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300 (2006) More at IMDbPro »

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A NOTE REGARDING SPOILERS

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the largest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide. The Parents Guide for 300 can be found here.

The Battle of Thermopylae was an important battle during the Greco-Persian War, which took place during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It was a delaying action which held up Xerxes's Persian army long enough to allow the Greeks on the homefront to prepare a stronger defense. Despite the weeklong hold up however, Xerxes was still able to march into Greece and lay waste to Athens. Nevertheless, the time bought by the Spartans, Thespians, Thebans and their allies at Thermopylae made possible the later Greek victory at Plataea (shown at the end of the film) and the decisive sea battle at Salamis; Plataea signaled the defeat of Xerxes's army, and Salamis saw the destruction of the Persian navy. After these two resounding defeats, Xerxes abandoned his army and returned home, leaving his troops to be slaughtered on the long retreat through the Bosporus, where they had first crossed from Asia Minor into Europe.

The sacrifice of the Spartans at Thermopylae had greatly inspired other Greeks insofar as it was believed that these soldiers had given their lives to defend Greece as a nation, disdaining narrowly Spartan interests. When offered the crown of Greece by a Persian messenger, Spartan King, Leonidas answered, "If you knew what is good in life, you would abstain from wishing for foreign things. For me it is better to die for Greece than to be monarch over my compatriots." In this sense, the Battle of Thermopylae is often described as the birth of Greek nationalism, and thus of nationalism generally.

There are many historical books on Thermopylae. The source for much of what we know about the battle and its aftermath is The Histories, by Greek historian Herodotus. One of the best modern books is Thermopylae: The Battle for the West, by Ernle Bradford. The battle is the main subject of the fictional novel Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield, which is mostly accurate but does take some poetic license (Michael Mann has long been keen to adapt this novel into a film). Military historian Barry Strauss's book The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization is a good, quick history of the decisive naval battle, and Victor Davis Hanson discusses the cultural and historical significance of Salamis and the overall defeat of Xerxes in his book Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power.

According to ancient historian Herodotus, there were 5 million Persians at Thermopylae. Modern estimates however tend to run anywhere from 150,000 to 2 million. Britannica puts the number at 360,000. The History Channel places it at 250,000. At the commencement of the battle, there were 7100 Greek soldiers from various states commanded by the King of Sparta, Leonidas. When the Persians outflanked the Greeks on the third day of fighting, Leonidas ordered his 300 Spartans, as well as 400 Thebans, to cover a withdrawal by the rest of the Greeks. According to Herodotus (who provides a pro-Athenian point of view), Leonidas hoped to "secure the whole glory for the Spartans." However 700 Thespian hoplites refused the order to retreat, leaving roughly 1400 men to face the Persians. According to Herodotus, the Thebans eventually surrendered and were branded by the Persians (pro-Theban historian Plutarch wrote an angry response to this claim, entitled The Malice of Herodotus), whilst the Spartans and the Thespians fought to the death. For more information see: 'Master Thespians: Don't Prepare for Glory' by James S. Robbins and Herodotus' twenty-second logos: Thermopylae.

No. The graphic novel and the film fit the tradition of Greco-Roman art's concept of 'heroic nudity,' in which armor is not depicted in order to show the beauty of the human body. In reality however, it was the Spartans' heavy armor and perfect phalanx formation that helped give them such staying power against the more lightly armored Persians. Spartan and other Greek troops wore a bronze breastplate, a bronze helmet with cheek plates, greaves, and a bronze-plated shield approximately 3 feet in diameter, called an aspis or hoplon (from which the word 'hoplite' derives). The armor weighed a total of about 60 pounds (27 kilograms). Their primary weapon was a spear around 2.7 meters in length called a dory. Since this tended to break in battle, they also carried a 60 cm thrusting sword called a xiphos. Less commonly used was the Greek saber called a kopis. A depiction of a Greek hoplite killing a Persian soldier by the Greek painter Triptolemos can be found here.

