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How ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ Plays Fast, Loose With History (video)

 Eva Green portrays Greek Queen Artemisia, who is inaccurately portrayed as leading the Persian Navy in the film '300: Rise of an Empire.'

Eva Green portrays Greek Queen Artemisia, who is inaccurately portrayed as leading the Persian Navy in the film ‘300: Rise of an Empire.’

If the ancient Greek Herodotus were to stroll into a movie theater and catch “300: Rise of an Empire” what do you think he would say? Our bet is the historian of the Greco-Persian War would probably go ballistic.

First, he’d yell that someone stole his work; then, he’d scream that they butchered it.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

While scriptwriters Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, adhere to the broad stokes of Herodotus’s history, they re-imagine key details through the prism of modern-day culture.

Paul Cartledge, professor of Greek culture at Cambridge University, told the BBC that even the movie’s title is off-base.

The subject of the film, the sea-battles at Artemisium and Salamis in 480 BC, did not give rise to any empires.

Snyder and Johnstad also tell the story through the eyes of two women: Greek Queen Artemisia, played by Eva Green, and Spartan Queen Gorgo, widow of Leonidas, played by Lena Headey.

Both roles, however, are greatly exaggerated.

Artemisia didn’t lead the entire Persian fleet at the Battle of Salamis as portrayed in the film. Instead, she only commanded a few ships, according to Herodotus.

While Gorgo did command the Spartan fleet, it did not “rescue” the powerful Athenian Navy as the movie contends.

The Spartans, not traditional seafarers, played no significant role in the sea battle, contributing at best only 16 ships to the 400-ship Greek fleet, says Cartledge.

The movie wrongly portrays Artemisium as a Greek defeat; the battle actually ended in a stalemate, according to historians.

Another premise of the movie, the Battle at Marathon in 490 BC during the first Persian invasion of Greece, is also portrayed inaccurately.

Themistocles, (Sullivan Stapleton) a real Athenian hero at Marathon, is shown killing Persia’s King Darius I with a single arrow as his son, Xerxes, looks on.

While Darius led the invasion, neither he nor Xerxes were at Marathon during the battle, according to Cartledge. Darius died much later.

To spice the film up, Snyder and Johnstad also include a sex scene between Themistocles, commander of the Greek army, and Artemisia, during a lull in the fighting.

It’s portrayed as an attempt to head off a second battle through “diplomacy.” But there is no recorded history of such a liaison.

While the battles of Artemisium and Salamis were significant, they weren’t decisive. The final Greek victory actually came a year later when they defeated the Persians at the Battle of Plataea, according to Herodotus.

The film, despite historical inaccuracies, is off to a solid start at the box office. Rodrigo Santoro reprises his role as Persian King, Xerxes. Hans Matheson and David Wenham also star.

Check out a trailer below and be sure to follow TheImproper on Twitter for all the latest movie news.


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