History of the World According to the Movies: Part 3- Ancient Greece and Other Things

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This is from the notorious historical disasterpiece 300. While there was a Battle of Thermopylae as well as a real King Leonidas and Queen Gorgo, they certainly didn’t dress like that. I mean Spartan warriors would fight without upper body protection while Spartan women wouldn’t wear their hair below shoulder length or don in outfits other tan a short tunic. Also, you don’t see any helots tending the fields, which they certainly would because slavery was actively enforced in Sparta. Not to mention, Leonidas’ son would have to be at the Spartan warrior school learning fighting, survival skills, and dirty tricks by now since there’s no way he looks younger than seven.

When telling the history of the western world, you can’t leave out the Greeks. Much of our vocabulary comes from them as well as the fact that they were the forerunners of a lot of things like science, medicine, theater, democracy (sort of), and other academic disciplines. Not to mention, the word “history” itself is a Greek word meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation.” Also, they had the Olympics (but not in way we’d be familiar with since they didn’t have women’s events and competed in the nude. Not to mention, they cheated a lot.) There’s even Greek mythology with a pantheon of many complete assholes save a few like Hades. Of course, Greece was never a very united entity and consisted of an array of city states, the most famous being Athens a naval power as well as a place of culture, quasi-democracy, and rampant misogyny and Sparta a oligarchical warrior slave state where everyone lived off the land supported by helots and the only place in Greece where women had any rights. Still, there are movies made on Ancient Greece most notably the gory historic trainwreck 300 and it’s sequel 300: Rise of an Empire as well as all those movies on Greek mythology like Clash of the Titans. Nevertheless, even though it was the Greeks who came up with the concept of history (though it’s hard to distinguish history from myth sometimes in this context), filmmakers still find ways to butcher theirs (as well as other civilizations, but at least they didn’t leave any written records).

Ancient Greece:

The Greeks carved marble statues. (The marble Greek statues you see are Roman copies. Actually the Greeks cast their statues in bronze using a marble prototype. Most of the original bronze Greek statues were melted during the Middle Ages for cannons and church bells.)

Oracles had leprosy and had naked girls danced around for them. (Bullshit, but the oracles were on drugs.)

Oracles were attractive women who danced naked in a trancelike state. (Sorry, but 300 gets this wrong. They were mostly old women.)

Most Greek city states looked like Athens. (A lot of Greek city states would later get fed up with Athens and fight against them so why would they want to emulate them? Also, filmmakers usually use Athens for Ancient Greece because it’s the most familiar Greek city most people know.)

Most men of Ancient Greece were clean shaven. (Contrary to what you see in the movies, a lot of guys in Ancient Greece had beards and dark hair.)

The Greek hoplites threw doru spears. (Actually they would be too long and heavy to be thrown. Javelins would’ve been used instead.)

Ancient Greece was a progressive beacon of reason. (Actually Ancient Greece consisted of over 1,000 city states that had their own unique culture as well as more or less resembled a sectarian war zone. Also, only less than 5% of the Ancient Greek population was literate. Of course, the Greeks were willing to lynch, exile, and execute some of the brighter among them like Socrates as well as possessed no qualms to enslave their fellow man, with Athens said to have more slaves than anybody. Also, whatever achievements the ancient Greeks made, they didn’t spread too far since most Greeks were illiterate rural farmers and herders who rarely ventured beyond their own city state. And your average ancient Greek didn’t really care about logic, literature, or theater. In fact, they’d prefer the comfort of familiarity and superstition.)

Ancient Greek Olympic athletes were amateurs who just believed in fair play and peace. (Yeah right. Actually Ancient Greek Olympians were nothing of the sort and the early Olympics were rife with cheating, corruption and commercialism. They didn’t have the spirit of sportsmanship like we do today. Sure punishments for cheating ranged from flogging to death, but in Ancient Greece, the Olympics were such a big deal with the prize being instant and lasting fame as well as riches and bitches, athletes took cheating to an art form as well as bribed judges and competitors. Thus, what made their games different than our games is that they didn’t allow women to watch or compete and that they competed in the nude.)

Crete:

The Cretans participated in human sacrifice. (There’s no evidence they actually did this, though there are mythological references to it, which might have been just propaganda.)

