Friday, March 09, 2007

The 301 Dalmatians

Armed Liberal at Winds of Change is planning to watch the movie 300 and, reading the reviews, was horrified to discover that "Kenneth Turan of the LA Times was the only one who 'got' the historical context of Thermopylae". Could it be? One of WOC's links was to Dana Stevens at Slate, who posed this objection to the movie:


If 300, the new battle epic based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war. ...

But what's maddening about 300 (besides the paralyzing monotony of watching chiseled white guys make shish kebabs from swarthy Persians for 116 indistinguishable minutes) is that no one involved—not Miller, not Snyder, not one of the army of screenwriters, art directors, and tech wizards who mounted this empty, gorgeous spectacle—seems to have noticed that we're in the middle of an actual war. ...

One of the few war movies I've seen in the past two decades that doesn't include at least some nod in the direction of antiwar sentiment, 300 is a mythic ode to righteous bellicosity.

I have no idea whether 300 is a good movie, but Steven's review is an entertaining example of how all events, including those which happened nearly 500 years BC, must be judged according to prisms of contemporary political correctness. Miller had to remember, for example, "that we're in the middle of an actual war". Did he not realize his duty to denounce it? But what if Miller had made a movie about the fight against Hitler? Would it have been necessary to remind the audience that Hitler was a nonsmoking, animal-loving, vegetarian artist? Or had he remade Zulu to include some white faces among Prince Dabulamanzi's impis?

The most interesting thing about those who habitually denounce ethnocentricity and cultural blindness is that they are not without such sentiments themselves, the difference being that their cultural point of view is rooted in the mid-20th century, rather than say, ancient Lacedaemonia.

Now I'm truly surprised that nobody 'gets' the background of 300. Everybody knows it deals with what happened to Hercules after his epic battle with Maciste on his way to a rematch with Conan.

92 Comments:

Blogger allen said...

The movie might have gotten a different review had the producers first shown the sack of Athens and the burning of the Parthenon. To have men stand, fight, and die opposing the invasion of their homeland without first having studied the motivation of the invader seems so antiquated. In the context of modern American politics it is almost preemptory.

3/09/2007 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Faeless said...

I find it more hilarious that the Communists, in fact made a fetish of being the "New" Spartans, going so far as to name their sports teams after them. I can't recall what history records regarding the Nazi's appreciation of the Spartan Red.

3/09/2007 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

The left are a bunch of jackasses...I wish there was some way to ignore them but sadly we have managed to allow them too much power over the course of the last 60 years. How this happened when their philosophy is so corrupt is the stuff of legend. Truly their tactics must bear some study because the tactics won a battle that their philsophy could never have won.

The Right bemoans the politics of destruction and shy's away from adopting the tactics of the left. And yet we have lost to mental midgets like that dumbass at Slate...

Explain please.

3/09/2007 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Ha! Nice one wretch.

3/09/2007 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

My 20-year old son, in Army ROTC at Purdue University (Indiana, as in Jones), wrote recently to say that two members of his Boiler Battalion Classes 2005 and 2006, had fallen in Iraq. "Brings it home," he said.

My days as Cadet Colonel predate Vietnam. All we could say, aside from "Go get 'em", was to cite Cyrano de Bergerac, Horatius at the Gate, and then the Spartans at Thermopylae.

Dying by assassination, Cyrano says, "I see them all, my ancient enemies-- cruelty, despair and wickedness, with whom I fought. Farewell."

From Macauley, "Lays of Ancient Rome": "Then up spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate: To all men living on this Earth, death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than by facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers and the Temples of his Gods?"

In Edith Hamilton's "The Greek Way" (1930s), we find the youthful Spartans' epitaph: "Tell the Lacedaemonians, passerby, that here obedient to their laws we lie."

"Obedient to their laws"... as unto Fate, and for that reason their sacrifice 2500 years ago still brings on shivers. Who knows not Greece betrays his Western heritage; worse, who ignorantly reviles his Civitas deserves darkness and death. We tell such commentators: "Your words shall perish, and your mouths be stopped with dust" (Khayyam).

What Spartans will defend today's abominably crass, ignoble scudderbumps? But in (say) AD 4500, Thermopylae will still burn bright, as in Horatius' "brave days of old." The tale is twice told now, and will be many times again.

3/09/2007 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

"Now I'm truly surprised that nobody 'gets' the background of 300."

So much for our educational system.

3/09/2007 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy said...

Great title, Wretchard, LOL--and Pyrthroes, great, moving, post.

3/09/2007 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Dusty said...

301 Dalmations. It took me a few seconds to get. Very funny.

Turan didn't waste many opportunities to frame 300 with his own life's experiences in his review, either. I particularly liked his riveting analogy for the Spartan warriors: speedo wearing lifeguards at Santa Monica beach. Oh, and Apocalypto get a mention, too.

But that's okay, I don't think any of them actually try to sell themselves as being educated. After all, they're covering Hollywood.

3/09/2007 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

In reference to the "Battle on the Ice" of Lake Peipus in 1242, the historian William Urban wrote the following.

"The battle has become undeservedly famous, having been endowed -- for twentieth-century political considerations -- with much more significance than it merited in itself. Indeed, although Eisenstein's film Alexander Nevsky is a reasonably accurate portrayal of the battle, some of its scenes tell us more about the Soviet Union just before Hitler's invasion than about medieval history."

p. 168 from The Baltic Crusade, by William Urban.

3/09/2007 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

4 quick points and off to bed:

1. Such stooges (Armed Liberal and Turan) deserve the lash of Sharia.

2. "So much for our educational system."

National
Enslavemnt
Agency

3. Watched a History channel "First World War" episode the other night, perhaps the last of that series. They showed a famous stained glass window in Europe somewhere which portrayed legions of people slaying two red dragons, representing the true foes, named "Brutality" and "Ignorance".

4. "What Spartans will defend today's abominably crass, ignoble scudderbumps?"

Shouldn't that read "When will we allow our Spartans to pursue our enemies relentlessly in our defense and the defense of today's abominably crass, ignoble scudderbumps?"?

