As combat evolved the need to reduce casualties amongst those participating in the battle also increased in order to ensure that a standing army was always in place whenever required. Initially, those involved in warfare employed the use of various combat weapons at their disposal but forgot a crucial bit of weaponry; the shield. Experts in warfare soon implemented the mandatory use of shields in battalions and legions that would help raise the soldier’s chances of survival in the battlefield while ensuring that they were successful in their campaigns. In particular, the shield was used to deceive, defend, fortify, deflect and attack the belligerents in the hope that victory would be secured within the shortest time possible. The soldiers and warriors made use of both the sword and shield during battle in order to increase the chances of dealing a great blow to their opponents while at the same ensuring that they stayed protected from any of their attacks. The development of the extensive use of the sword and shield technique was particularly common among the Greeks and the Hellenic culture that they are mostly associated with (Lancaster 2). To protect themselves during battle, they developed an ingenious method of using the sword and shield simultaneously in order to increase their chances of survival during battle while defending every single inch of their territory. In this essay, the focus will be on the 2006 epic film 300 based on Frank Miller’s comic series by the same name and how the Spartan sword and shield were put to use while exploring its effectiveness in battle.
The film 300 is an adaptation of the historical Battle of Thermopylae a meticulously planned campaign by King Xerxes to incorporate Greece and its city-states into the Persian Empire. In bid to defend the area under his jurisdiction, King Leonidas of Sparta decides on a proactive move that would see him and his well-trained troops match to Thermopylae in a bid to prevent or even delay the Persian incursion into the Greek mainland. 300 dramatizes this historical account with King Leonidas (played by Gerard Butler) leading a band of 300 Spartans into battle against an invading Persian army that was 300,000 strong. King Leonidas had been warned earlier against waging this defensive war by the Oracle, but still went ahead to mobilize some of his best soldiers who were them joined by the Arcadians along the way in an effort to boost the numbers. During their journey to battle, encounters Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan who wanted to join the legion in spite of his deformity. When he was unable to raise his shield high enough, a requirement for the phalanx formation, he is enraged and soon meets with the Persians.
After refusing to make an alliance with King Xerxes, the stage is set for the clash that would take place between the two groups. From the film, it was apparent that the Spartans made use of both the sword and the shield. In most occasions, especially during close quarter combat, the shield would be strategically strapped on the arm to protect the warrior as he fought his way through enemy lines. From this combination of sword and shield, the phalanx formation developed in Greek warfare tactics. As accurately depicted in the film, the Spartan warriors would come together in dense close-rank groupings while interlocking their shields to create a protective layer that would be difficult for the Persians to penetrate (Otfinoski 12). Moreover, the shields were used to protect the advancing Persian invaders pushing them back and periodically switching to their blades to cut through their enemies. The expert use of the Spartan sword and shield in the battle brings to life historical fact that was hitherto only confine to history books about the Greek war tactic. The shields were also effective in protecting the Spartan warriors from the hail of Persian arrows that would rain on them in their hundreds. If the shields had been absent, the Spartans would not have held off the attack for the length of time that they actually did.
The sword and shield worked to the Spartan’s advantage in the film as they are able to effectively dodge strikes from their enemies while carrying out effective hit-and-run style attacks on their enemies. As a block weapon, the shield was used to hold back the Persians while the 300 or so Spartans went through the strategy that would be best used to battle the larger Persian group. Apart from allowing for speedy attacks on their enemies, the sword and shield combination among the Spartans allowed them to attack while also guarding themselves from enemy attacks. The Persians were more exposed as they did not use shields which they thought would reduce their agility. As a result, the Persians were agile but not well protected from their sworn enemies, the Spartans. Most of their attacks were quick and agile but soon resulted in their deaths as they could not sufficiently protect themselves from the sharp Persian swords that would soon slice through their flesh. Additionally, the shield created a blind spot that soon allowed them outmaneuver their enemies (Pressfield 4). With a blind spot created between the Spartan warrior and the Persian attacker, an approaching tactical offensive would often catch them off-guard. During most occasions, they would be under the perception that the intention of the Spartans was to defend their torso from direct impact when all along they had used this tactic to lure the attackers to their trap melee attack.