October 4, 2006, [41] and later on it made its debut on Apple.com where it received considerable exposure. The background music used in the trailers was "Just Like You Imagined" by Nine Inch Nails. A second 300 trailer, which was attached to Apocalypto, was released in theaters on December 8, 2006, [42] and online the day before. [43] On January 22, 2007, an exclusive trailer for the film was broadcast during prime-time television. [44] The trailers have been credited with igniting interest in the film and contributing to its box-office success. [45]

In April 2006, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced its intention to make a PlayStation Portable game, 300: March to Glory, based on the film. Collision Studios worked with Warner Bros. to capture the style of the film in the video game, which was released simultaneously with the film in the United States. [46] The National Entertainment Collectibles Association produced a series of action figures based on the film, [47] as well as replicas of weapons and armor. [48]

Warner Bros. promoted 300 by sponsoring the Ultimate Fighting Championship's light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, who made personal appearances and participated in other promotional activities. [49] The studio also joined with the National Hockey League to produce a 30-second TV spot promoting the film in tandem with the Stanley Cup playoffs. [50]

In August 2006, Warner Bros. announced 300 's release date as March 16, 2007, [51] but in October the release was moved forward to March 9, 2007. [41] An unfinished cut of 300 was shown at Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival on December 9, 2006. [52] 300 was released on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and HD DVD on July 31, 2007, in region 1 territories, in single-disc and two-disc editions. 300 was released in single-disc and steelcase two-disc editions on DVD, BD and HD DVD in region 2 territories beginning August 2007. On July 21, 2009, Warner Bros. released a new Blu-ray Disc entitled 300: The Complete Experience to coincide with the Blu-ray Disc release of Watchmen. This new Blu-ray Disc is encased in a 40-page Digibook and includes all the extras from the original release as well as some new ones. These features include a picture-in-picture feature entitled The Complete 300: A Comprehensive Immersion, which enables the viewer to view the film in three different perspectives. This release also includes a digital copy. [53] An Ultra HD Blu-ray edition of the film was released on October 6, 2020. [54]

On July 9, 2007, American cable channel TNT bought the rights to broadcast the film from Warner Bros. [55] TNT started airing the film in September 2009. Sources say that the network paid between $17 million [56] and just under $20 million [55] for the broadcasting rights. TNT agreed to a three-year deal instead of the more typical five-year deal. [56]

Box office Edit

300 was released in North America on March 9, 2007, in both conventional and IMAX theaters. [57] It grossed $28,106,731 on its opening day and ended its North American opening weekend with $70,885,301, [58] breaking the record held by Ice Age: The Meltdown for the biggest opening weekend in the month of March and for a Spring release. Since then 300 ' s Spring release record was broken by Fast and Furious and 300 ' s March record was broken by Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. [59] [60] 300 's opening weekend gross is the 24th-highest in box office history, coming slightly below The Lost World: Jurassic Park but higher than Transformers. [61] It was the third-biggest opening for an R-rated film ever, behind The Matrix Reloaded ($91.8 million) and The Passion of the Christ ($83.8 million). [62] The film also set a record for IMAX cinemas with a $3.6 million opening weekend. [63] The film grossed $456,068,181 worldwide.

300 opened two days earlier, on March 7, 2007, in Sparta, and across Greece on March 8. [64] [65] Studio executives were surprised by the showing, which was twice what they had expected. [66] They credited the film's stylized violence, the strong female role of Queen Gorgo which attracted a large number of women, and a MySpace advertising blitz. [67] Producer Mark Canton said, "MySpace had an enormous impact but it has transcended the limitations of the Internet or the graphic novel. Once you make a great movie, word can spread very quickly." [67]

Critical response Edit

Since its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 14, 2007, in front of 1,700 audience members, it received a standing ovation at the public premiere, [68] it was panned at a press screening hours earlier, where many attendees left during the showing and those who remained booed at the end. [69]