3/09/2007 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Oh...and didn't Hitler spend time professing his love and concern for children, also?


Sorry about the typo in "Enslavement above. It's late.

3/09/2007 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Der Fuhrer was a great Greenie, too. Loved Nature, and the 'unspoiled' Gaia/pagan fantasy history-dream. Lots of nice correct utopian ideas, including that there was too many people on the planet.

3/09/2007 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Pat Patterson said...

It's kind of a stretch to claim that the Parthenon was burned in 479 considering at that time work had barely commenced. The foundations and some of the columns had been completed but serious work didn't begin until the era of Pericles.

What was destroyed was the small so-called Temple of Athena along with all the other temples and cult buildings on the Acropolis. Construction on the Athenas Parthenos(Athena the Virgin) didn't really start again until 447, two years after a treaty of peace with Persia was signed.

3/09/2007 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

480 BC

There was a greater point to be made; obviously, I failed to persuade.

3/09/2007 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

As the Americans of 1814, the Athenians of 480 BC made a great fuss over the burning of their capitol city by a foreign invader. Patriotism used to work that way.

Whether the Persians burned “the” Parthenon or “a” Parthenon in the year 479 BC or 480 BC is the seminal question upon which subsequent Western history hinges.

According to reliable sources, “a” Parthenon was burned by the Persians in 480 BC. There is no evidence to suggest the Greeks considered the site any less sacred in 477 - 438 BC during the construction of “the” Parthenon; or the reconstruction of the razed “a” Parthenon, if you will. It may be assumed that in 480 BC they were, more or less, satisfied with the progress of construction at the site.

Among others, see:

Tufts University

3/09/2007 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

“But as for war, if it be once begun, it is not easily laid down again, nor borne without calamities coming therewith. However, as to the desire of recovering of your liberty, it is unreasonable to indulge it so late; whereas you ought to have labored earnestly in old time that you might never have lost it…Those Lacedemonians also who got the great victories at Thermopylae and Platea…are contented to admit the same lords…[A]nd pay their obedience to those whom fortune hath advanced in their stead…”
___Josephus Flavius

3/10/2007 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger LDF said...

I agree! Although we can find and impose relevancy from nearly any movie or story onto modern circumstances, sometimes it just more fun to sit back and be entertained. I also wrote a review of 300 should anyone care to see it:

http://lestdarknessfall.blogspot.com/2007/03/300-fantasy-movie-about-thermopylae.html

3/10/2007 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I guess I shouldn't be so naive, but i'm still constantly amazed at the inability of critics to just watch a movie for what it is .. just a friggin movie! .. Roger Moore of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel wrote my favorite review thus far, in which he called the people who booed "300" at the Berlin Film Festival "pansies"

3/10/2007 03:58:00 AM  
Blogger EB said...

Eager to see 300 but last night chose very highly rated "The Host" instead. When a giant monster movie gets 95% on Rottentomatoes, you know it has to be special.

Unfortunately, it seems that what is winning over the critics in The Host is a large helping of US bashing disguised as social commentary. Most unfortunately for the viewer is that this US bashing is in the middle of what would otherwise be a fun horror film.

The audience at the host wanted very much to like it but there wasn't much excitement in the exit poll (standing in line at the post movie urinal).

I think it is interesting that the much lower rated 300 (about 65% on RT) is getting sellout crowds. Our nation's critics don't understand that people go to movies to be entertained.

3/10/2007 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger Pat Patterson said...

The Tufts link refers to a "pre-Parthenon" structure not "a Parthenon." Same site but two different floor plans and two different cult representations of Athena.

Patriotism may have been somewhat responsible for the rebuilding of the Acropolis except that the patriotic Athenians voted several times to not to rebuild on the scale that Cimon and Pericles wanted. Instead of the promised ships Pericles siphoned off the dues, actually tribute, from the members of the Delian League. the Delian League had started as an alliance, but after the wars with Persia ended, basically became the legal framework for the Athenian empire.

3/10/2007 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Beautiful post, Pyrthroes, thank you.

I consider the Torpedo Eight squadron at Midway to be right up there with Leonidas and his 300. There was only one survivor, among 30 pilots and radiomen, who made that crucial, unsupported attack on 4 Japanese aircraft carriers. After Midway, the Japanese Navy was done for.

Those Navy heroes were not fighting for temples named Enterprise, Hornet or Yorktown, they were fighting for America. Or, as you always read in memoirs of American warriors, they were fighting and dying for their buddies.

3/10/2007 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger Pat Patterson said...

Plus very odd quote from Josephus as he was writing to encourage the Jews in the province of Palestine to cease their resistence to Vespasian and the Romans. Josephus used the Spartans as an example of people who had fought great battles but were now content to live under Roman rule. Hardly the message of sacrifice to protect Greek freedom that The 300 represents.

3/10/2007 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Boghie said...

For some reason I seem to forget those war movies with a plot that nods toward the antiwar sentiment.

It takes hours or weeks for those movies to choke on their dust.

3/10/2007 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

pat patterson,

re: "very odd quote"

To each his own.

3/10/2007 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

'...my favorite review thus far, in which he called the people who booed "300" at the Berlin Film Festival "pansies"'

My Wife, German by birth and a naturalized American, has said to me for the 20 years I've known her "Those people (Germans) hate us."

A button on a cork board in my office says "Beware of Stupid People in Large Groups". Film Festivals these days fit that perfectly.

3/10/2007 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

allen said...

As the Americans of 1814, the Athenians of 480 BC made a great fuss over the burning of their capitol city by a foreign invader. Patriotism used to work that way.

Whether the Persians burned “the” Parthenon or “a” Parthenon in the year 479 BC or 480 BC is the seminal question upon which subsequent Western history hinges.

According to reliable sources, “a” Parthenon was burned by the Persians in 480 BC. There is no evidence to suggest the Greeks considered the site any less sacred in 477 - 438 BC during the construction of “the” Parthenon; or the reconstruction of the razed “a” Parthenon, if you will. It may be assumed that in 480 BC they were, more or less, satisfied with the progress of construction at the site.
///////////////////
To make sense of this its helpful to understand that the babylonians burned jerusalem in 589.
In the next big pulse of empire in the first century there were three rebellions against the romans within a twenty year span: the english, the germans, the jews: only one turned to the same effect as the greeks in the earlier pulse.