Relatively speaking in relation to our society it was not, however in relation to other non-Greek ancient societies at the time it was, but not as free as Ancient Athens. All Spartan males were required to serve in the military. Men and women were educated in the subjects of war, battle, poetry and dance. Male children were separated from their parents at seven-years-old, and began their Agoge (a program where the child was indoctrinated in devotion to the State and military training). This was required of all male children.

Sparta, as a society, did not produce the level of literature, art, architecture that their biggest city-state competitor Athens had produced. However it's important to keep in mind that since the Spartans seldom wrote anything down, most of what we know about Sparta comes from the descriptions given by their bitter rivals the Athenians.

The Helots, descendants of an earlier conquered race of inhabitants from the region of Laconia, near where Sparta was located, were enslaved by the Spartans and forced to labor on large estates. When Spartan warriors were in shortage, Helots were forced into the military. They were slaves-for-life, however they could gain Spartan citizenship if they fought bravely in battle, as they sometimes did to augment Spartan troops. It's important to note however that slavery was a part of life in all ancient societies, including ancient Athenian society. So the Spartans were not unique in this regard, and slavery has been, and continues to be, practiced throughout most of human history.

Also what's interesting to note is that the founding fathers of the United States borrowed their idea of a three-branched government with checks and balances from the Spartans. Sparta had two kings, who served as commanders and chief of the Spartan military, and each King could veto the other in military affairs. Then there was the Gerousia, a body of 28 elders elected by democratic vote amongst the Spartan citizenry. The Gerousia was a kind of Senate, that could write bills, but the passage of such a bill into law required the approval of the Spartan citizenry through democratic vote. There was also the Ephors, five elders who were chosen by popular election who had most of the political control in Sparta. For example, the Ephors could strike down a law passed by the Gerousia as unconstitutional, similar to the power of the United States Supreme Court. The Ephors also had the power to remove a King if that King broke Spartan law. This political sophistication of checks and balances was one that not even Ancient Athens possessed.

Sparta was certainly more 'free' than any state under Persian domination. Classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson, who previewed the film and wrote a foreword for a movie tie-in book, says in his article "300: Fact or Fiction", True, 2,500 years ago, almost every society in the ancient Mediterranean world had slaves. And all relegated women to a relatively inferior position. Sparta turned the entire region of Messenia into a dependent serf state." However, he goes on to say that,


in the Greek polis alone, there were elected governments, ranging from the constitutional oligarchy at Sparta to much broader-based voting in states like Athens and Thespiae [...] Most importantly, only in Greece was there a constant tradition of unfettered expression and self-criticism, unlike the Persian Empire, where speaking against official policy of the emperor--a living god--was blasphemy.
Indeed, Aristophanes, Sophocles and Plato all openly questioned the subordinate position of women, whilst Alcidamas lamented the notion of slavery. With this in mind, Hanson argues that "such openness was found nowhere else in the ancient Mediterranean world. That freedom of expression explains why we rightly consider the ancient Greeks as the founders of our present Western civilization."

For more information on the intricacies of Spartan society, see Paul Cartledge's book The Spartans: The World of the Warrior Heroes of Ancient Greece.

Sparta eventually overextended itself by occupying both Athens and Thebes and attempting to impose aristocratic government on all of Greece. The Thebans revolted and defeated the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. Despite having fewer soldiers overall, Theban commander Epaminondas was able to plow through the Spartan right flank by making his own left flank 50 ranks deep. The Spartan phalanx was only 12 ranks deep, which was standard for a Greek army up to that point. After the battle, Epaminondas recreated the state of Messenia for the Spartan slaves (the Helots). The Thebans also built a city called Megalopolis so that the Akkadians (who provide the cowardly Greek militia in 300) could assert their own independence. Hemmed in by these two states, Sparta's role in Greek politics was greatly reduced. After the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, where the combined forced of Athens and Thebes were defeated by the Macedonian army under the command of Philip II, and Macedonian hegemony was adopted into Greek society, Sparta became incorporated into the Macedonian Empire. In 146 BC, the Romans conquered the city, whilst in AD 396, it was pillaged by the Visigoths under the command of Alaric I, and again by the Slavs in the 9th century.