As of January 2021, on Rotten Tomatoes, the film had an approval rating of 61% based on 236 reviews, with an average rating of 6.10/10. The site's critical consensus read, "A simple-minded but visually exciting experience, full of blood, violence, and ready-made movie quotes." [70] As of October 2020, on Metacritic, the film had an weighted average score of 52 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". [71] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale. [72]

Some of the most unfavorable reviews came from major American newspapers. A. O. Scott of The New York Times describes 300 as "about as violent as Apocalypto and twice as stupid," while criticizing its color scheme and suggesting that its plot includes racist undertones Scott also poked fun at the buffed bodies of the actors portraying the Spartans, declaring that the Persian characters are "pioneers in the art of face-piercing", but that the Spartans had access to "superior health clubs and electrolysis facilities". [73] Kenneth Turan writes in the Los Angeles Times that "unless you love violence as much as a Spartan, Quentin Tarantino or a video-game-playing teenage boy, you will not be endlessly fascinated". [74] Roger Ebert gave the film a 2 out of 4 rating, writing, "300 has one-dimensional caricatures who talk like professional wrestlers plugging their next feud." [75] Some critics employed at Greek newspapers have been particularly critical, such as film critic Robby Eksiel, who said that moviegoers would be dazzled by the "digital action" but irritated by the "pompous interpretations and one-dimensional characters". [65] [76]

Variety's Todd McCarthy describes the film as "visually arresting" although "bombastic" [77] while Kirk Honeycutt, writing in The Hollywood Reporter, praises the "beauty of its topography, colors and forms". [78] Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper acclaims 300 as "the Citizen Kane of cinematic graphic novels". [79] Empire gave the film three out of five, writing, "Visually stunning, thoroughly belligerent and as shallow as a pygmy's paddling pool, this is a whole heap of style tinged with just a smidgen of substance." Comic Book Resources' Mark Cronan found the film compelling, leaving him "with a feeling of power, from having been witness to something grand". [80] IGN's Todd Gilchrist acclaimed Zack Snyder as a cinematic visionary and "a possible redeemer of modern moviemaking". [81]

Accolades Edit

At the MTV Movie Awards 2007, 300 was nominated for Best Movie, Best Performance for Gerard Butler, Best Breakthrough Performance for Lena Headey, Best Villain for Rodrigo Santoro, and Best Fight for Leonidas battling "the Über Immortal", [82] but only won the award for Best Fight. 300 won both the Best Dramatic Film and Best Action Film honors in the 2006–2007 Golden Icon Awards presented by Travolta Family Entertainment. [83] In December 2007, 300 won IGN's Movie of the Year 2007, [84] along with Best Comic Book Adaptation [85] and King Leonidas as Favorite Character. [86] The movie received 10 nominations for the 2008 Saturn Awards, winning the awards for Best Director and Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film. [87] In 2009, National Review magazine ranked 300 number 5 on its 25 "Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years" list. [88]

Historical inaccuracies Edit

In the actual Battle of Thermopylae, the Spartans had already joined an alliance with other Greek poleis against the Persians. During the 490 Battle of Marathon, Xerxes's invasion of Greece coincided with a Spartan religious festival, the Carneia, in which the Spartans were not permitted to make war. Still, realizing the threat of the Persians and not wanting to appear as Persian sympathizers, the Spartan government, rather than Leonidas alone, decided to send Leonidas with his personal 300-strong bodyguard to Thermopylae. [89] Other Greek poleis joined the 300 Spartan men and totaled somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 total Greek troops. The historical consensus among both ancient chroniclers and current scholars was that Thermopylae was a clear Greek defeat, and the Persian invasion would be pushed back only in later ground and naval battles. [90]

Since few records on the actual martial arts used by the Spartans survive aside from accounts of formations and tactics, the fight choreography, led by the stunt coordinator and fight choreographer Damon Caro, was a synthesis of different weapon arts with Filipino martial arts as the base. [91]

Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek History at Cambridge University, advised the filmmakers on the pronunciation of Greek names and said that they "made good use" of his published work on Sparta. He praised the film for its portrayal of "the Spartans' heroic code" and of "the key role played by women in backing up, indeed reinforcing, the male martial code of heroic honour", but he expressed reservations about its " 'West' (goodies) vs 'East' (baddies) polarization". [92] Cartledge wrote that he enjoyed the film but found Leonidas' description of the Athenians as "boy lovers" ironic since the Spartans themselves incorporated institutional pederasty into their educational system. [93]

Ephraim Lytle, assistant professor of Hellenistic history at the University of Toronto, said that 300 selectively idealized Spartan society in a "problematic and disturbing" fashion and portrayed the "hundred nations of the Persians" as monsters and non-Spartan Greeks as weak. He suggested that the film's moral universe would have seemed "as bizarre to ancient Greeks as it does to modern historians." [94] Lytle also commented, "Ephialtes, who betrays the Greeks, is likewise changed from a local Malian of sound body into a Spartan outcast, a grotesquely disfigured troll who by Spartan custom should have been left exposed as an infant to die. Leonidas points out that his hunched back means Ephialtes cannot lift his shield high enough to fight in the phalanx. This is a transparent defense of Spartan eugenics, and convenient given that infanticide could as easily have been precipitated by an ill-omened birthmark." [94]

Victor Davis Hanson, a National Review columnist and former professor of classical history at California State University, Fresno, wrote the foreword to a 2007 reissue of the graphic novel and said that the film demonstrated a specific affinity with the original material of Herodotus in that it captured the martial ethos of ancient Sparta and represents Thermopylae as a "clash of civilizations". He remarked that Simonides, Aeschylus, and Herodotus viewed Thermopylae as a battle against "Eastern centralism and collective serfdom," which opposed "the idea of the free citizen of an autonomous polis." [95] He also said that the film portrays the battle in a "surreal" manner and that the intent was to "entertain and shock first, and instruct second." [96]

Touraj Daryaee, who is now Baskerville Professor of Iranian History and the Persian World at the University of California, Irvine, criticized the film's use of classical sources by writing:

Some passages from the Classical authors Aeschylus, Diodorus, Herodotus and Plutarch are split over the movie to give it an authentic flavor. Aeschylus becomes a major source when the battle with the "monstrous human herd" of the Persians is narrated in the film. Diodorus' statement about Greek valor to preserve their liberty is inserted in the film, but his mention of Persian valor is omitted. Herodotus' fanciful numbers are used to populate the Persian army, and Plutarch's discussion of Greek women, specifically Spartan women, is inserted wrongly in the dialogue between the "misogynist" Persian ambassador and the Spartan king. Classical sources are certainly used, but exactly in all the wrong places, or quite naively. The Athenians were fighting a sea battle during this. [97]

Robert McHenry, the former editor-in-chief of Encyclopædia Britannica and the author of How to Know, said that the film "is an almost ineffably silly movie. Stills from the film could easily be used to promote Buns of Steel, or AbMaster, or ThighMaster. It's about the romanticizing of the Spartan 'ideal', a process that began even in ancient times, was promoted by the Romans, and has survived over time while less and less resembling the actual historical Sparta." [98]

The director of 300, Zack Snyder, stated in an MTV interview that "the events are 90 percent accurate. It's just in the visualization that it's crazy. I've shown this movie to world-class historians who have said it's amazing. They can't believe it's as accurate as it is." Nevertheless, he also said the film is "an opera, not a documentary. That's what I say when people say it's historically inaccurate." [99] He was also quoted in a BBC News story as saying that the film is, at its core "a fantasy film". He also describes the film's narrator, Dilios, as "a guy who knows how not to wreck a good story with truth." [16]

In an interview the 300 writer Frank Miller, he stated, "The inaccuracies, almost all of them, are intentional. I took those chest plates and leather skirts off of them for a reason. I wanted these guys to move and I wanted 'em to look good. I knocked their helmets off a fair amount, partly so you can recognize who the characters are. Spartans, in full regalia, were almost indistinguishable except at a very close angle. Another liberty I took was, they all had plumes, but I only gave a plume to Leonidas, to make him stand out and identify him as a king. I was looking for more an evocation than a history lesson. The best result I can hope for is that if the movie excites someone, they'll go explore the histories themselves. Because the histories are endlessly fascinating." [100]