3/10/2007 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

From the Dr. Sanity link below:

"The dilemma of the postmodern narcissist is thus an unqualified belief in his or her own righteousness and moral obligation to judge the past; that is simultaneously combined with an aggressive ignorance about it."

A link well worth the click n' read.

3/10/2007 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Goyo said...

Went to see it last night. Very good movie. Very enjoyable. An 8 on a scale of 10. Not quite Batman Begins but very good. It was the crowdest I've seen a theater in a long, long time. Return of the King was not as crowded. Very beautiful movie.

Not entirely accurate historically but got most of the major points fairly correct. I kind of smiled at the deprecatory reference to boy lovers in Athens for obvious reasons, but I believe that line reveals the movies world view. You can see Victor Hanson's influence in much talk of free men fighting slaves.

My first reaction after the movie was that this was the first pro war, pro martial spirit, pro warrior movie I've seen in a very, very long time. Perhaps the left has finally pushed us far enough in the direction of pacifism for a much needed antithesis to begin. If that's the case, woe to our enemies can't be far behind.

Greg Marquez
goyomarquez@earhtlink.net
www.ivchristiancenter.com

3/10/2007 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Fausta said...

The History Channel had an excellent 2-hr documentary on The 300.
I highly recommend it.

3/10/2007 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

O/T?

Make of this what you will.

New Delhi, March 07: Two top nuclear scientists of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) are currently in Taliban custody.

Against some adversaries, patriotically animated bravery will not suffice.

3/10/2007 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

Sweet! Living well is, indeed, the best revenge.

Early showings for "300" film draw sell-out crowds

3/10/2007 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

I haven't seen this movie yet but plan to next week. King Leonidas is one of my heros so I've long intended to see this move. Reading between the lines, it looks like left-leaning movie reviewers saw this movie and found it offensive to their delicate political sensitivies. Many of the early reviews were very negative. However it appears that the movie is receiving much praise through word-of-mouth. I think(?) what we are observing might be a microcosm of "politics as usual", i.e. the media elite are trying to control events by presenting information as they see it but not as it actually is.

I'm looking forward to seeing this movie.

3/10/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

eggplant,

re: word of mouth

My son plans to see it tonight. He tells me it has been the talk at school all week.

3/10/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

My son saw it and declared the "greatest movie ever." Then again, he loved "Sin City" and really digs graphic novels in general.

I asked him if he cried when Leonidas died. (tongue in cheek)

"No! It was what he wanted his whole life."

3/10/2007 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Tony, re your mention of Torpedo 8 being in the class of Thermopylae (and others not mentioned herein), folks should remember the charge of Taffy Three at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Also a deliberate and for-all-practical-purposes suicide attack, also for nigh-incalculable stakes.

3/10/2007 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

tony,

re: graphics

What surprised me about the reported talk at school was the political/moral/patriotic angle, rather than the usual graphics focus. I take heart.

3/10/2007 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Spielberg's "Munich" was a flop at the box office. No one went to see it.

Ditto Syriana.

Ditto all the pablum Hollywood has been trying to spoonfeed the world for the past five years, the movies that tell us the bad guys in our midst who are trying to kill us are white supremicists, or maddened returned vets, or Israeli's.

NOT, under any circumstances, are they Arab or Muslim, and we are told time and again that we should be ashamed of ourselves for even *thinking* such a thing, let alone acting upon it.

If this movie lives up to its hype and advance notice the thing that will be remarkable is that it will be a major major money-maker. Something that Hollywood hasn't been able to produce for many years now.

Then we'll see if Hollywood and the people who work in the Industry really *are* interested in making money, or if they'll continue to try to feed us movies that no one wants to see. The ones that reflect the Hollywood Elite's belief that WE individual Americans are the Bad Guys, and that all the great unwashed mujahadeen out there are merely misunderstood.

3/10/2007 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Allen,

Around our house, the political/moral/patriotic angle goes without saying.

Buddy - Yes, there must be endless examples of this "into the Valley of Death" courage beyond one's personal life.

VT-8, can you imagine it, a small squadron flying alone over the endless blue Pacific, happens to spot FOUR JAPANESE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS ... and decide to roll in on them, and to the last man, you continue rolling in as you see everyone in front of you blown out of the sky. Words fail....

3/10/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


American Dems and the Iranian Government are in Agreeance: Iran tells US to set timetable for Iraq exit

3/10/2007 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

I saw it. It was bad ass. And it's breaking records.

This movie is all about celebrated testosterone--it is the most pious offering to Wotan and the Gods of Manly Virtue that I've seen since Rambo II. The marketing guy that didn't release this on Wednesday should be fired.

And of course the critics hate it. They're a bunch of effete poseurs.

3/10/2007 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Aase's death said...

Hard, manly, good warrior, poet-warrior, discerning, loyal and true men are treasure too often buried. But not before their time.

“...here, obeying her behests, we fell.”

3/10/2007 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Aase's death said...

I mean to say that warriors may fear but allow for their passing. Whereas most of us jealousy guard our lives, avoiding battle, and in so doing die after our time.

3/10/2007 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"...and did they get you to trade

your heros for ghosts?

hot ashes for trees?

hot air for a cool breeze?

cold comfort for change?

and did you exchange

a walk on part in the war

for a lead role in a cage?
"

- Pink Floyd; non-PC couplet in original.

3/10/2007 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

The Swiss had their 300.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Morgarten

Had McArthur fully prepared Corregidor, it might have held out for a very long time.

We saw the movie last night. A very young crowd but with a lot of older people as well. Totally packed. Lines out the door for the 10:30 showing. A lot of Indians and other immigrants in the line as well. Our Russian waiter at dinner was going to go with his whole family.

Frank Miller's interviewer on NPR gets jumped by Miller. Miller makes it very clear what 300 is about and trashes the interviewer. You can almost hear crickets.

Sparta's history was written mostly by Athenians post-bellum.

We know very little about Sparta.

