300 and the Regency

What does the movie 300 have to do with the Regency period? Other than my eager anticipation, that is. I’ve now seen the move THREE times and, needless to say, I LOVED it. Not only was it visually stunning (and I’m not referring to the Spartan abs; one quickly accepts the undress as costume), it was marvelously acted (Gerard Butler was superlative. He totally inhabited the role of Leonidas), and quite emotional. It also was very violent. I talked my friend Katie in to seeing the movie with me by saying, “The violence is so stylized, Katie, it won’t bother you.” Then watching the movie with her, I suddenly saw the blood and carnage. There are reasons it is rated R.
For those who may not know, 300 is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller. It tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, when 300 Spartans sacrificed their lives battling the largest Persian army ever assembled. This battle is considered a pivotal event in history preserving Western Civilization. The movie was filmed against a blue screen; the setting and special effects were computer generated, making it a whole new movie-going experience. This is, however, a Risky Regency blog. So what does 300 have to do with the Regency?

1. Regency education included studying Greek and Roman texts. I could imagine Regency boys reading Herodotus’s history of the Battle of Thermopylae and being as enthralled as the young guys in the movie theater. After the movie, one of them said, “That was awesome!”
2. I also imagine that military men in the Regency studied the Battle. King Leonidas chose the High Gates, a narrow passage through the mountains, as the best place on which to fight the Persians. The terrain gave the massively outnumbered Spartans enough advantage to cause huge Persian losses. Wellington also used terrain to advantage. He picked the location of Waterloo for its advantage and at a crucial moment in the battle hid his troops behind a hill, surprising the French and helping to turn the battle around to victory.
3. The Spartan’s use of the phalanx formation, forming a line of shields and spears that made them impenetrable by the attacking Persians. In the Napoleonic Wars, when infantry formed squares, they were similarly impenetrable. At Waterloo, Wellington’s squares held over onslaught after onslaught by French cavalry.
4. After the Persian King Xerxes won at Thermopylae, his army pillaged Athens and destroyed its temple. The Parthenon replaced that temple. During the Regency, Lord Elgin rescued (purloined??) the marble friezes and took them back to England hoping in vain, to earn a fortune for them. The Elgin Marbles remain in the British Museum, and, coincidentally, 300 premiered in London March 14.
5. In 1823 Lord Byron traveled to Greece to join the movement for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Before he could participate in battle, though, he died of fever. In his Don Juan canto, he wrote about Thermopylae:

Must we but weep o’er days more blest?
Must we but blush? — Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae
.–Don Juan, Canto iii, Stanza 86
On March 20 on the Wet Noodle Posse blog and the Warner Women blog, I’m going to talk about what the movie 300 can teach us about story-telling.
About love scenes
About minor characters
About theme

Have you seen 300 yet? What did you think? Can you think of any other connection to the Regency?

Remember this day, men, for it will be yours for all time–King Leonidas

Diane

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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26 Responses to 300 and the Regency

  1. Ooh! Thanks for all those pictures. I especially loved the two side-by-side ones of the spears at different angles.

    Three times? I’m impressed! Hope you were able to convince your husband to go watch it with you at least once. 🙂

    I loved Gerard Butler’s role and acting as well as the characterization and filling-out of roles of various minor characters. To turn a graphic book into a live movie takes a lot of screenwriting and directing courage.

    The cinematography was amazing, wasnt it?!! It looks like a surefire contender for the 2008 Oscars in this category.

    Unfortunately, the history (clothing, appearance, details, etc.) was woefully inaccurate and unnecessarily inflamatory, in my opinion, as was the depiction of Xerxes and the Persians.

    Connection to Regency Romances?

    -The physical bodies that we all dream the heroes of having.
    -The giving of all for love (people and/or country) we see in Regency Romances.
    -Just as this battle was pivotal in history in preventing Xerxes from annexing Europe, the Georgian-Regency battles were pivotal in holding Napoleon in check.

    An aside… The Vikings excelled at the shield wall, learned from the Greeks, and used it very effectively in their invasions of Britain.

    I have a weapons question. I was curious to see the swords used by the Spartans. They were short and shaped almost like a meat cleaver. A sort of a combination of axe and long sword?? I saw a brief clip where Frank Miller talked about how he did a lot of research when designing the sword. However, that clip was too brief to go much into detail. Do anyone of you know more about why it was shaped the way it was? Thanks!

  2. Unfortunately, the history (clothing, appearance, details, etc.) was woefully inaccurate and unnecessarily inflamatory, in my opinion, as was the depiction of Xerxes and the Persians.

    It is important to remember that the movie was about Frank Miller’s comic book and not about history, although it was based on much historical fact. In good comic book fashion, the villains are “over the top.” I don’t think it was a political statement at all (not that you are saying that, exactly, but other people are)

    Good point about the “pivotal event in history.” Waterloo was certainly that.

    I did read an article quoting Zack Snyder (the director), that they altered the sword, making it more ornate than Frank Miller’s version.

    I also read that the Spartans went naked into battle, believing their skill to be the best armor. So maybe Frank Miller and Zack Snyder over-dressed them.