No. Frank Miller invented this aspect of the story. In reality, Leonidas was second-in-line to the throne by hereditary right. His elder brother however, who was the rightful king, committed suicide before becoming king, and Leonidas was simply next in line. Bettany Hughes and Miller himself discuss this issue in the documentary "The 300: Fact or Fiction?", found on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD.

According to Passages from Herodotus' Histories (based on the English translation by George Rawlinson; 1858-60) each city had one and they were used for punishment, not just for emissaries, but for anyone who committed a crime. For more information, see "History of Sparta."

Spartan policy was not set by the kings, but by the Ephors, five men who formed an executive council that was elected annually (in 300, the Ephors are lecherous mystics who live on a mountaintop). According to Herodotus, the Ephors concluded that Sparta could afford to wait until after the city had celebrated the Carneian Festival before deploying the army. Xerxes had been delaying his invasion for months, so the Greeks did not realize that the main Persian thrust was imminent. Advised of the festival by exiled Spartan king Demaratus, Xerxes altered his plans so that the attack would take full advantage of the distraction offered by the festival. Other Greek states withheld troops because they were celebrating the Olympics, thus leaving the defense of Thermopylae seriously undermanned. Sparta traditionally restricted its military activity to the Peloponnesus (southern Greece), so it is possible that the Ephors favored a defense centered on the Isthmus of Corinth and were reluctant to send troops to the rescue of Thebes and Athens. This theory is part of the storyline of The 300 Spartans (1962), the movie that inspired Frank Miller to write the graphic novel on which 300 is based.

Politically speaking, the Ephors were actually the most important people in Spartan society and were an oligarchic body of counselors elected each year by popular election. Most likely Frank Miller portrayed the Ephors in such a negative manner as a kind of social commentary on politicians, portraying them as philosophically corrupt, morally repulsive, and having no regard for the people they represent. Their ugly appearance was most likely a metaphorical device for their portrayed immorality. They also represented mysticism, as they relied on the word of the Oracle over reason and logic, something that the protagonist, Leonidas, represented.

According to the audio commentary on the DVD, the words are entirely ad-libbed gibberish by actress Kelly Craig. Director Zack Snyder was delighted however when Craig worked the word "Carneia" into her lines. In the PSP game 300: March to Glory however, Delios (David Wenham) narrates, as he does for the film, and he clearly states that all the Ephors had to do to betray Sparta was slightly twist the Oracle's words.

Theron (Dominic West) had control over the senate, who could overrule the king in relation to state matters. So while Leonidas was in command, the Senate had more power than he did. Both Gorgo and Leonidas know Theron is a threat, but because of his position in the Senate, to arrest and/or execute him would look as if Leonidas had gone mad with power and was going against the Ephors.

Persia, with a population of about 20 million people, was the largest empire in history at the time the movie is set. The Persian Empire extended as far west as Egypt, north into southern Russia and east to modern-day Afghanistan. However, aside from Egypt, it did not include any other country in Africa, so the depiction of African Persians in the film is inaccurate. The physical appearance of Xerxes is also inaccurate -- the real Xerxes had a beard and never went near the front line. However, Xerxes form of rule is accurately depicted; Cyrus the Great, grandfather of Xerxes and founder of the empire, was described as a liberator and an ideal ruler both by Greek historian Xenophon, and in the Bible. According to the Book of Isaiah, Cyrus was "anointed by God." Xerxes however, claimed to be divine and ruled in a more authoritarian manner than previous Persian kings, reducing Egypt from an autonomous kingdom to a simple province. The depiction of the Immortals, Xerxes' elite soldiers, is also somewhat fanciful. They were lightly armored compared to the Greeks and carried wicker shields, but they weren't pseudo-demons as seen in the film, they were simply highly skilled men. The name refers to the custom of maintaining exactly 10,000 soldiers in the unit at all times. If an Immortal died in combat, another soldier would be inducted immediately to replace him.