Sparta:

Spartan warriors were all buffed out with six-pack abs and bulging muscles as well as went into battle nearly naked. (Just because Spartan men devoted their lives as warriors doesn’t mean they had the bodies of Olympic athletes. As for clothes, they were covered in bronze armor in battle not speedos. A Spartan warrior knew better than that.)

Sparta was an unstoppable military juggernaut with an army of proud warrior race guys and badass warrior kings, only stopping to deliver witty lines to philosophers for posterity’s sake. (This might be what Sparta was like in 300 or how men like Plato or Xenophon saw it. Ditto the Romans who admired Sparta’s military spirit. But the real Sparta was very much like the North Korea of its day that had secret police as well as highly discouraged contact with the outside {then again, comparing ancient Sparta to North Korea may not be accurate militarily speaking, but it does fit with the repressive closed society bit}. Visitors were usually given the Spartan Disneyland treatment of all the things in which the Spartans would glorify about themselves. However, more modern assessments state that Sparta was a Peloponnese regional power that essentially cannibalized all the non-military functions of its own state, in order to continue a bitter war with the city-state of Argos, and was able to use the ensuing victory to bully its allies into fighting for them. Spartan military supremacy lasted less than 100 years and its hegemony over Greece lasted only 10. Furthermore, the Spartan  army lost more battles than it won and its central warrior caste was decimated by the city’s town leaders to profit from their “inalienable” land holdings. Let’s just say Disney’s Hercules has a better assessment of Sparta than 300, especially when an old Theban says, “That’s it, I’m moving to Sparta.”)

300 Spartans fought against the Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae under King Leonidas. (Actually, though there were 300 Spartans present at the Battle of Thermopylae, they didn’t fight alone like 300 suggests. And unlike what 300 suggests, only a fraction of their force for they wouldn’t send their whole army that far north. Though Leonidas did command the Spartan force personally, there were 4000 other troops under him as well such as 700 Thespiae, 400 Thebans, and 900 helots to assist. And out of Leonidas’ forces, 1500 of them were involved in the last stand. Some scholars even said that the Greeks had about 7000. And they weren’t against half a million Persians, but 80,000.)

Spartan men’s only occupation they were trained for was that of a solider. (Yes, but they also learned how to sing, dance, read, write, and perform in plays. And when a Spartan man got too old to fight, he spent the rest of his life either on the council or teaching other Spartan boys to fight in the warrior school.)

Sparta was the only Greek city state with a professional army. (Well, they were the only one that required that all male citizens participate in the army and sent their boys to boot camp from the age of seven though all Greek city states had some form of conscription. Also, every Greek city state had a professional army not as dedicated, hardened, and well trained as the Spartan Army but certainly not sculptors or potters.)

Spartans had manhood rituals such as slaying a wolf. (No, they didn’t. Actually it involved living in the wild for a week and killing a slave.)

Spartans left their weak babies to die. (No archaeological evidence has been found to support this. Rather, people with disabilities were cared for in Spartan society.)

Sparta sent a naval fleet at the Battle of Salamis. (Contrary to 300: Rise of an Empire, Sparta had no navy until the Peloponnesian Wars when they need one to fight the Athenians. Ironically, their navy was given by the Persians.)

The Spartans had hundreds of ships at the Battle of Salamis and turned up at the last minute to save the day. (Nice try, 300: Rise of an Empire, but they didn’t show up at the last minute and only had 16 ships. Oh, and they weren’t led by Queen Gorgo either.)

Adultery was shameful in Sparta. (It wasn’t.)

The Spartans had disdain for the ephors and the supernatural. (They were particularly religious for Ancient Greece and were big worshipers of Ares.)

The ephors were deformed molester priests who betrayed the people of Sparta. (They actually were five Senators who ran the Spartan government and democratically elected by each village but only served a year.)

Sparta was ruled by two democratically elected “kings” who held equal power and judged by the ephors. (While Sparta did have two kings ruling the land, the positions were hereditary.)

The Spartan Gerousia consisted of men of varying ages. (Spartan men had to be at least 60 before ever being considered for the Gerousia. Of course, there is the Apella made up of representatives of the Spartan citizenry but they didn’t have much power.)

