Historical Inaccuracy in Hollywood – Part 2


Based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name, 300 is based on the true story of the Battle of Thermopylae in which 300 Spartan soldiers stood with a united Greece to fight off a Persian invasion force that is believed to number in the hundreds of thousands. In the film 300 Spartans stand alone holding off the forces of the somewhat bizarre giant of a leader Xerxes. Xerxes is depicted as an evil monster carried by waves of slaves and intent on crushing all who oppose him. The Spartans fight to their last man in order to hold off them off witch nothing but capes and loincloths as protection, showing off their chiselled abs in the process. It’s certainly a stylised take that is clearly inspired by myth and fantasy as much as it is the history. First off, the Spartans did not stand alone, they stood with 700 Thespians along with 900 helots and a further 400 Thebans. The Spartans would have of course also worn armour and helmets to protect from things like arrows, swords and general battle dangers. Perhaps the biggest injustice in the film is the representation of Persian forces, a cruel army, some of which are simply faceless killing machines. Also, though depicted with countless slaves their Zoroastrian beliefs forbade slavery and just to add insult to injury Sparta not only had slaves but were one of the biggest holders of them in Ancient Greece.

The Patriot

Let’s Welcome Mel Gibson back to the plate, this time under the direction of Roland Emmerich in the 2000 blockbuster epic, The Patriot. Set during the American revolution during the War of Independence, this is the story Benjamin Martin (Gibson), a retired soldier who want’s nothing more to do with fighting since his time in French Indian War. He hopes not to be a part of this one until an English Colonel named Tarleton shoots his young son in cold blood. In order to avenge him and free his country from the menace of the English he fight’s and of course basically singlehandedly frees America. Much like Braveheart this is another film that ignores true history so much it’s basically a fantasy tale. Let’s start with the main character, Martin is based on a man named Francis Marion and though he was a leader of a guerrilla faction he wasn’t the honourable and wholesome man projected here, in fact an article in The Guardian reported that he was a “serial rapist who hunted Red Indians for fun”. Tarleton was based on Colonel by the same name amongst the English forces, his cruel representation has been questioned by historian too. Though he was involved in the Wrexham Massacre which is portrayed in the film he has no record of breaking the rules of war, let alone shoot a child in cold blood. Another ‘icing on the cake’ moment here, the final battle in the film in which Martin defeats not only the English but the wicked Col. Tarleton is the battle of Guildford Court House, in actuality the Americans lost this battle. History be damned!


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