Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Three Hundred Ancient Long-Hairs Coming to a Theater Near You

In 480 BC, three hundred Spartans fought thousands of Persians to the death at the battle of Thermopylae in Greece , and now it's coming to the silver screen.

I hope the movie will be good, but you can also read Stephen Pressfield's Gates of Fire, or better yet, read Herodotus's nearly contemporaneous, 5th-century account.

One bad sign from the movie trailer: Gerard Butler (playing King Leonidas) has short hair. Oops. The Spartans gloried in their long hair. From Herodotus's account of the day before the great battle:

At this time the Spartans were keeping watch near the edge of the perimeter, and they were seen by a Persian spy. Some of them were working out, others were combing their long hair. The spy was completely amazed at this, but he counted the Spartans, and when he had gathered accurate information, he rode back quietly. None of the Spartans pursued him or even paid any attention to him at all, though they saw him.
Another bad sign from the trailer: Butler yells a lot. The Spartans (also called Laconians) were famous for their gift for compact and witty understatement. (Hence the term "laconic.") A typical Laconian bon mot: when the Persian despot Xerxes demanded the arms of the Spartans through his emissary, Leonidas replied, molon labe ("come and get them"). I'm sure he said it very quietly.

Still, I'm going to see the movie.

4 comments:

Kim said...

Hey! You're posting again! Welcome back! :-)

son2 said...

Glad to see you're posting agin, too, Dr. Wharton. I'm still working on my classical Greek and wanted to tell you I had my first big payoff on it this past weekend.

One of the early reading exercises in C. Shelmerdine's Greek book was an excerpt from Herodotus (the part where one of the allies of the Spartans says, "the Persians are so many that their arrows darken the sun..."). So I was watching previews before The Departed last Saturday when I recognized that line in the Gates of Fire trailer ("then we shall fight in the shade"). I turned to the girl I was with and said, "yeah, that line is more dramatic in the original Greek..." : )

David Wharton said...

Son2, I hope she was that librarian you've all been blogging about over at Quantum of Wantum, or you're toast, son.

And Kim, thanks!

son2 said...

Ha! I wish... See, a librarian might actually have been impressed by my erudition. The girl I was with, though, was an old friend, and she was less than overwhelmed.

Oh well...