The movie 300, based on the epic graphic novel of Frank Miller, is about the Spartan King Leonidas and his army of three hundred men. The film chronicles the rigid upbringing of Leonidas and his defiance of the then Persian King – Xerxes – and the whole Persian Empire which eventually lead to the heroic battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. In this famed battle, Leonidas, with only a handful of three hundred men, had resolved to prepare themselves for battle against the advancing troops of Persia, in spite of the odds. For one thing, Sparta’s religious custom forbade at that particular time of the year (August) for their army to launch an attack or anything of that sort because of the coming festival of Carneia. Engagement to war would be an open rebellion against Sparta’s sacred tradition. Besides, the oracle predicted doom if war is pursued.
King Leonidas and the three hundred Spartan men stood their ground and fought against the divine Xerxes and his seemingly indestructible army, numbering by the millions. Although in this battle against the Persians, the Spartans seemed to have lost because of the death of Leonidas and his three hundred army, it nevertheless ignited a sense of unity and hope and renewed courage among the Spartans and the rest of Greece, when one of the three hundred named Dilios (in the film) returned to Sparta through the commission of Leonidas himself (before he died) and tell those who remained an eyewitness account of the three hundred Spartans’ battle led by King Leonidas against the invincible Persian soldiers. This only survivor was named in history as Aristodemus; he lost one eye in the battle.
~ The Dialogue between Leonidas and the First Persian Emissary.
The first of the series of events that led to the climax of the story was the coming of the first Persian Emissary. He came with his entourage with just a simple request from King Leonidas: for Sparta to offer “earth and water” as token of submission to the Persian King. The conversation between King Leonidas and the Emissary was so subtle that it eludes detection. It was a battle of words. Leonidas had forewarned the Emissary already to “choose carefully his words,” which he seemed to have ignored, because of arrogance due to the mighty Empire that he represented. Leonidas would have none of the demands of King Xerxes because he understood it would mean the slavery of all Spartan families.
~ Meeting with Ephialtes.
On their way to meet the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae, Leonidas had a talk with Ephialtes. It was a crucial point in the story. When Leonidas rejected Ephialtes’ request to join the three hundred, it devastated the man and made out of him a traitor. He later decided to join the Persian troops and helped them by divulging to them the way to the rear of the Spartans; this led to the defeat of the Spartan’s three hundred. He was bribed with all the pleasures that life would otherwise deprive him by King Xerxes himself. In a miserable and desperate condition, Ephialtes had no other choice but to succumb to Xerxes offers; he knelt down and paid his homage to the King as unto a god.
~ The Council’s Audience with Leonidas Wife (Sparta’s Queen Gorgo).
Because of the unpopular decision of Leonidas to wage that battle against the Persians to protect Sparta, the Spartans, especially the Council, were divided whether to send more troops to reinforce the three hundred men army of Leonidas. The odds against the support of the council were aggravated by the smear campaign of one of the councilmen, Theron. He blackmailed the Queen, and after succeeding, he yet continued his campaign to discourage the Council’s support and opposed the Queen while she was pleading before the chamber for the future of Sparta’s families and children. Councilman Theron charged that it was Leonidas who brought that war on Sparta, and the Queen defended it was the Persian King Xerxes who brought war on them. Their exchanged of words had become heated because of Theron’s contempt of the Queen until finally, because the Queen could not contain it any longer, she grabbed a soldier’s sword and pierce the councilman with it to his death.
~ Leonidas’ Final Encounter with Xerxes and His Army, The Immortals.
This was to be the last and final battle with which Leonidas and his three hundred army would engage. As usual, the pleadings of the divine Xerxes through his spokesperson was for Leonidas to surrender his arms and bow before him as god. Leonidas could retain the land of Sparta, he would be declared the greatest warlord in all of Greece, and most of all spared with the three hundred of their lives. At this final encounter, Ephialtes the traitor was with the Persian army already, begging and pleading with Leonidas to use his reason and surrender. This episode was the peak of the movie. It was breath-taking as it seemed to have changed and convinced Leonidas to lay down his arms and accept the terms of Persia’s King. But then, Leonidas as it was consistent with his person and Sparta’s esteem, continued his defiance of Persia’s rule to the end – until his and all the army of three hundred’s death.
The movie is all about courage, and dignity, and pride in one’s legacy. Though short and somewhat foolhardy, it will not fail to stimulate patriotism and love for noble principles, and sharpen one’s eyes to choose the best decision where the situation seems to offer none.