The Spartan city state was mostly populated by Spartans. (They were a minority military caste in their own city-state where the state-owned helot serfs made up 90% of the population. Also, you have the perioci from Laconia who were autonomous civilians but were never considered citizens though they were required to fight when needed to.)

Sparta was a rural  and freedom loving society. (It was far from it than what you see in 300 but rather a dictatorship by a militant elite minority who lived by and continually repressed the majority helot population basically slaves who worked the land to produce food so the Spartans could spend all their time oppressing them and fighting other wars in between. Also, during some periods a Spartan could kill a helot and never be punished for it if he wanted. Oh, and they killed diplomats, were profoundly racist, and may have practiced eugenics. Not to mention, they regularly beat up boys during warrior training and taught them to be bullies {which can be somewhat justified}.)

Queen Gorgo killed a council member named Theron. (There’s no evidence she did this.)

Spartans referred Athenians as “boy lovers.” (This might be true, but Spartan soldiers and other Greeks weren’t so above being pederasts themselves either. As Television Tropes and Idioms says: “The relationship between adult men and adolescent boys was used like in all Greek states for education of the adolescent boy. However many Spartan sources, and even some outside of Sparta, insist that the relationship was not sexual in nature as that would have been similar to a father doing it with his son. The relationships were broken by the time the older man married as he would have to concentrate on his main job in peace: procreation. In Athens however the matter was completely different due to the locking up of women in gyneceums and their general lack of rights compared to Spartan women, the main sexual relationships of men were with other men. When it came to the relationship between adult men and adolescent boys it involved a lot of competition between the older men for the affections of the teens and the whole thing resembled soap operas with the older men serenading the boys writing them love poem and stuff like that, something that would have ended with two beheaded bodies in Sparta. That might have been what Leonidas meant by “boy lovers”.”)

The Spartans had an excellent military training program. (Spartan military training was especially harsh but it didn’t put them at a better advantage against other Greek city states.)

Ephialtes was a deformed Spartan tempted to join the Persian side when Xerxes showed him a tent full of naked ladies. (According to Herodotus, he was a non-deformed non-Spartan who showed the Persians a mountain trail around Thermopylae which led them to victory.)

Queen Gorgo had long flowing hair and wore long backless dresses. (Gorgo would’ve looked like any Spartan woman of the time such as a slit up dress called pelos as well as had hair that went no further than their shoulders. In fact, Gorgo wouldn’t be allowed to have her hair that long. Also, if a Spartan woman was just married, it would be very easy to tell because she’d have a shaved head. Thus, in 300, most female Spartan characters would’ve been way overdressed.)

Sparta saved Athenian democracy. (The Peloponnesian Wars show a very different story since they kicked the crap out of Athens.)

Athens:

The Ancient Athenians had a democracy. (Actually, though it may have been a democracy it was a only a democracy for adult male citizens who have completed military training which was 20%, for the rest like women, slaves, freed slaves, resident aliens, and disqualified citizens, it wasn’t.)

Themistocles said his only family was the Athenian fleet. (According to Plutarch, he was married at least once and had as many as ten kids. Not only that, but he was also a prominent politician in Athens as well so much of his life didn’t just revolve around the Athenian navy.)

Themistocles wasn’t present at the Battle of Thermopylae. (Contrary to 300, he was and made a very significant contribution to it by preventing the Persians to sail past the Spartan army as well as outflanking them. He only retreated once the pass was taken and defending the sea became irrelevant. In some respect, he held where Leonidas failed. However, Themistocles doesn’t get any recognition for this in movies solely because he’s Athenian. So if you aren’t Sparta in Thermopylae, you basically don’t get squat.)

Themistocles devised the strategy and led the charge in the Battle of Marathon as well as killed King Darius. (While he did fight at Marathon, he was only one of many captains involved in the struggle. But he didn’t devise the strategy or lead the charge. Also, he didn’t kill King Darius who wasn’t at the battle and died a few years later of completely natural causes. Oh, and Artemisia didn’t manipulate Xerxes into becoming king {Darius was his father}, have him to reshape himself into a god {which would’ve been blasphemy}, nor did she encourage him to declare war on Greece. Nor was she a lousy commander either or obsessed with revenge.)

