There are considerable similarities between Herodotus’ portrayal of the Battle of Thermopylae and the modern depiction of the event by Frank Miller as there are differences. A case in point of a similarity is the representation of Spartan women. The 300 actually represented Spartan women. The film shows a strong-willed Queen Gorgo who offers advice to her husband concerning political and military matters. At one point, a Persian messenger felt that a woman was not supposed to speak on such matters. Herodotus’ portrayal shows the same empowerment of women in the Spartan community. Another similarity is the Spartans’ culture of consulting the oracle. Just like the movie, Herodotus’ account says “for the Spartans had consulted the oracle about the war at its very outset” (p.591). Other similarities include the portrayal of the difference between Greeks and Spartans, the representation of immortals as a fighting unit, the betrayal of Ephialtes, and the actual number of Spartans who went to Battle.
Even so, there are many differences between the two accounts. For instance, Frank Miller’s portrayal of the Persian army as some kind of monsters was historically inaccurate according to Herodotus. Correspondingly, the Persian King Xerxes also never went to the front line as the movie shows. The two accounts, however, portray Persians as weaker than they had portrayed themselves. Herodotus’ version claims that the Persian king called the army under the command of Hydarnes “the immortals” (p.586), but later cites that it “fared no better than the Medes” (p.586). Overall, Herodotus’ account and the movie both share similarities and disparities.
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