3/10/2007 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

Just got back from the movie. Two thumbs up. There is a reason that this movie is the bane of liberal movie critics and why many see parallels being the theme of the movie and today's events. "All that Xerxes wants is for you to knell and submit." Sound familiar?

3/10/2007 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Db2m said...

"I'm looking forward to seeing this movie."

*************

Not me--I saw a 30-second clip on TV. The epic battle reduced to a Saturday morning Power Rangers cartoon on steroids.

Give the whiz-kid animators enough rope, and they would gladly hang Casablanca, too.

3/10/2007 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Red River said...

"Sparta's history was written mostly by Athenians post-bellum. We know very little about Sparta."

Our main source about classical Greek Spartans is Thucydides who wrote "The Peloponnesian War". Thucydides was an Athenian general who had been forced into exile by demagogues of the Athenian assembly following a failed expedition that Thucydides commanded. As a stateless exile, Thucydides was in an excellent position to observe first hand many of the events of the Peloponnesian war including the Spartans in action. Our best ancient source about life in Sparta is the account of Lycurgus' life from Plutarch's "Lives". Lycurgus was the author of the Spartan constitution that was the basis for Sparta's social system. Plutarch was born around 47 AD which was 512 years after Leonidas was killed in combat (already ancient history). Thucydides was born about 20 years after Leonidas died. The original ancient source concerning King Leonidas was Herodotus in his "Histories". Herodotus was born roughly the same time that Leonidas died.

In my humble opinion, the best modern book about Leonidas and the Spartans is "Gates of Fire" by Steven Pressfield. "Gates of Fire" is a real page turner and supposably required reading for officers in the USMC. Steven Pressfield also wrote "Tides of War" which is a fictional account of Alcibiades' assassin during the Peloponnessian War. Alcibiades like Thucydides was an Athenian general who had been exiled by the Athenian assembly. However unlike Thucydides, Alcibiades threw his lot in with the Spartans and helped them defeat Athens in the Peloponnessian War (Alcibiades like Lucius Cornelius Sulla was one of history's more interesting characters). "Tides of War" isn't as good as "Gates of Fire" but still worth reading.

3/10/2007 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger IceCold said...

Buddy, as I recall most of Taffy 3 (correctly, obviously) ran like hell from the Japanese force at Leyte Gulf - you surely are referring to the amazing heroics of the destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts and the destroyers Hoel and Johnston, which sacrificed themselves and probably helped reduce US losses by charging Kurita's force and putting up an almost unbelievable fight. I was very impressed by Hornfischer's account - especially as it illustrated how fiercely and effectively Americans could fight when the material balance was atypically against them. I've often thought that an Arabic translation of Hornfischer's book would make enlightening reading for jihadis and others deluded about American capacity to prevail in a fight - though many, many have received an education in that in Iraq and Afghanistan the last few years (and the Philippines, and the Horn, and ...).

Am currently pulling myself through yet another Letye Gulf history, which is packed with thoughtful analysis and interesting facts but so poorly written that it's like doing your taxes to read it.

Tony, next on my list is a short account of US air ops at Midway, from the perspective of one participant - I think it's meant to convey how effed up things were on the US side. Of course that's the nature of most battles and certainly of all the WWII biggies now regarded as masterful victories.

"Broken Sword" is a wonderful reconsideration of Midway, if you haven't read it yet. Not an iota's reduction in the heroism of VT-8 or the other participants, but a much more sophisticated and informed analysis of the Japanese side. Really comes off as a devastating indictment of the Japanese navy and military in general (their management and strategic aptitude - their not moral, ethical, and legal failings were not the focus of the book).

As for the "fighting for your buddy" thing, while clearly it holds for infantry and other small units in land warfare, one does wonder how it might apply to pilots venturing hundreds of miles by themselves over water or enemy territory, or navies clashing in waters foreign to both of them. Obviously there's a lot more to it than the buddy thing - duty and commitment to larger goals or values invite derision from some observers but clearly are the basis for why at least free men/women fight.

3/10/2007 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger Walter said...

Ah, but the movie paid homage two the "owned" tools of Persia in the council - not to different than the right's complaints about Murtha and Pelozi!

3/10/2007 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Eggplant - good post, I'll read Gates of Fire, thanks. VDH's "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War" was a great overview for me, a non-scholar. It's primarily drawn from Thucydides. I'd recommend it to anyone, just for the descriptions of trireme, hoplite and cavalry, and for the bloody insanity of true democracy as it was practiced in Athens.

Icecold - for Americans like those who fought the Second World War, I think the "fighting for your buddy" may have much more relevance than we might expect. Most American warriors were recent enlistees, and draftees, who did not grow up in a military heritage, who had no life-shaping mythology like the Spartiates.

As has often been remarked of heroes: "Where do they find these guys?"

Beyond the small population of West Point and Annapolis grads in WWII, James Bradley in his two books "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Flyboys" makes it very clear that these were regular guys, kids mostly, who became imbued with almost impossible heroism in batle. And then, as Bradley makes clear, most went home, raised families, worked for a living, returned to the civitas from whence they arose.

3/11/2007 06:38:00 AM  
Blogger IceCold said...

Tony, well put. I agree that fighting for one's buddies is very common and certainly was so for the WWII generation. I just think that some observers (not generally the sort we see here) sometimes use that formulation to diminish the role that sense of duty and commitment to cause actually play for many.

I've been troubled for some time about the inevitable way that our busy and wildly successful civitas forgets about the heroism and the importance of military action in preserving freedom and spreading it. There are actually several monuments to Taffy III and the men and ships lost where I live (San Diego), and they'll probably figure prominently if I manage to organize some sort of WWII educational program as I've long considered.

3/11/2007 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Icecold, thanks for continuing the conversation. You are right, all of those guys were there because they were answering the call to defend America, almost to a man with fiery eagerness.

I guess I was thinking specifically of the rare flashes in history of the Thermopylae ideal of warrior determination that charges into the face of certain death.

After all, the Japanese were famous for suicidal tactics, not us. What happened then, not quite six months after Pearl Harbor, when Torpedo Squadrons 3, 6 and the immortal 8 sortied 41 planes, and only 5 survived?

