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November 4, 2010

When I find myself in times of trouble, I watch 300, and everything is better.

I’d just like to start this post off by saying that I knew/was moved by the story of the 300 brave Spartans who stood strong against the Persians at the gates of Thermopylae years before the fateful day I first saw the preview for the movie.

For years I had heard the story (from my Mother, who, like me, could never relate the story to another with dry eyes) of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. I knew the story of how each of them fought like Kings, and how their King fought like a God. Each man, obedient to their laws and true to their morals, stood resolute and fought bravely and proudly in the face of adversity and sure failure in the name of their country, in the name of duty, in the name of honor.

Just thinking about it makes me want to cry. Imagine it: it’s one thing to hold a set of values. It’s another thing to practice those values regardless of the afflictions you may face because of it.

Some may look at Spartan society and find it brutal. Archaic. Savage. And even though that may be true in some cases, the Spartans were also loyal. They were faithful. You could trust them. If you set foot on a battlefield with a Spartan, one thing you’d never have to worry about in battle was courage. You’d sooner see a monkey flying through space in spandex before you saw a Spartan retreat from battle.

And that is the beauty of the Spartans. It’s also their burden — but they never saw it that way. They saw it as a privilege — a privilege to fight for their country. The loyalty they had for anyone in a Spartan uniform, or any battle companion was a rare symbol of a perfect mixture of strength and integrity. The bond between two Spartan soldiers is an overwhelmingly and powerfully beautiful thing. Their obedience to their word, their law and their principles inspire me so deeply that … oh damn, here we go, aaaaaand now I’m tearing up.

Let’s move on.

I’ll never forget the rush of emotion I experienced when I first saw the trailer for 300. It wasn’t just that I was excited to watch the badassery, the glorious cinematography, the stellar acting, the unique, original, ground-breaking directing or the stellar screenplay. No. I was proud and grateful to see that those 300 Spartans — the 300 I loved and respected so dearly — were being remembered — that they were being honored — in the way they so deserved.

When I watched the movie (for the first time), I was simply overwhelmed. The movie brought the brotherhood, the obedience, the love, the loyalty and the sacrifice to life in a way I had never experienced. I had always known the story and painted my own picture in my head of

King Leonidas being a bad-ass warrior. Just livin' his life.

what it was like, but when I watched the movie — when I saw the Spartan’s “beautiful death” brought to life on the silver screen — I couldn’t handle myself. By the time the credits rolled, I was a mess. But it was a beautiful mess. It was a mess I have since brought upon myself countless times.

Although I generally cried throughout the entire movie, there is one scene that particularly got to me: it was one instance in particular. It was the moment when the camera pans out, and the audience sees King Leonidas standing alone in front of his 300 brave men, huddled beneath their shields, waiting to fight. And it was at that moment that the full force of the beauty of the Spartan bond hit me.

It was overwhelmingly clear that the Spartans were outnumbered. And despite the fearsome and unequalled talent the Spartans had  in battle, nothing — man or God — could have fought it’s way out of that situation.

And yet not one Spartan trembled. Not one Spartan ran away. There was no glint of hesitation in any Spartan’s eyes. Each man crouched behind Leonidas had made a bond — had pledged his allegiance to his country and his King — and each man was going to be goddamned if he was going to do anything else but fight — and die. Spartans knew that the only way they were going home was with their shield or on it, and every man knew they’d be on theirs.

And still they waited behind their King — each ready to give their only life for their country — for each other — at their King’s command. Is there anything more beautiful? More inspiring? I realize that I watched this all in a movie, and that certain things have been changed — but the basic facts remain the same. 300 Spartans entered a battle that many called a suicide mission. None left. The Persians took their lives, but they never took their honor. They never took away their freedom. And they couldn’t crush their story.

Here are my favorite quotes from the movie (let’s see if you can make it through all of ’em with out shedding a tear — I dare you!):

Dilios gives a battle speech to Greek soldiers months after King Leonidas’ legendary stand at Thermopylae: And so my king died, and my brothers died, barely a year ago. Long I pondered my king’s cryptic talk of victory. Time has proven him wise, for from free Greek to free Greek, the word was spread that bold Leonidas and his three hundred, so far from home, laid down their lives. Not just for Sparta, but for all Greece and the promise this country holds. Now, here on this ragged patch of earth called Plataea, Xerxes’s hordes face obliteration! Just there the barbarians huddle, sheer terror gripping tight their hearts with icy fingers… knowing full well what merciless horrors they suffered at the swords and spears of three hundred. Yet they stare now across the plain at *ten thousand* Spartans commanding thirty thousand free Greeks! The enemy outnumber us a paltry three to one, good odds for any Greek. This day we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny and usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine. Give thanks, men, to Leonidas and the brave 300! TO VICTORY!

Here is an example of Spartan honor being doubted by a dumb-ass Arcadian
Dumb-ass Arcadian
: Only 300 soldiers? I see I was wrong to expect Sparta’s commitment to at least match our own.
King Leonidas: Doesn’t it? You there, what is your profession?
Arcadian #1: I am a potter… sir.
King Leonidas: [points to another soldier] And you, Arcadian, what is your profession?
Arcadian #2: Sculptor, sir.

Dilios, giving his men the pre-battle speech

King Leonidas: Sculptor. And you?
Arcadian #3: Blacksmith.
King Leonidas: Spartans! What is your profession?
Spartans: AH-HOO, AH-OO, AH-OO!
King Leonidas: You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did.

Stelios, a Spartan soldier, displaying his unyielding bravery:
Persian: The thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!
Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.

King Leonidas speaks to his men the night before the Battle of Thermopylae:
King Leonidas
: Children, gather round! No retreat, no surrender; that is Spartan law. And by Spartan law we will stand and fight… and die. A new age has begun. An age of freedom, and all will know, that 300 Spartans gave their last breath to defend it!

King Leonidas verbally owns Xerxes:
Xerxes: It isn’t wise to stand against me, Leonidas. Imagine what horrible fate awaits my enemies when I would gladly kill any of my own men for victory.
King Leonidas: And I would die for any one of mine

King Leonidas‘ last thoughts before falling on the battle field under a maelstrom of Persian arrows:
King Leonidas: My Queen! My wife. My love…

The Spartans — never yeilding, never submitting, never backing down from a battle:
Persian General: Spartans, lay down your weapons!
King Leonidas: Persians! Come and get them!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2010 2:11 pm

    What can I say but AHOO! AHOO! AHOO!

  2. November 4, 2010 7:19 pm

    AHOO AHOO AHOOO! Love gus.

  3. rob permalink
    November 8, 2010 12:00 am

    Good movie. Could use a mud show scene or two, but not too shabby the way it is!

  4. victor permalink
    June 23, 2012 5:32 pm

    oh….it was so beautiful. It really reminds how little we are

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