Dr. Kaveh Farrokh, in the paper "The 300 Movie: Separating Fact from Fiction," [101] noted that the film falsely portrayed "the Greco-Persian Wars in binary terms: the democratic, good, rational 'Us' versus the tyrannical, evil and irrational, 'other' of the ever-nebulous (if not exotic) 'Persia ' ". He highlighted three points regarding the contribution of the Achaemenid Empire to the creation of democracy and human rights: "The founder of the Achaemenid Empire, Cyrus the Great, was the world's first emperor to openly declare and guarantee the sanctity of human rights and individual freedom. Cyrus was a follower of the teachings of Zoroaster, the founder of one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. When Cyrus defeated King Nabonidus of Babylon, he officially declared the freedom of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. This was the first time in history that a world power had guaranteed the survival of the Jewish people, religion, customs and culture." He abolished slavery. [102]

General criticism Edit

Before the release of 300, Warner Bros. expressed concerns about the political aspects of the film's theme. Snyder relates that there was "a huge sensitivity about East versus West with the studio." [103] Media speculation about a possible parallel between the Greco-Persian conflict and current events began in an interview with Snyder that was conducted before the Berlin Film Festival. [104] The interviewer remarked that "everyone is sure to be translating this [film] into contemporary politics." Snyder replied that he was aware that people would read the film through the lens of current events, but no parallels between the film and the modern world were intended. [105]

Persian King Xerxes I has been criticized for being portrayed as of African descent. [106]

Outside current political parallels, some critics have raised more general questions about the film's ideological orientation. The New York Post ' s Kyle Smith wrote that the film would have pleased "Adolf's boys," [107] and Slate's Dana Stevens compared the film to The Eternal Jew "as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war. Since it's a product of the post-ideological, post-Xbox 21st century, 300 will instead be talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between movies and video games." [108] Roger Moore, a critic for the Orlando Sentinel, relates 300 to Susan Sontag's definition of "fascist art". [109]

Newsday critic Gene Seymour, on the other hand, stated that such reactions are misguided, writing that "the movie's just too darned silly to withstand any ideological theorizing." [110] Snyder himself dismissed ideological readings, suggesting that reviewers who critique "a graphic novel movie about a bunch of guys. stomping the snot out of each other" using words like " 'neocon,' 'homophobic,' 'homoerotic' or 'racist ' " are "missing the point". [111] Snyder, however, also admitted to fashioning an effeminate villain specifically to make young straight males in the audience uncomfortable: "What's more scary to a 20-year-old boy than a giant god-king who wants to have his way with you?" [112] The Slovenian critic Slavoj Žižek pointed out that the story represents "a poor, small country (Greece) invaded by the army of a much large[r] state (Persia)" and suggested the identification of the Spartans with a modern superpower to be flawed. [113]

The writer Frank Miller said: "The Spartans were a paradoxical people. They were the biggest slave owners in Greece. But at the same time, Spartan women had an unusual level of rights. It's a paradox that they were a bunch of people who in many ways were fascist, but they were the bulwark against the fall of democracy. The closest comparison you can draw in terms of our own military today is to think of the red-caped Spartans as being like our special-ops forces. They're these almost superhuman characters with a tremendous warrior ethic, who were unquestionably the best fighters in Greece. I didn't want to render Sparta in overly accurate terms, because ultimately I do want you to root for the Spartans. I couldn't show them being quite as cruel as they were. I made them as cruel as I thought a modern audience could stand." [100]

Michael M. Chemers, author of " ' With Your Shield, or on It': Disability Representation in 300" in the Disability Studies Quarterly, said that the film's portrayal of the hunchback and his story "is not mere ableism: this is anti-disability." [114] Frank Miller, commenting on areas in which he lessened the Spartan cruelty for narrative purposes, said: "I have King Leonidas very gently tell Ephialtes, the hunchback, that they can't use him [as a soldier], because of his deformity. It would be much more classically Spartan if Leonidas laughed and kicked him off the cliff." [100]