Duty, honor, courage ... and this strange devotion that lets heroes live a larger life than their own in the face of unconquerable enemies.

Like Leonidas at Thermopylae, or like Luke Skywalker at the Death Star. (back to 301 Dalmations)

3/11/2007 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger rayra said...

_____
IceCold said...
Am currently pulling myself through yet another Letye Gulf history, which is packed with thoughtful analysis and interesting facts but so poorly written that it's like doing your taxes to read it.
____

I'll guess that you are referring to 'Sea of Thunder', and I agree. Wanders all over, full of tidbits, but doesn't seem to really be about anything.

3/11/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Forklift said...

ffff

3/11/2007 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...

Another Midway hero was McClusky, commander of the Enterprise dive bombers. He vectored to intercept the expected carrier track, but the Japanese turned northeast. He sees no ships. Rather than turn back, or turn south (like Hornet dive bombers), to land at Midway, he turns from safety. He heads Northwest, back along the track.. Samuel Eliot Morison; (page 121 in Vol. 5 of his "History Of United States Navel Operations in World War II") says: "He decided to search beyond the safe limit of fuel endurance.", then spotted the destroyer Arashi "high-tailing" back to the main force after depth charging a sub. The rest is history.

Those planes did the most damage, (Morison thinks they got both the Kaga & Akagi). They arrived just as the torpedo planes drew down the fighters. If McClusky hadn't risked being able to return (he lands with only 2 gallons of fuel), they miss their chance.

I think his action an even better example of willing sacrifice. His was a considered choice, not in the heat of battle, like the torpedo planes. As a Spartan, risking all, with an available safe exit. He succeeded. It changed the world.

I saw a painting from his plane's perspective as it starts to dive toward the Japanese carriers. You see the first Japanese plane taking off to strike the American Carriers. The dive bombers have arrived just in time. It still sends chills up my spine. The instant World War II turned. If he hadn't seized the risk, the world is a very different place.

I don't think people realize the significant Japanese naval advantage available for Midway. Seven Japanese carriers, to three for America, (although they wasted three of the seven).

So I nominate Clarence McClusky as another Spartan. Willing to risk all in service to his country.

3/11/2007 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Icepilot said...

Saw the movie and loved it, although like Goyo, I would have liked to see a little more historical accuracy. If you think those 300 Spartans were packing their own armor as they marched off to Thermopylae, go talk to a few helots.
I'm really pleased that it's obviously going to be a blockbuster, despite the critics not liking the movie. Thankfully, the American people know what they like. Why the liberals hate it is obvious - here is a confident Western culture, secure in their beliefs, faithful to their gods, who, when faced with a terrible enemy respond by saying, "Here are our enemies, let's go kill them."

3/11/2007 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Tony said...

"VDH's "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War" was a great overview for me, a non-scholar. It's primarily drawn from Thucydides. I'd recommend it to anyone, just for the descriptions of trireme, hoplite and cavalry, and for the bloody insanity of true democracy..."

Ditto Tony's comments. I also found "A War Like No Other" to be an excellent book. However VDH's book is more a commentary about war fighting than actual history (similar to John Keegan's books). VDH is a first class scholar. His political commentaries concerning the Iraq War come from a deep understanding of history and war. VDH is the antithesis of the emotive empty headed MSM journalist who provides most of our daily news.

3/11/2007 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Icepilot,

They were great soldiers, but culture is only worthy of derision.

Here is a confident Western culture, secure in their beliefs, faithful to their gods, who, when faced with a terrible enemy respond by saying, "Go, defend that pass and hope they attack there."

Kind of pathetic if this qualifies for any respect.

3/11/2007 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger pst314 said...

"who, when faced with a terrible enemy respond by saying, 'Go, defend that pass and hope they attack there.'"

That's not how it happened. Please read a good book on the subject.

3/11/2007 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

They chose a very strong defensive position, but it still required Xerxes to attack there. The position could have been bypassed by sea, they had a very powerful fleet. Xerxes could have forseen the difficulties, defended his end of the pass and scouted for an alternate way. Ephialtes could have stepped forward sooner.

It serves as a great war buddy story, but the statement - "Here are our enemies, let's go kill them." - is BS, as they didn't go kill their enemies, they waited and their enemies cooperated.

3/12/2007 04:41:00 AM  
Blogger PapaBear said...

I saw the movie early Sunday afternoon. The theater was mostly ful, which is unusual for that time of day, particularly on a nice day.

The audience was mostly male, mostly young males. I think there is a hunger among young men these days for an appreciation of the manly virtues: courage, and the willingness to go up against impossible odds for the sake of defending home and family. Too much of what comes out of Hollywood and TV snears at these virtues.

Regarding allen 3/9 4:57, the movie DID show the Spartans coming upon the aftermath of a Persian massacre of a Greek town, and what the Persians did with the bodies.

In all, I thought it was a GREAT and inspiring movie. I had wanted to see it in IMAX, but it was sold out for the day when I arrived at around noon. I might see it again later in the week in IMAX.

According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, the movie did near-record gross for an R-rated film's opening weekend

3/12/2007 05:19:00 AM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

As the Americans of 1814, the Athenians of 480 BC made a great fuss over the burning of their capitol city by a foreign invader. Patriotism used to work that way.

Whereas nowadays, our best & brightest order us to to consider gee! what must we have done to provoke them?

3/12/2007 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger pst314 said...

"They chose a very strong defensive position, but it still required Xerxes to attack there."

They knew that Xerxes was coming that way, and thus knew that Thermopylae was a logical place to oppose him. (The army had marched from Persia, crossed the Hellespont on a famous bridge built by Xerxes' engineers, and then proceeded down the coast.)

The nature of the terrain was such that Xerxes had few choices in how to move such a large army. But regardless of his choices, that route is the one he chose.

"The position could have been bypassed by sea, they had a very powerful fleet."

The fleet was elsewhere, delivering a second army which Xerxes intended to land much farther south, crushing the Greeks between two forces. (It was destroyed by the Greeks at Artemisium.) The fleet that you see in the movie was a rearrangement of events for dramatic purposes.