    And….no, I never talked my husband into going, but luckily I have friends….

  3. I’m not planning to see 300, because I know from the comic book and the previews and reviews that it won’t be “my” Thermopylae. I’m fascinated by nonfiction accounts of the battle, but so far I haven’t found a fictional version that works for me. And I’m holding out for “my” Thermopylae even if that means I have to write it myself! Which I’m beginning to think I will. Or maybe my Greco-Persian wars, because I want to write about Marathon and Salamis and generally give props to the Athenians, too!

    I’m not sure how that relates to the Regency era, but I know I bring a similar attitude to fiction set in the Regency. I’ve done so much research and read so much Regency-set fiction over the years that I have a strong vision of the era, and often the reason I don’t finish a book is because it doesn’t fit into “my” Regency. I don’t think I’m anywhere near as picky as I am about Thermopylae, though–I’m not even sure myself what it is about that specific battle that makes me look at every fictionalization of it I’ve encountered so far and say, “No, no, that’s not it!”

  4. Kalen Hughes says:

    It’s not an historical movie. It’s a moving comic book. You have to accept that right off the bat.

    You also have to accept that it has some of the worst dialogue ever heard outside of a Star Wars film. The monologues are actually painful, and had the audience in my theatre howling.

    And sorry, Frank. But the swords were WRONG. You didn’t even get that much right.

    All of that said . . . it’s total eye candy. I’ve seen it twice (once on IMAX) and I’m sure I’ll buy the DVD.

  5. Cara King says:

    Did any of you who saw 300 see Sin City in the theaters? If so, how does the level of violence and gore compare? (I’m dithering about seeing it.)

    More links between 300 and the Regency:

    1. Regencies have butlers. 300 has Butler.
    2. Both have lots of men.
    3. And, often, inaccurate costumes or historical details.
    4. Regencies are rarely based on graphic novels by Frank Miller, but they sometimes contain millers. (Or, if they don’t, maybe they should.)
    5. There is no #5.
    6. Spartan mothers said “come back with your shield, or on it.” Regency mothers say “you will wed Miss Honoria Blockhead, or I will disown you.” (The meaning is the same.)

    Cara

  6. often the reason I don’t finish a book is because it doesn’t fit into “my” Regency. I don’t think I’m anywhere near as picky as I am about Thermopylae, though–I’m not even sure myself what it is about that specific battle that makes me look at every fictionalization of it I’ve encountered so far and say, “No, no, that’s not it!”

    Oh, write that Thermopylae book, Susan! You have the passion for that part of history. You just have to know that would show in your writing!

    I know how you feel about “my Regency.” I have “my Regency” too and sometimes it is hard to read another version that is not enough like mine.

    I promise to buy your Thermopylae book, though!!!!

  7. You also have to accept that it has some of the worst dialogue ever heard outside of a Star Wars film. The monologues are actually painful, and had the audience in my theatre howling.

    Kalen, this must be a matter of opinion, because no one laughed in the three theaters I sat in, and I loved the dialogue. Again, it was not typical movie dialogue but I thought it entirely consistent with a movie based on a graphic novel and even “epic” in some instances. I suspect you will hear people (17 to 25 yo males) using some of the quotes.

    The swords were not Frank Miller’s design but Zack Snyder’s. At least that is what I read.

    I envy you seeing it on an IMAX screen!

  8. Oh, write that Thermopylae book, Susan! You have the passion for that part of history. You just have to know that would show in your writing!

    I will, one of these days. I’ve been interested in tackling it for awhile, and I’m starting to get the vague beginning shape of a plot and structure for it. I need to do a lot more research, and figure out what to do about getting my women involved, since I can’t just have a heroine follow the drum like I can with a Napoleonic War story.

  9. I haven’t seen it, probably won’t until I can palm the son off for a sleepover, but I cannot wait! I loved Sin City (sorry, Cara), even though it wasn’t quite as amazing as I’d hoped.

    I am always willing to suspend my disbelief in terms of history; if it makes people curious about the time period enough to go find out more about it, that’s cool with me. For example, I am a devout watcher of Rome, the HBO series,which is wrong in a lot of its recounting. But it gives the flavor of the time, and that’s what I’m interested in.

    Oh, I cannot wait to see 300…someday!

  10. Susan, I can’t wait until you write that book!

    Megan, I don’t think you will be disappointed. I can’t say how much I loved the movie! It is violent but I was so enthralled with the cinematography the first two times, I didn’t realize just how violent it was!

  11. I am always willing to suspend my disbelief in terms of history

    I’m very inconsistent. I know GLADIATOR is inaccurate, but I don’t care. BRAVEHEART, however, drives me crazy–though in fairness I have to say that seeing it and enjoying it back when it first came out is what got me sufficiently interested to research the real history and discover the inaccuracies! And I haven’t seen AMAZING GRACE yet, but the inaccuracies I’ve heard mentioned aren’t the kind of thing that would keep me from enjoying it. Plus, it has Ioan Gruffudd, who isn’t far behind Sean Bean on my list of men who are to me as Gerard Butler is to Diane. 😉 (At least when he plays Georgian/Regency roles. Gruffudd is good-looking at any time, but as Hornblower or Wilberforce he’s bee-YEW-tee-full.)