Iranian criticism Edit

From its opening, 300 also attracted controversy over its portrayal of Persians. Officials of the Iranian government [115] denounced the film. [116] [117] [118] Some scenes in the film portray demon-like and other fictional creatures as part of the Persian army, and the fictionalized portrayal of Persian King Xerxes I has been criticized as effeminate. [119] [120] Critics suggested that it was meant to stand in stark contrast to the portrayed masculinity of the Spartan army. [121] Steven Rea argued that the film's Persians were a vehicle for an anachronistic cross-section of Western aspirational stereotypes of Asian and African cultures. [122]

The film's portrayal of ancient Persians caused a particularly strong reaction in Iran. [123] Various Iranian officials condemned the film. [124] [125] [126] The Iranian Academy of the Arts submitted a formal complaint against the film to UNESCO that called it an attack on the historical identity of Iran. [127] [128] The Iranian mission to the UN protested the film in a press release, [129] and Iranian embassies protested its screening in France, [130] Thailand, [131] Turkey, [132] and Uzbekistan. [133] The film was banned within Iran as "hurtful American propaganda". [134] Reviewers in the United States and elsewhere "noted the political overtones of the West-against-Iran story line and the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks." [135] With illegal versions of the film already available in Tehran with the film's international release and news of the film's surprising success at the US box office, the film prompted widespread anger in Iran. Azadeh Moaveni of Time reported, "All of Tehran was outraged. Everywhere I went yesterday, the talk vibrated with indignation over the film." [136] Newspapers in Iran featured headlines such as "Hollywood declares war on Iranians" and "300 Against 70 Million,* the latter being the size of Iran's population. Ayende-No, an independent Iranian newspaper, said, "The film depicts Iranians as demons, without culture, feeling or humanity, who think of nothing except attacking other nations and killing people." [136] Four Iranian Members of Parliament have called on Muslim countries to ban the film, [137] and a group of Iranian film makers submitted a letter of protest to UNESCO regarding the film's misrepresentation of Iranian history and culture. [138] The cultural advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the film an "American attempt for psychological warfare against Iran." [139]

Moaveni identified two factors that may have contributed to the intensity of Iranian indignation over the film. Firstly, she described the timing of the film's release, on the eve of Norouz, the Persian New Year, as "inauspicious." Secondly, Iranians tend to view the era depicted in the film as "a particularly noble page in their history." Moaveni also suggested that "the box office success of 300, compared with the relative flop of Alexander (another spurious period epic dealing with Persians), is cause for considerable alarm, signaling ominous U.S. intentions." [136]

According to The Guardian, Iranian critics of 300, ranging from bloggers to government officials, described the movie "as a calculated attempt to demonise Iran at a time of intensifying U.S. pressure over the country's nuclear programme." [137] An Iranian government spokesman described the film as "hostile behavior which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare." [137] Moaveni reported that the Iranians with whom she interacted were "adamant that the movie was secretly funded by the U.S. government to prepare Americans for going to war against Iran." [136]

300 has been spoofed in film, television, and other media, and spawned the "This is Sparta!" internet meme. [140] Skits based upon the film have appeared on Saturday Night Live [141] and Robot Chicken, the latter of which mimicked the visual style of 300 in a parody set during the American Revolutionary War, titled "1776". [142] Other parodies include an episode of South Park named "D-Yikes!", [143] the short film United 300 which won the 2007 MTV Movie Spoof Award, [144] and "BOO!" by Mad magazine in its September 2007 issue #481, written by Desmond Devlin and illustrated by Mort Drucker. [145] 20th Century Fox released Meet the Spartans, a spoof directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Universal Pictures once planned a similar parody, titled National Lampoon's 301: The Legend of Awesomest Maximus Wallace Leonidas. [146] Samurai Jack, an American animated series by Genndy Tartakovsky, also paid homage to the Battle of Thermopylae in the 12th episode of its second season. [147]

The Spartan Remix was also created by merging trailers from the film with a song made by Keaton from Keaton's World.