Furthermore, Xerxes never even dreamed that his army could be held off by such a small force. Herodotus vividly reports his shock at seeing what the Spartans did to his soldiers.

So, "kind of pathetic" and "BS" make no sense.

3/12/2007 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger EB said...

I saw 300 yesterday in an almost full Grauman's theater at the 1 pm screening. Loved it and based on crowd reaction it seems that was the overall reaction.

I think it is a mistake to nitpick historic details in what is obviously a fantastical retelling. If the humongous Rhino doesn't give it away then the gargantuan elephants should.

3/12/2007 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Saw the movie yesterday. Great fun.

Does anyone recall exactly what the oracle said.

Was it that the oracle said to delay battle until after festival of delphi. And the problem with this was that by delaying the persians would have time to march through greece?

3/12/2007 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Laika's Last Woof said...

'[Germans] booed "300" at the Berlin Film Festival'

Perhaps they heard in Leonidas' defiance an echo of the word "NUTS!"

Thermopylae ... the Ardennes ... Patton reincarnated once again ... 300 Spartans ripped the Persians' guts out and used them to grease the treads of their tanks.

3/12/2007 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger C.C. said...

The theater was full of young males when I saw it with the wife. She cringed during all the bloodshed but the kids took it in step.

The speech that the Queen gave to the Senate could be read to our Congress today...

I remarked that it would have been a good thing if the USMC had a recruiter out in the hallway...

3/12/2007 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Dorf said...

Great movie, great movie!

Somebody mentioned it already, but if you get a chance, watch the History Channel show, I think it is called "Last Stand of The 300"

3/12/2007 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

'300' Smashes March Opening Record
Deadline Hollywood ^ | 03-12-07 | Nikki Finke

Posted on 03/12/2007 6:39:35 AM PDT by Bratch

It was a bloodbath at the U.S. box office this weekend because of 2007's first bonafide blockbuster. Warner Bros. told me this morning its 'R'-rated 300 about the epic Battle of Thermopylae shattered the record for the biggest March opening ever, and scored the 3rd biggest 'R'-rated movie debut ever, with its $70+ million. (Or, $70.025 mil to be exact, though the studio didn't provide a breakdown.)

Other studios say this 'Gladiator Gore-Fest' raked in $27.7 mil to $28 mil Friday and $24.3 mil to $24.8 mil Saturday and an estimated $16 mil to $17.2 mil Sunday from its 3,103 theaters.

3/12/2007 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

the sanity inspector,

Do you think there is a correlation between the historically abnormal rate of American marriage dissolution and the inability of contemporary Americans to recognize patriotism as historically normative - with "patriot" derived from “of one's fathers"?

3/12/2007 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Jihadist Meltdown

3/12/2007 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

Cox & Forkum

3/12/2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas said...

I haven't seen any posts that said exactly what the oracle said, or whether the ephor heard one thing and said another.

My thoughts on the movie are here.

3/12/2007 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Roderick said...

Haven't seen the movie, but I have seen the trailers. I concede that the graphic novel as film genre is a cool idea (loved Sin City), but I wince at "300" since I am familiar with the actual events at Thermopylae.

"300" seems to have been written and drawn by two individuals with the hearts, minds, and senisbilities of two gay 14-year-olds. I mean, what's with Xerxe's being portrayed as a fey little bald Hispanic dressed (undressed?) up for a San Francisco parade? A trained Rhinoceros? The Spartans wearing NO armor, and dressed in bodybuilder/male stripper "nut-holsters?" Sorry, too much for me.

The number of Greeks at Thernmopylae was actually more like 1,500, with a 300-man Spartan contingent. It was always meant to be a holding action, and not an atempt at victory. The other Greeks (Phocians and Thespians. No, really, Phocians and Thespians) also fought ferociously, the Phocians from on top a wall, and the Thespians from a rise. Leonidas ordered them to vacate the premises when it was discovered that the Persians had found a another pass to attack the Greek's from the back.

Xerxe's army was 200-250,000, NOT 1 million. Still a huge army for the time. The Persians were never able to confront the Greeks with more than a few thousand troops at a time, but they were excellent fighters (just not as good as the Greeks, man-per-man -- especially the Spartans), and were beter trained, armed and armored then some histories suggest.

3/12/2007 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Roderick said...

Xerxes with an "S". Sorry!

3/12/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

"Xerxes never even dreamed that his army could be held off by such a small force."

He had a large army of troops whose natural enviroment was the wide open space of the persian empire. He should not have committed them to a small confined killing field. The position was easily by-passed and the Greeks did not defend that route well. Xerxes knew that he had to go there and knew the choke point existed, he should have known about the alternate routes or brought some sea transport. Thermopylae was of no value of itself and could have been by-passed, should have been bypassed. Eventually it was bypassed and the Persians won through.

3/12/2007 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

Tony:

here is another example of the same type of heroism - HMS Jervis Bay from 1940:

"HMS Jervis Bay was a British liner later converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser, pennant F40. It was launched in 1922 and sunk on 5 November 1940 by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer."

"The ship was originally the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line steamer Jervis Bay named after the Australian bay (the line named all of its ships after bays). She had been taken over by the Royal Navy in August 1939 on the outbreak of the Second World War and hastily armed with a few World War I vintage 6-inch guns. She was initially assigned to the South Atlantic station before becoming a convoy escort in May 1940."

"She was the sole escort for 37 merchant ships in convoy HX84 from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Britain, when the convoy encountered the Admiral Scheer. The Captain of Jervis Bay, Edward Fegen, ordered the convoy to scatter and closed with the German warship. The 11-inch guns of the German ship easily outranged Jervis Bay and she was sunk with the loss of 190 crew. However, while Admiral Scheer went on to sink 5 merchant ships out of the convoy, the Jervis Bay's sacrifice bought enough time for the convoy to scatter, and the remaining ships escaped. Sixty-five survivors from Jervis Bay (Captain Fegan not amongst them) were picked up by the neutral Swedish ship Stureholm."

