MTV reported last week that a sequel to 300 is well and truly in the works, supposedly dealing with the events between the Battle of Thermopylae (in which three hundred Spartans and seven hundred Thespians fought to the last man, the latter of which not depicted in the 2007 blockbuster) and the Battle of Plataea which occured a year after the former in 479 BCE. One thing that really got to me about 300 was that there was no mention of the Battle of Salamis or the actions of the Athenian Themistocles. Athens itself is only mentioned once, when Leonidas callously describes its citizens as “philosophers and boy lovers” (erroneous in the strictest sense as Spartans too practiced pederasty). I realise there’s only so much one can fit into a 120 minute film and I’m not sure whether the Athenians are mentioned in the graphic novel or not, but still. 300 itself is somewhat of a revamp of a 1962 film called 300 Spartans, which inspired the writer and illustrator of the 300 graphic novel Frank Miller. It’s the kind of film you might find on at 11am on channel 4 during a bank holiday weekend. Nevertheless, in this classic Leonidas encounters the Athenian navy general Themistocles before marching to Thermopylae and the two devise a plan where the Spartans- being the best infantry force in Hellas- will engage the Persians on land and the Athenians- having the greatest navy- will launch a simulatenous attack at sea. To cut a long story short, once the Spartans learn that they have been betrayed Leonidas makes the valiant desicion to keep the Persians at bay long enough for Themistocles to evacuate the Athenians to Salamis as he knows that Athens will be the first port of call for Xerxes who is looking to avenge his father Darius for his defeat against the Athenians a decade ago at Marathon. According to our primary source Herodotus, this was actually the case. The importance of Leonidas’ actions can never be forgotten. Instead of returning to Sparta and fortifying the Peloponnese as many of his countrymen wished, the king gave his life up so that the Athenians could survive, as he knew in the long run the Athenian navy would be the key to victory for all of Greece. In 300 Leonidas is ‘patriotic’ (if we can use such a word) for Sparta; he is portrayed as being mainly concerned for the safety of his kingdom. In the 300 Spartans, Leonidas is shown as being much more of a panhellenist- that is, a lover of all of Hellas (Greece). If this element had been incorporated into 300 then I think it would have made the film something more.
Which is why I am so eager to see this sequel come through. If we get to see the events of the Battle of Salamis (where Themistocles did destroy the Persian navy and turn the tide of the war) then maybe we will see a more panhellenic side of Leonidas, who is due to return in some form (flashbacks?).
That being said, I would be content with another Sparta-centred flick. Let’s not beat around the bush, and it kills me to say this, but we loved 300 because of the action. People loved the Spartans because they were fighting machines with abs the size of mountains and had the fervour to do bitchin’ things like this:
I’ve seen that film a thousand times and that scene still gives me goosebumps. It’s so god damn epic. Plus, it gave birth to a whole new meme.
Ultimately however I will be happy with whatever direction the sequel goes. As long as it is to do with ancient Greece and warfare, the classicist inside me will rest.