Yes, although Ephialtes of Trachis was simply a normal looking man, without any physical deformities. As in the film, however, he did betray the Greek forces in exchange for money. He was most likely made to look disfigured in the film to imply that he is a weak and fragile character. By having Ephialtes malformed in the film, it gives Leonidas a practical reason to reject him from serving as a Spartan, and dramatic motivation for Ephialtes to turn to Xerxes in his need to prove himself. He is not so much "weak and fragile", as resentful of feeling spurned throughout his life.

To say "May you live forever" to a Spartan is to insult them, as a Spartan's goal in life was to die in the glory of battle. So to say to a fellow Spartan that you hope they live forever, is to deny them their glory. It also has a double-meaning when Leonidas says this, because he also wants Ephialtes to live forever with the guilt and shame of betraying the Spartans.

Yes, Delios (David Wenham) acts as the narrator of the film, but he also participates in the battle. In the first battle, when the two armies are pushing against one another, he can briefly be seen yelling "PUSH! PUSH!" right before Astinos gets his arm cut by a Persian spear. He can also be seen when fighting the Persian horse riders, and in the battle against the Immortals, as he saves Leonidas from getting decapitated by the Uber Immortal (Robert Maillet).

It isn't shown on camera, but it was likely during the battle where Astinos (Tom Wisdom) is killed. Prior to this battle, he was uninjured, but after it there is a scene showing him bandaging his eye.

At first glance it looks as if the Spartans would have been perfectly covered from the arrows if they had all stayed grouped together with their shields. When Leonidas pretends to kneel before Xerxes, he calls for Stelios (Michael Fassbender), so all the Spartans break free and are subsequently killed by arrows. This was done for one reason and one reason only. They knew they were going to die, even if they had stayed protected from the arrows, they would not have been able to defend themselves from ground troops for too long. So they used this moment to achieve a moral victory of sorts (see next question). The reason they break loose was to simply protect Leonidas from the arrows long enough for him to make his throw at Xerxes.

If one looks at the comic, it is clear that Leonidas hadn't intended to miss Xerxes. So if one accepts the film as a fundamentally straight translation of the graphic novel, Leonidas did not miss Xerxes on purpose. It could actually be that only wounding Xerxes caused more damage in the Persian ranks than if Leonidas should have killed him. If he had killed him, then the next king could easily claim that Xerxes was a false god. However, by merely wounding Xerxes, the Persian leadership itself would be weakened. Additionally, the Persians would now have a leader who is scarred and can thus no longer deny his own mortality, hence his entire basis as ruler is fundamentally jeopardized. Whether Leonidas intended to kill Xerxes or not, the outcome benefited Sparta.

'Message for the Queen' by Tyler Bates. The complete 300 soundtrack can be found here with scene descriptions.

Yes. Director Zack Snyder wanted the film to depict a Spartan army that was lean and cruel, rippled with muscle built from the hardships of life in Sparta. He wanted his actors to train like those warriors would have trained, developing a trust in one other which would show through onscreen. As such, the actors' training regime was handled by Gym Jones, under the supervision of world record holding professional mountain climber Marc Twight. During the 8 week regime, the same exercise was never repeated twice, and when it was over, Twight admitted that he had pushed the actors as hard as he had ever pushed anyone in his life. The training regime undergone by the actors is examined in a webisode on the 2-Disc DVD entitled "Training the Actors".

Yes, the pitch of Santoro's voice was lowered in editing to better fit the character. Director Zack Snyder stated in an interview, "because we scaled him as we did, when his normal voice played, it was [...] out of scale of his voice, not that it wasn't commanding. Rodrigo is about 6' 2''. In some ways it was foreign to him because now we've taken him and turned him into a nine-foot-tall guy and his voice is not the voice of a nine-foot-tall guy. It was weird. So we just pitched him down."

