‘300’ wows Sparta home crowd despite some critics’ complaints

SPARTA (AFP) – Nearly 2,500 years after they marched off to certain death in one of history’s greatest last stands, the warriors of ancient Sparta were back in town on Wednesday for a final fight before the home crowd. Wielding spears and heavy shields, the warriors rampaged through a new Hollywood epic on the Battle of Thermopylae – the stand that blunted the Persian Empire’s invasion in 480 BC – to the amazement of modern Spartans watching a special premiere in this small Peloponnese town. «OK, the Spartans are portrayed as vicious, but they were warriors after all,» said Mayor Sarantos Antonakos. «I was afraid the movie would turn us into a laughingstock… but it has no historical errors,» he told AFP. Titled «300» after the small contingent under King Leonidas that faced overwhelming Persian odds at Thermopylae, and based on a comic book series by US artist Frank Miller, the film has drawn criticism in Greece for portraying the ancient Spartans as bloodthirsty berserkers. The heavily fictionalized approach, which shows the Spartans battling wild beasts, giants and men with fangs, also raised objections among Greek film critics, who called it a «video game» that debases one of Western history’s key battles. «The Spartans face not the army of Xerxes that we knew until now, but monsters that seem to spring from the ‘Star Wars’ universe and werewolf movies,» wrote Eleftherotypia daily. «What, no Godzilla?» scoffed Ta Nea daily. But the movie’s distributors say that nearly 20,000 people have booked tickets to the Spartans in action. The film premiered in Greece yesterday, and will premiere today in the United States.