Athenian warriors had six pack abs and went out scantily clad. (Seriously, I’m beginning to think that the 300 franchise is catered to guys deep in the closet. Besides, hopilites would’ve been clad with armor no matter where they came from.)

Macedonia:

The Macedonians spoke in an Irish accent. (Oliver Stone cast Irish actors in Alexander to show how hickish they were compared to the Greeks though {at least in their point of view}, which was true in fact.)

Trojan War:

The Trojan War was fought over a woman named Helen. (Yes, but there were a lot of other things. For instance, Menelaus only became king by marrying Helen {who was the actual queen and much more than a pretty face} and the fact that she made off with Paris not only endangered his position but also gave the Trojans a claim to Sparta. Menelaus just couldn’t let Helen go with Paris, even if she just wasn’t that into him. Also, Paris violated sacred hospitality which is never to run off with the wife of his host.This is according to Homer. As for the real Trojan War, well, we can’t really be sure but a recent theory of a Mycenaean Allied Hittite commander from Miletus who wanted to expand his territory and had spent 35 years attacking Hittite vassal states.)

The Greeks were the aggressors in the Trojan War. (Actually, archaeology squarely puts this on the Hittites, not the Mycenaean Greeks. Also, it’s fairly established in The Illiad that Paris caused the whole war.)

Llamas were present in the city of Troy and Zeus’ symbol was a bald eagle. (These are native to the Americas so the Ancient Greeks would have no knowledge of these animals.)

The Trojan War was fought with Iron Age weapons. (Actually it was fought in the Bronze Age if it was ever fought at all {most likely it was}.)

Menelaus and Agamemnon didn’t survive the Trojan War. (According to Homer, they did and even won the Trojan War {further Menelaus gets Helen back}. Not to mention, neither of them are the disgusting middle aged guys depicted in Troy. Still, in Agamemnon’s case, it wasn’t for long.)

Paris survived the Trojan War and gets to keep Helen. (According to Homer, Paris gets killed before the war is over and he is actually blamed for starting the whole thing {he’s actually even destined to doom Troy}. Also, Helen ends up with his brother for a time before being ultimately rescued by Menelaus. Not to mention, Hector’s son doesn’t survive the war either and his wife ends up a concubine to the Greeks.)

The heroes of the Trojan War were kings. (Archaeology casts doubt on this. However, it’s possible. Still, if you weren’t a king in Greek mythology, you probably didn’t mean much in some respects.)

Hector was an all around nice guy. (While he’s nicer than most of the Illiad characters, he does do dubious things in the original poem like stealing, bragging about killing his enemies, and running away from Achilles during their final confrontation until the gods convinced him to fight.)

Achilles and Patrolcus had a close relationship because they were cousins. (As far as the Ancient Greeks are concerned, they could’ve been “cousins” in the same contexts as some of Ava Gardner’s fuck buddies in The Barefoot Contessa or even more so. But Homer also said that Achilles had a son who went on to marry Helen’s daughter Hermione. But, then again, you can’t really tell with the Greeks. He’s also said to fall in love with an Amazon after killing her. So it’s very possible that Achilles went both ways as illustrated in the Homer poem, which was very typical for the Greeks at the time. It’s also possible for Patrolcus to be older than him, too.)

Aeneas was only a teenager when he fled Troy. (According to Homer, he was the best warrior in Troy after Hector and his fate is unknown. In Virgil’s Aeneid, he’s most definitely not a teenager.)

The Trojans worshiped the Greek gods. (We’re not sure whether they did or not or whether Troy was a dependent of the Hittites {it’s said to be located in modern Turkey by the way} or Mycenae. Also, the Greek architecture should look more like Knossos as well as more or less Egyptian. Besides, we don’t know whether the Greeks worshiped their gods in the same context then either.)

Agamemnon and Menelaus had an easy time getting other Greek kings to fight for them. (According to Homer, this was made easier by Odysseus’ meddling. In actuality, getting multiple kings to fight for each other makes cat herding look easy. Oh, and Mycenean Greeks were under a more feudal society more akin to medieval Europe or Medieval and Shogunate Japan.)

The Greeks won the Trojan War with sneaking themselves in Troy with a Trojan horse. (I’m not sure if the Trojans would be that stupid or if such tactics would work. Hell, Moses parting the Red Sea is more believable than this. Still, there’s a theory that the Trojan Horse is an allegory of a timely earthquake.)