Both the R1 US 2-Disc Special Edition DVD released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in 2006 and the R2 UK 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (UK) in 2006, contain the following special features:

A feature length audio commentary with screenwriter/director Zack Snyder, screenwriter Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong.

An Easter Egg of a 6 minute clip featuring an animated storyboard narrated by actor Scott Glenn which was used as test footage by Zack Snyder to convince the studio to make the film (On disc 1, go to the 'Special Features' page. Highlight 'Audio Commentary' and press up. A small blood splatter will appear. Now hit "Enter").

'The 300: Fact or Fiction?'; a 25 minute featurette looking at the historical reality behind the film

'Who Were the Spartans?'; a 4 minute featurette looking at how the comic on which the film is based altered history for aesthetic effect

'Frank Miller Tapes'; a 15 minute overview of the career of Frank Miller

'The Making of '300''; a 6 minute making-of featurette

'Making 300 in Images'; a 4 minute collage of behind-the-scenes footage and blue screen footage.

Three deleted scenes, with an introduction by screenwriter/director Zack Snyder (see below for more information on these scenes).

12 Webisodes running a total of 39 minutes, which deal with various aspects of the production: 'Production Design' (a look at the work of production designer James D. Bissell); 'Wardrobe' (a look at the work of costume designer Michael Wilkinson); 'Stunt Work' (a look at the work of stunt coordinator Damon Caro); 'Lena Heady' (actress Lena Headey discusses the character of Queen Gorgo); 'Adapting the Graphic Novel' (a look at the process of writing the screenplay); 'Gerard Butler' (actor Gerard Butler discusses the character of King Leonidas); 'Rodrigo Santoro' (actor Rodrigo Santoro discusses the character of Xerxes); 'Training the Actors' (a look at how the actors got in shape for their roles in the film); 'The Culture of Sparta' (a look at the historical Sparta); 'A Glimpse from the Set' (a look at the visual design of the film); 'Scene Studies' (a look at the visual effects for the film); 'Fantastic Characters' (a look at the work of creature designer Mark Rappaport).

The R1 US 3-Disc Limited Collector's Edition includes all of the special features from the 2 disc sets plus "To The Hot Gates: A Legend Retold" (a 30 minute making of documentary), a downloadable digital copy of the film, a 52-page booklet with an introduction by Zack Snyder, a lucite display with an image from the film, and 6 photo cards.

There are three deleted scenes on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD: (1) After King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) refuses to allow Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan) to fight alongside the Spartan warriors, Ephialtes flings himself from the cliff-top in an attempt to commit suicide, (2) After the battle with the Immortals, the Spartans are celebrating in the valley, and the camera drifts to the base of a cliff, where it is revealed that Ephialtes survived his fall. He awakens, realizes that he is still alive, and curses the Gods, his parents and the Spartans (this also explains why he has the wound on his head when in Xerxes' tent). And (3) During the battle with the Rhino, there is a short scene involving a battle between The Captain (Vincent Regan) and a giant Persian with an archer perched on his back. The Captain severs the Giant's leg, and the archer falls to the ground. The Spartans then proceed en masse to kill the archer and the giant. Zack Snyder said the reason this scene was cut was because it was just way too over-the-top even for a graphic novel adaptation.

Yes it is. The standard US edition and UK edition are identical to the 2 disc DVD sets. However, also available in the US is 300: The Complete Experience, and in Europe 300: The Ultimate Experience, both of which include everything from the 2-Disc sets (all in HD), plus a 40-page booklet (different to the one in the Limited Collector's Edition DVD), 4 different HD picture-in-picture interactive features ("Creating a Legend: Frank Miller and Zack Snyder Interpret a Classic Tale", "Bringing a Legend to Life: Building a World From a Comic", "The History Behind the Myth: The Real Story of The Hot Gates" and a comparison of the blue screen version of the film with the completed version) and BD-live. Note however, that neither edition feature the "To The Hot Gates: A Legend Retold" documentary from the 3-disc Limited Collector's Edition DVD set

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