300, particularly its pithy quotations, has been "adopted" by the student body of Michigan State University (whose nickname is the Spartans), with chants of "Spartans, what is your profession?" becoming common at sporting events starting after the film's release, and Michigan State basketball head coach Tom Izzo dressed as Leonidas at one student event. [148] [149] Nate Ebner, a football player with the New England Patriots in the National Football League and formerly with the Ohio State Buckeyes, was nicknamed "Leonidas," after the Greek warrior-king hero of Sparta acted by Gerard Butler in the movie 300, because of his intense workout regimen, and his beard. [150]

In June 2008, producers Mark Canton, Gianni Nunnari and Bernie Goldmann revealed that work had begun on a sequel to 300, 300: Rise of an Empire. [151] Legendary Pictures had announced that Frank Miller started writing the follow-up graphic novel, and Zack Snyder was interested in directing the adaptation, but moved on to develop and direct the Superman reboot Man of Steel. [152] [153] Noam Murro directed instead, while Zack Snyder produced. The film focused on the Athenian admiral, Themistocles, as portrayed by Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton. The sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, was released on March 7, 2014. [154]

Depending on the type of Spartan the height of a Spartan II (fully armoured) is 7 feet tall (spartan 3) 6𔄁 feet tall (spartan II) 7 feet tall (spartan 4), and have a reinforced endoskeleton.

The (artistic) tragic part to this is that, if Leonidas had thrown a slight bit softer, the spear would have plunged a few inches lower, and the throw would have gotten Xerxes in the chest (and probably kill him). And so Leonidas dies having missed because he “tried too hard” to get distance on his throw.

10 Fearless Facts About Sparta that Tell Us what it Was Really Like

The story of Sparta (now Sparti) and Spartans has been one that sounds really cool every time we hear it. What most of us know about Sparta is about King Leonidas and his battle with the 300. Actually, that Battle of Thermopylae was not fought with 300 soldiers. It was fought with 7,000 soldiers against an army of over a million.

Did you know that during the battle King Leonidas was 60 years old? There is more to Sparta. Once Philip II of Macedon wanted to conquer Sparta. He sent a warning to the Spartans that read, “If I win this war, you will be slaves forever.” The Spartans replied with just one word, “If…” Their boldness paid off and Philip II left Sparta alone. Here are more such interesting facts about Sparta.

1. Babies in Sparta would be bathed in wine instead of water when they were born. Then they were taken to the council of elders to judge their fitness for rearing. Their cries were frequently ignored and they were commanded not to fear anything.

Image source: sammlung.pinakothek.de

Spartans followed the eugenics doctrine of selective breeding where the strong lived and the weak died. As soon as a baby was born, the mother would bathe the baby in wine to see how strong it was. If the baby survived, the council of elders in Sparta would examine the child for any physical defects. The child’s father would bring the baby to them and they would declare if the child was fit for rearing and, in the future, fit to be a Spartan soldier. If the council felt that the child was unfit or deformed, many sources state that the child would be thrown into a chasm of Mount Taygetos.

However, this has been disputed. Some other sources state that if the council found the child to be unfit, the baby would be abandoned and left to either die or to be rescued by strangers. Any kind of weakness was not tolerated in ancient Sparta. (1, 2)

2. Schools in ancient Sparta underfed boys to force them to steal food. If caught, they were punished severely. This was done to toughen them up and prepare them for going days without food during battles. Those boys who did not answer questions wittily or bravely were also punished.

Image credits: Warner Bros. Pictures

From the day a Spartan child was born, their military training began. When the male Spartans turned seven they began an education system called the “Agoge.” They lived in communal messes where they were given the right amount of food to not let them become sluggish and that taught them what it meant to not have enough. They were trained to survive in starvation. They were underfed and forced to steal food. When they stole, they were punished. Special punishments were also imparted when the boys did not answer questions laconically (derived from another name for Sparta – Lacedaemonia) which meant wittily and bravely. Apart from this, they also learned reading, writing, and other things.

