When the narrator describes the Persian confusion with the troops at the rear wishing to advance and those in the front line wishing to retreat, he uses lines from the poem "Horatius"
The plot revolves around King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), who leads 300 Spartans into battle against the Persian god-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his invading army of more than 300,000 soldiers. As the battle rages, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to rally support in
Sparta for her husband. The story is framed by a voice-over narrative by the Spartan soldier Dilios (David Wenham). Through this narrative technique, various fantastical creatures are introduced, placing 300 within the genre of historical fantasy. The events are revealed to be a story told by Dilios, the only one of the 300 Spartans to survive the battle.
Key to Leonidas’ strategy was the fact that the beach passage at Thermopylae narrowed down at three points (the gates) to only about 100 meters between the cliffs and the
Malian Gulf. However, due to sedimentation, the gulf is now several kilometers from the cliffs, and the land surface on which the battle was fought is now buried under roughly 20 meters of soil.
When the narrator describes the Persian confusion with the troops at the rear wishing to advance and those in the front line wishing to retreat, he uses lines from the poem “Horatius” by ‘Thomas Babington Macaulay’, written in the 19th century about a small Roman force that held a narrow bridge against a much more numerous enemy. From the poem: “Was none who would be foremost to lead such dire attack: But those behind cried ‘Forward!’, and those before cried ‘Back!'”
You bring the crowns and heads of conquered kings to my city steps. You insult my queen. You threaten my people with slavery and death! Oh, I’ve chosen my words carefully, Persian. Perhaps you should have done the same!
Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek History at Cambridge University, advised the filmmakers on the pronunciation of Greek names, and said they “made good use” of his published work on Sparta. He praises the film for its portrayal of “the Spartans’ heroic code”, and of “the key role played by women in backing up, indeed reinforcing, the male martial code of heroic honour”, while expressing reservations about its “‘West’ (goodies) vs ‘East’ (baddies) polarization”.
Cartledge writes that he enjoyed the film, although he found Leonidas’ description of the Athenians as “boy lovers” ironic, since the Spartans themselves incorporated institutional pederasty into their educational system.