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Old January 3rd, 2009, 11:08 PM   #1
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Historical Question about Leonidas in the movie 300


Hey guys,

i was watching 300 (now dont get me wrong, i know the movie is probably not very historically accurate, but still, what a movie!)

I was wondering about something from it, if anyone can help!

At the scene where Leonidas goes to meet with the Ephors (the priests to the old gods) he is detailing his plan to them. They say they must consult the oracle, at which point Leonidas clearly shows his displeasure. Then one of the Ephors says to him:

"Your Blasphemies have cost us quite enough already!"

What had Leonidas had done in the past to provoke this reaction? I'm actually very curious to know.

thanks!
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Old January 5th, 2009, 09:01 AM   #2
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Re: Historical Question about Leonidas in the movie 300


I'm not sure. I know he married the daughter of his half-brother (Cleomenes, a very active king not universally liked in Sparta)--but I'm not sure how that would have "cost" anyone in Sparta anything.

BTW--the ephors were in reality, an office that exercised a popular check on the power of the Spartan kings (kind of like Roman tribunes if you are familiar with that). They may have had some priestly office but they surely didn't spend their days in a hard-to-access hilltop lighting incense or whatever). I agree with you about the movie--its not the most historically accurate but it sure was good.
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Old January 5th, 2009, 01:17 PM   #3

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Re: Historical Question about Leonidas in the movie 300


Murdering the Persian ambassadors and provoking war with the Persian Empire have to be candidates.
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Old January 5th, 2009, 01:48 PM   #4
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Re: Historical Question about Leonidas in the movie 300


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Originally Posted by Belisarius View Post
Murdering the Persian ambassadors and provoking war with the Persian Empire have to be candidates.
The act itself would surely be seen as blasphemy, but Leonidas was not king at that time, but his brother Cleomenes. Unless by "your," the ephors in the movie were using it in the plural? Cleomenes was said to have bribed the oracle at Delphi to get his counterpart, Demaratus, deposed, so again, if they were using it in the plural, might have been part of it. Now that I think of it, IIRC, Cleomenes was also the guy who burned down a sacred forest in order to kill some of his opponents who fled from him in battle.
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Old November 10th, 2012, 05:42 PM   #5

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Originally Posted by prr View Post
The act itself would surely be seen as blasphemy, but Leonidas was not king at that time, but his brother Cleomenes. Unless by "your," the ephors in the movie were using it in the plural? Cleomenes was said to have bribed the oracle at Delphi to get his counterpart, Demaratus, deposed, so again, if they were using it in the plural, might have been part of it. Now that I think of it, IIRC, Cleomenes was also the guy who burned down a sacred forest in order to kill some of his opponents who fled from him in battle.
Murdering the envoys was unhospitable and not typical of Spartans but not a blasphemy. Ephors actually "oversaw" the activity of the gerousia, the ruling body, not the kings, who were mostly the military leaders (although some of them, including Cleomenes I, seem to have wielded more power). Ephors held no priestly offices. The kings sacrificed before the battles. Cleomenes was a contrarian in his life, and to me, a more sympathetic figure than Leonidas, but if anything, Leonidas and Cleombrotas, his half-brother, were implicated in the death/"suicide" of Cleomenes in jail, so they could not be held responsible for Cleomenes' "blasphemies" (burning down the forest of Argus or insulting Hera by striking her priest.) I think that you can not look for any shred of historic evidence in 300, it would be the same as trying to learn history by watching "Titanic".
IRL, Leonidas does not emerge as a hero before the Thermopylai. A half-brother to Cleomenes who later married his niece Gorgo, and the only thing we know about his reign is that there was a helot's upheaval during that time. He might have been around 50 at the time of the battle, not as youthful, tall or handsome as the actor in the 300. Real Leonidas went through agoge and was fed barley, not burgers
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Old November 10th, 2012, 07:54 PM   #6
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Murdering the Persian ambassadors and provoking war with the Persian Empire have to be candidates.
That's probably it.
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Old November 14th, 2012, 12:22 PM   #7

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Originally Posted by prr View Post
I'm not sure. I know he married the daughter of his half-brother (Cleomenes, a very active king not universally liked in Sparta)--but I'm not sure how that would have "cost" anyone in Sparta anything.

BTW--the ephors were in reality, an office that exercised a popular check on the power of the Spartan kings (kind of like Roman tribunes if you are familiar with that). They may have had some priestly office but they surely didn't spend their days in a hard-to-access hilltop lighting incense or whatever). I agree with you about the movie--its not the most historically accurate but it sure was good.
Marrying his niece was definitely not a blasphemy. With the death of Cleomenes, and his own older full brother, Doreus, dead for decades, Leonidas automatically became the head of the family, and was supposed to marry Gorgo who was left without the father and likely, unmarried at the time. They may have married when Cleomenes was alive, but Leonidas's son by the time of Thermopylai was quite young, so I think it happened after Cleomenes died. The Greeks did not live by the Bible, and marrying close relatives was not a sin. Moreover, marriages between half-brothers and half-sisters from one of the sides were allowed in Sparta. (I forgot whether they were maternal or paternal. Paternal makes more sense from the standpoint of land inheritance, but I am not sure).

On a side line - inbreeding could have been the reason for exposing newborn boys born with defects. There must have been many, just because of blood ties. This also could explain why Spartan citizenship required to be "born of a Spartan father" (but not both parents) - to allow some influx of new blood.

Sorry, away from the 300. I found the movie atrocious, but many men like the "military side" of it, and some of my female friends like to see so many muscular, handsome, scantily clad men in a movie.
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Old November 14th, 2012, 06:16 PM   #8

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I am sure that marrying Gorgo had nothing to do with the vast wealth and property she inherited after the death of Kleomenes.
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Old November 14th, 2012, 08:26 PM   #9

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Originally Posted by truedoom View Post

What had Leonidas had done in the past to provoke this reaction? I'm actually very curious to know.

thanks!
Based on the movie? That he was not appreciating that they were about to receive a erotic performance of vague prophesying by a drugged up nude lady, i reckon. Well, they were a bunch of ol' geezer in the pre-viagra days after all.
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Old November 14th, 2012, 09:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by truedoom View Post
Hey guys,

i was watching 300 (now dont get me wrong, i know the movie is probably not very historically accurate, but still, what a movie!)

I was wondering about something from it, if anyone can help!

At the scene where Leonidas goes to meet with the Ephors (the priests to the old gods) he is detailing his plan to them. They say they must consult the oracle, at which point Leonidas clearly shows his displeasure. Then one of the Ephors says to him:

"Your Blasphemies have cost us quite enough already!"

What had Leonidas had done in the past to provoke this reaction? I'm actually very curious to know.

thanks!
Welcome to Historum, Truedoom; interesting question for your first post.

You're right; the film and the comic series it is based on are indeed nice pieces of epic action from Frank Miller's creativity, but certainly not History by any measure.

To begin with, the historical ephors were five elected administrative magistrates; it is possible (just that) that they had been priests at the beginning, but by historical times they seem to have lost essentially any religious attribute.

Besides, the relevant prophecy on Sparta by the time of this war came from the famous Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, not from any Spartan seer.

AFAIK the answer to your question would be indeed literary, not historical.

Last edited by sylla1; November 14th, 2012 at 09:16 PM.
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