    I’m actually trying to be a little less nitpicky and pedantic, because I’m probably ruining some good stories for myself that way. But it isn’t easy for me to turn off that voice saying, “That’s not how it happened!”

  12. Cara King says:

    Susan, I know what you mean about being picky about some things, and not about others. Sometimes, I think it’s the areas I know best that I’m pickiest about… But that’s certainly not always the case.

    Speaking of the movie AMAZING GRACE — come back tomorrow, when I’ll be talking about it! 🙂

    Cara

  13. Manuelita says:

    Connection to Regency Romances?
    The physical bodies that we all dream the heroes of having.

    Ain’t that the truth! Keira, I liked that one.

    My husband and I saw 300 at the IMAX theater the Sunday after it came out (11th). We had actually gone to the theater the day before, but all the IMAX showings for Saturday were SOLD OUT. (Way to go, Gerry!) 300 was showing at 3 regular theaters, but we were determined to watch it in IMAX. So we just went ahead and bought tickets for the next day. The theater was filled with a mixture of men and women, and most of the audience were college-aged. My comic-loving husband liked the movie, although he did keep pointing out how historically inaccurate it was. Duh! And I liked it because, well, it starred Gerard Butler!!! *vbg*

  14. Lois says:

    Ah well, I think you guys got all the connections that I could ever hope to think of. . . well, sometimes on the covers they look like that, kind of. 🙂

    Lois

  15. Cara,
    You really nailed the similarities between 300 and the Regency! Especially number 5.

  16. My comic-loving husband liked the movie, although he did keep pointing out how historically inaccurate it was. Duh! And I liked it because, well, it starred Gerard Butler!!! *vbg*

    I’m with you, Manuelita! and I’m also very envious that you were able to see it on an IMAX! Wasn’t Gerry fabulous?

  17. Kalen Hughes says:

    no one laughed in the three theaters I sat in, and I loved the dialogue. Again, it was not typical movie dialogue but I thought it entirely consistent with a movie based on a graphic novel

    I’ll grant you that it sounded just like a graphic novel (this may be why I don’t read very many of those, even when I love the art work).

    No one laughed in your theatre? I’ve seen it twice, and there were gales of laughter both times (and a shout of joy when the queen kills you know who). Of course, I got to go to the Lucas premiere for the second of the latest trilogy of Star Wars films, and it was filled with hoots of laughter at all the wrong moments too, and these were the people who made the film! LOL! Maybe we’re just meaner here in San Francisco?

  18. Elena Greene says:

    Have not seen it yet–like Megan, I have to figure out childcare. But at least Diane has me convinced it is a valid business expense. 🙂

  19. Maybe we’re just meaner here in San Francisco?

    That’s got to be it, Kalen! It must be all that Starbucks you drink. Makes you SFers edgy, not mellow, like us Virginia folk-who drink Virginia Gentleman.

  20. Like the movie or not, Elena, it is a unique movie-going experience!

    (Hi, Lois! Glad you popped in!)

  21. Judy T says:

    Cara, your links are great!

    And thank you Diane for posting that first picture! It was posted on yahoo, but very, very tiny, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was depicting. I’m so glad your friends went with you!

  22. Many, many, many congratulations to Diane for winning TWO eHarlequin Readers’ Choice Awards.

    A Reputable Rake won in the best historical category

    Mistletoe Kisses won in the best anthology category

    Diane, what a role model for aspiring writers!!

    Keira-who’s-not-Diane-publicist

    PS: You’ve convinved me. I’ll give this movie another go at a matinee with less crowd so see what my impressions are the second time around.

  23. Todd says:

    I haven’t seen 300 yet, though I’d like to. My wife–almost always my movie-going companion–is worried about the violence and gore and ickiness and stuff like that. And Sin City, also based on a Frank Miller graphic novel, was way, way over the top for her. (Not my favorite, either.)

    But I love classical historical stuff, so I will probably manage to see it somehow.

    Todd-who-thinks-Larry-Gonick-said-it-best:-“Homocidal-Hairdressers!”

  24. Judy, some of the images are just so stunning!

    Keira, you sweetie. I just may hire you as my publicist!

    Todd, the violence is stylized and truly the first two times I saw the movie, I hardly noticed it–but then when I saw it with the friend I convinced to go, I suddenly saw the more graphic parts. So I don’t know what to say. Except that it is a unique movie-going experience. It would be a shame to miss it!

  25. Cara King says:

    Many, many, many congratulations to Diane for winning TWO eHarlequin Readers’ Choice Awards.

    Wow, congrats, Diane!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Cara

  26. Todd says:

    Diane wrote:

    Todd, the violence is stylized and truly the first two times I saw the movie, I hardly noticed it–but then when I saw it with the friend I convinced to go, I suddenly saw the more graphic parts. So I don’t know what to say. Except that it is a unique movie-going experience. It would be a shame to miss it!

    Don’t tell me; tell her! 🙂

    Todd-who-thinks-stylized-violence-is-so-much-better-than-violence-that-lacks-style

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