The Spartan girls too went through education which was similar to that of the boys with less emphasis on military training. Sparta was the only city-state where women received formal education in ancient Greece. They were also trained in sports, gymnastics, music, poetry, and war-education. (1, 2)

3. To demonstrate to the youth how not to act and to give a lesson of self-control, the Spartans would force their slaves to get drunk on wine and make a fool of themselves in public.

Image credit: Fernand Sabatté/Wikimedia Commons

The helots, or the slaves, were a constant threat to the Spartans as they outnumbered them. To prevent uprisings, the Spartans devised various methods. Essentially a military society, Sparta needed their youth to be epitomes of self-control and self-discipline. And to do this, they made them learn through example. It was like killing two birds with one stone.

The Spartans would make the helots get drunk on wine on purpose and then show their young boys how the slaves behaved foolishly. The youth were told that they should never act the way the helots did, and the helots felt humiliated. At an early age of 20, Spartan youth became soldiers and served in the army until they were 60. These boys were taught to fight in a phalanx formation where coordination and discipline were extremely necessary. (source)

4. At the height of its power in 479 BCE, the number of slaves in Sparta was seven times the number of its free citizens. Some 250 years later, 6,000 slaves earned enough wealth to buy their own freedom.

Image credit: Philipp von Foltz/Wikimedia

We have heard of the Spartans, but we have not heard much about the others who lived among them. The helots, or the slaves of Sparta, did everything that was too low a task for a Spartan. They plowed fields, cleaned, cooked, built structures, worked as artisans, made wine, and did other such things. Per every free citizen of Sparta, there were seven helots. The Spartans were largely dependent on their slaves. Some Spartan men would breed with helot women to increase the population of the helots. These children were known as “nothoi.” The Spartans distrusted the helots and every year, there would be mass murders carried out so the helots would not rebel.

But the helots were not exactly poor even though they did not have voting rights. They could retain 50% of the fruits of their labor, get married, and were allowed to practice religious rites. They could till their own lands and earn enough to make themselves rich. Some 6,000 helots collected enough wealth to buy their freedom in 227 BCE. (1, 2)

5. The founder of Sparta, Lycurgus, made the people vow to follow his laws until he returned from his trip to Delphi. He voluntarily exiled himself and never returned.

Image credits: USCapitol/flickr, Mattpopovich/flickr

Various historians and philosophers like Herodotus, Plato, and Plutarch talk about Lycurgus. He is known to be the lawgiver of Sparta and the founding father. His laws promoted the three Spartan virtues of equality, austerity, and military fitness. After the death of his older brother, he became the king of Sparta, but his efficient way of handling the affairs in Sparta made his older brother’s widow jealous who then accused him of plotting his brother’s death. Lycurgus transferred his kingship to his nephew, his older brother’s son, and left Sparta and traveled far and wide. When the Spartans begged him to return, he did and enforced a system of laws bringing about massive change. He also sought guidance from the Oracle at Delphi who reassured him that what he was doing was right for Sparta.

After some time passed and when Lycurgus was confident that his reforms had worked, he assembled the people and made everyone vow that they would follow his laws until he returned. He said he was going to Delphi to sacrifice to the god Apollo. In another version, it is stated that he told the Spartans that something of importance had to be done, and therefore he had to go to Delphi. He left and voluntarily exiled himself, ultimately sacrificing his life at Delphi by starving himself to death. For the next five hundred years, his laws strengthened Sparta until the rule of Agis when greed ruined the country. (1, 2)

Leonidas - King of Sparta, 300 and Facts - HISTORY

Leonidas at Thermopylae by Jacques-Louis David (Public Domain)

Leonidas I of Sparta (CC BY-SA 4.0)

A romantic version painting of the Battle of Salamis by artist Wilhelm von Kaulbach. (Public Domain)

Greek and Persian warriors depicted fighting on an ancient kylix. 5th century BC. (Public Domain)

Watch the video: Λεωνίδας ο βασιλιάς της Σπάρτης!!!