"Captain Fogarty Fegen was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross as a result of this action. The citation for the Victoria Cross reads "Valour in challenging hopeless odds and giving his life to save the many ships it was his duty to protect."

http://www.answers.com/topic/hms-jervis-bay

3/12/2007 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

I have a problem with adopting Thermopylae as an ideal, because it was a defeat, it was a battle of neccessity and its only redeeming feature was achieved by the enemy screwing up. The greeks set forces in a defensive position that was easily by-passed and without a path of retreat. Umm, let see - if we only fight wars of neccessity without attacking our enemies we will survive because the enemy will do something to help us - that is liberalism, a pathetic ideology.

3/12/2007 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Thanks John B, yes, that's the stuff, all right.


Iranian official agrees with limp reviewers of “300”

3/12/2007 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

"The greeks set forces in a defensive position that was easily by-passed and without a path of retreat."

I totally disagree. At the same spot a century later, Phillip of Macedon with a large Army and superior local knowledge and under better military leadership was held off by 4000 hoplites.

The position was not easily bypassed. A goat trail did not work for a supply train, only light infantry - which allowed the Persians to get behind and ABOVE the Greeks, thus bringing their arrows to bear. The Persians still had to reduce the Greek position so the main army could advance.

At sea, a Spartan General held the Persian Fleet at Artemesium using Athenian ships.

The twin actions at the Hot Gates and at Sea were mutually supporting actions - without the land action, the Persian fleet could noodle down the coast, supported by land, and without the sea action, the Persians could have bypassed the Hot Gates.

Had the full Spartan Army massed at the Hot Gates, Xerxes would have been in a very dangerous position. His supply trains were fixed and his fleet was engaged. A full Spartan attack would have turned into a rout had the Spartans advanced. Just years before Spartans outnumbered 3 to 1 had pushed heavily armored Greeks back miles during one typical engagement. Xerxes had hundreds of thousands of men in column for 20 miles.

If they could have dropped Macedonian cavalry in Xerxes rear after the rout, destruction would have been total.

The action at the Hot Gates held Xerxes for two weeks.

See my post over at HH:


"Strategically:

Xerxes took huge losses, ran low on water, his Army was halted, unlike when he turned the flank at Sarantaporo. Fixed in place, his Navy was hammered by storm and then halted at Artemision. The Greek land component and the naval component had to work together to slow Xerxes down. Had neither been present, then Xerxes could have sailed around Leonidas and had Leonidas not blocked him, the Persians could have hopscotched down the coast keeping their Army at their back.

Xerxes was halted for two crucial weeks in mid-September. He dawdled for five days before attacking, took four days to reduce the Spartans, and then it took five more days to get going. This put him into the Mid of September. This gave him just two more weeks to take Athens before the Agean became unavigable due to storminess and shortening of days.

The massive losses taken by Xerxes reinforced the Greek belief in their Hoplites while strengthening the domestic political hand of the resistance. The battle gave Themistocles more time to evacuate Athens and to build up the Navy. The delay reduced Xerxes' supplies.

Psychologically:

But most importantly, the Spartans did not have to stay. Nor did the Thespians. But they did. And they died.

To understand the significance of this in Greece, one has to understand that Sparta was THE enforcer of Greece. Its Army was undefeated in battle and often marched out to keep other cities in line. Most every Greek city had had its posterior handed to it by Sparta. Moreover, many Greek cities admired Sparta and sent their sons and daughters to Sparta for an education. This was long before Athenian propoganda made Sparta out to be the boogeyman.

For Sparta to send a King and his bodyguard and for them to willingly die, made the other cities fall into line. First, Sparta would fight to the Death. Second, Sparta was fighting for ALL of Greece - not just Sparta. Third, cynically, if Sparta won - and they had great reason to think that Greece could prevail, then Sparta would remember later down the road. Finally, Sparta was the epitome of much of Greece - and the sacrifice set the Moral Example.

Greece at this time was mostly freehold Agrarian. Freedom was something everyone held dear and it was amply defended by stubborn, well-off, heavily-armed, and self-thinking people. No one told them what to think.

The Spartan example was not in the battle itself, but in the final hours when they Voluntarily stayed and fought to the last man.

The key to understanding this and why it was critical and its impact - consider the Thespians who stayed as well. 700 militia - basically National Guard troops, voluntarily stayed with the Spartans.

For the small city state of Thespia to lose 700 men - most of its fighting force - when most other men left - shows how strongly the Spartan example affected not only the men at the battle and how highly regarded the Spartans were - but gives a clue as to how it would later affect all of Greece.

The Spartans recognized the courage of the Thespians by exchanging cloaks with them. And this, too, the other Greeks saw for what it was.

The battle galvanized Greece and unified its thoughts. "

3/12/2007 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger pst314 said...

Well, I was going to respond once more to unaha-closp, but Red River said everything I wanted to say and more.

3/13/2007 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Aase's death said...

Well, look at this historian's take:

"This moral universe [of the movie 300] would have appeared as bizarre to ancient Greeks as it does to modern historians. Most Greeks would have traded their homes in Athens for hovels in Sparta about as willingly as I would trade my apartment in Toronto for a condo in Pyongyang."

I have a date tonight to see the movie and, not only are there different histories against which to judge it, there will be the surrounding audience's talking and munching through what was supposed to have been an epochal moment of western civ and human courage. Movies must be our equivalent to yesteryear's minstrel/ epic poets who passed on (embellished upon?) versions of history, and one can imagine the drama and distraction that went with the telling even back then.

We could use the inspiration just now, so will view it keeping in mind the fight and sacrifice for liberty meme over that of 'monsters are only in the eye of the prejudiced beholder' truth of horrified apologists, and then hope that audiences in urban America are also going for same. We need the idea that standing up for ourselves because our larger civilization is worth it reinforced wherever and however we can get it.

3/13/2007 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Aase's death said...

Victor Davis Hanson isn't burnishing his credentials as an effete academic who dismisses this movie on account of comic book atmospherics, imprecise historical detail and an allegedly reductionist Big Theme, about which he says:

“If critics think that 300 reduces and simplifies the meaning of Thermopylae into freedom versus tyranny, they should reread carefully ancient accounts and then blame Herodotus, Plutarch, and Diodorus — who long ago boasted that Greek freedom was on trial against Persian autocracy, free men in superior fashion dying for their liberty, their enslaved enemies being whipped to enslave others.”