Helen of Sparta chose to marry Menelaus. (Even The Illiad doesn’t make this bogus claim. Also, Menelaus had to marry her before he could become king of Sparta anyway.)

Helen of Sparta and Paris had a loving relationship. (According to Homer, Paris was a philandering and cowardly jerk even by Trojan standards who gets his ass beat by Menelaus {who’s no way considered the best Greek warrior}. Furthermore, when Helen is accused of being a slut, Paris doesn’t defend her thinking it’s Hector’s job. Also, we’re not sure if Helen even consented on leaving Sparta with Paris, but if she did, she certainly regretted it and feels very guilty about starting the Trojan War in the first place. Still, by The Illiad, their relationship has considerably cooled and let’s say that the only Trojans Helen generally respects are Prince Hector and King Priam since they’re actually nice to her.)

Troy was destroyed in the Trojan War. (Recent archaeology says it’s possible that it held on for a few centuries. Furthermore, there may have been other cities in present day Turkey attacked by the Greeks with Troy only being one of them.)

Alexander the Great:

Alexander the Great was straight. (Historians aren’t really sure what his sexual orientation was. Let’s say he just humped anything that moves.)

Alexander the Great was tall and imposing with blond hair. (It’s said he was more or less short and stocky by Macedonian standards as well as had twisty neck and eyes of two different colors. Nothing like Colin Farrell in the least.)

Herodotus recounted the events of Alexander the Great’s life. (He died 70 years before Alexander the Great was born.)

Alexander the Great was wounded with an arrow in his chest at the Hydapses and nearly died. (He was wounded in a later siege in what is now Mutan, Pakistan. Also, he won at Hydapses but you wouldn’t know it from Alexander.)

Ancient Europe:

The Celts were uncivilized barbarians who fought naked and participated in barbaric rituals like human sacrifice. (Sure the Celts were a warrior culture headed by kings and nobles but even though they didn’t have writing, they did have civilization and their women had more rights. Not to mention, the Celtic culture wasn’t homogenous as was the case with the Greeks and the Mayans. Besides, most civilizations in the ancient world had their share of barbarity. Same goes for the Germanic tribes.)

Celts usually had red or blond hair as well as blue, gray, and green eyes. (Brown haired and brown eyed Celts also existed. Same goes for Germanic tribes.)

Pictish is Scotch Gaelic. (No record of the Pictish language exists and the Scottish people in Centurion didn’t want to speak Welsh.)

Druids worshiped Zeus. (They were Celts so they most certainly did not.)

The Picts fought the Romans in the 2nd century. (They don’t appear in the historical records until 297 AD. If they were fighting the Scots in the 2nd century, it would’ve been the Caldones.)

Carthage:

The Arab women stripped the dead soldiers of their clothing during the Punic Wars. (There were no Arabs in North Africa during the Punic Wars, and no, Carthaginian civilians didn’t scavenge dead soldiers either.)

Unclassified:

The Hebrews looked just like modern-day white Americans while the Romans resembled Englishmen and spoke in English accents.

Greeks and Romans resembled Northern and Western Europeans.

The civilizations of Greece and Rome tend to look pretty much the same as if they existed around the same time and almost every ancient Greek city looks like Athens.

Greek and Roman galleys were rowed by slaves and condemned criminals. (Galley rowers were free men for it was a highly skilled job and only relied on slaves when they couldn’t get anyone else. And to a slave, galley rowing had good benefits like the potential for freedom. As for condemned criminals, there’s no evidence to support it, even if it is depicted in Ben Hur. Rather the use of galley slaves and prisoners was used far more frequently during the Middle Ages and beyond.)

The Greeks and Romans wore white. (Actually they wore clothes of all kinds of bright colors.)

Everything in Greece and Rome was written on scrolls. (The Romans used books.)

Hospitality wasn’t a big deal in the ancient world. (Are you kidding me? Being a bad host or guest could result in death or destruction. It was deemed so sacred that Sodom and Gomorrah were both destroyed over hospitality violations. Of course, as traveling conditions could be in the ancient world, there’s a good reason why hospitality was deemed so sacred. Heck, Jesus talks about it a lot, too.)

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