3/13/2007 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

"I totally disagree. At the same spot a century later, Phillip of Macedon with a large Army and superior local knowledge and under better military leadership was held off by 4000 hoplites.

The position was not easily bypassed. A goat trail did not work for a supply train, only light infantry - which allowed the Persians to get behind and ABOVE the Greeks, thus bringing their arrows to bear. The Persians still had to reduce the Greek position so the main army could advance."

The Persians by-passed the forward defences, got above them, broke them. As soon as they adopted these tactics they won easily. There was nothing preventing them from doing this earlier, because the flank was not well protected - this is historical record.

"Had the full Spartan Army massed at the Hot Gates, Xerxes would have been in a very dangerous position."

Yes. If the flank had been protected adequately it would have been a good defensive position and this could have been taken advantage of. But it was not. It was poorly defended.

You talk of their willingness to die as being an example to all of Greece. That was not the glory then and is not the glory now. The value of the battle lay in that first 2 days, when they stood against the mightiest army ever and held them. A tale would arrive at the Greek cites telling of how the defenders had slaughtered the Persians and not broken. The next day another tale would arrive, same story. And on the third day a tale of great sacrifice, how these heroes laid down their lives after killing many thousands of Persians.

Now imagine a world where those first two tales did not arrive. Instead a tale of how the Persians captured the pass and slew any Greeks who had not fled.

"The Spartan example was not in the battle itself, but in the final hours when they Voluntarily stayed and fought to the last man."

Would the Spartans or Thebans have stayed and fought if they had not been victorius on the previous two days?

But primarily I dispute the value of self sacrifice in a losing cause. If the movie had been of how the Spartans had formed a phalanx in the valley and the Persians had come above them and rained arrows down on them - noble speeches by Leonadis would have looked silly and the movie been much shorter or never made.

The myth is born of few standing against many and holding them at bay. Achieved only because Xerxes committed to frontal assault against the strongest position.

3/13/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Reckon we are not going to see a film about the "heroes" of the Maginot Line any time soon.

3/13/2007 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger pst314 said...

"You talk of their willingness to die as being an example to all of Greece. That was not the glory then and is not the glory now."

That is simply not true. It is a matter of historical record that the Greeks saw them as heroes and were inspired by their example. And in fact the story resonates down through history. Educated Americans and Europeans of 250 years ago knew Classical history and about Thermopylae. My veteran friends also know about Thermopylae and also disagree with you. And here is just one literary citation:

"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, 7, by Lord Byron

"I dispute the value of self sacrifice in a losing cause"

The Spartans delayed Xerxes long enough for the rest of the Greek forces to assemble and defeat him. That sounds valuable. (Not to mention that the Spartans had reasonable hope of holding the Persians long enough for a much larger force to join them at Thermopylae.)

Back in the 70's, a friend of mine was a tanker stationed in Germany. His task, if the Soviets invaded, was to slow the Soviets long enough for NATO to mobilize and field more divisions. Commanders knew that his life expectancy would be measured in days. He and his comrades knew it too, and yet they were willing to die in the Fulda Gap to save Europe. Should we despise them as fools? I don't think so.

Neither were the Greeks fools. A knowledgable historian can study the Athenians and Spartans heated debates over the proper way to meet the Persian threat. He or she can also consider the merits of different strategies and tactics. But it's silly to sneer in contempt at people who were neither fools nor incompetents.

3/13/2007 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

How can the defense of one's homeland ever be a lost cause to the patriot? Who determines, a priori, what battles are lost causes?

3/13/2007 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

"The Spartans delayed Xerxes long enough for the rest of the Greek forces to assemble and defeat him. That sounds valuable."

That is all the value. The two days of success is what made the Greek action heroic.

"(Not to mention that the Spartans had reasonable hope of holding the Persians long enough for a much larger force to join them at Thermopylae.)"

A much larger force would have been a brilliant idea, they could have guarded against flanking. What was sent was inadequate, if such a force was sent against Alexander it might have lasted half a day, it was fortunate to be sent against Xerxes who rushed an attack against the strong point.

Their function was to slow the enemy. They did this by stopping them for two days and thus are heroes.

"He and his comrades knew it too, and yet they were willing to die in the Fulda Gap to save Europe. Should we despise them as fools? I don't think so."

Neither do I, because there were sufficient forces of sufficient power to do the job. If however those forces were equipped with Sopwith Camels as air cover (to protect their higher ground) I might change my opinion.

I call foolish Churchill's landing at Gallipoli, it foolish Custer to go so far and I have been calling Xerxes a fool for attacking that one strong point in this debate.

I call the Greeks lucky fools. Fools for sending an inadequate force to defend this strong point and lucky to defend it for two days.

3/14/2007 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

"Who determines, a priori, what battles are lost causes?"

No one. However if on a fortified position below a cliff face trying to block an enemy advance and there is access for the enemy to the heights of the cliff (and your rear) which you have not adequately gaurded, you are less likely to win.

Obviously calling this foolish is only my opinion and pst314 & Red River disagree thinking it to be a well thought out defence. And icepilot calls it the actions of a great culture to have you sitting there, but not have sent enough troops to defend that flank.

3/14/2007 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger Blue said...

Liberal. Female. American. In my 20s. And loved this movie.

So quit yer whinin', stereotypin' and excuses to take potshots whenever you can about this political view, that gender, or whatever country. :)

3/16/2007 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Screw it, the real reason I am pissed at "300" is that this movie shows a scrap of a defeat as the West barely survives. And it is a a better movie than "Alexander" where the West beats everyone, because that stupid director wanted to make an obscure tale of homo-eroticism more prominent than any history.

3/18/2007 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger pst314 said...

"the real reason I am pissed at "300" is that this movie shows a scrap of a defeat as the West barely survives"

Well, you are definitely in the minority. Down through history the battle was famous as an inspirational story of courage and sacrifice.

3/21/2007 11:11:00 AM  

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