The comic is a fictional retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae and the events leading up to it from the perspective of Leonidas of Sparta. 300 was particularly inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, a movie that Miller watched as a young boy. The work was adapted in 2006 to a film of the same name.
Publication and awards[edit | edit source]
Every page of the comic was illustrated as a double-page spread. When the series was gathered into hardcover form, the individual pages were twice as wide as a normal comic. Miller's art style for this project was similar to his Sin City work, although the addition of consistent color is an obvious difference.
300 was initially published as a monthly five-issue comic book limited series by Dark Horse Comics, the first issue published in May 1998. The issues were titled Honor, Duty, Glory, Combat and Victory. The series won three Eisner Awards in 1999: "Best Limited Series", "Best Writer/Artist" for Frank Miller and "Best Colorist" for Lynn Varley. The work was collected as a hardcover volume in 1999.
The popularity of the film has boosted sales of the trade paperback edition. The 10th printing had an announced print run of 40,000 copies, with an 11th printing to follow. This is in addition to the 88,000 copies already sold since the initial volume was released in 1999.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
In 480 BC, King Leonidas of Sparta gathers 300 of his best men to fight the upcoming Persian invasion. In what is likely a suicide mission, they and their allies plan to stop King Xerxes' invasion of Greece at the narrow cliffs of the "Hot Gates" (Thermopylae). The terrain prevents the Greeks from being overwhelmed by Xerxes' superior numbers (a military tactic usually called "defeat in detail").
Before the battle starts, Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan, begs Leonidas to let him fight but is rejected due to his hunchbacked form, which prevents him from lifting his shield high enough to be of use for the phalanx.
The Spartans and their allies successfully hold off the Persians for two days and nights. During a break in the fighting, Xerxes meets with Leonidas and offers wealth and power in exchange for his surrender. Leonidas declines, and battle continues. In his depression, Ephialtes betrays the Greeks by telling the Persians about the existence of a small pass that allows Xerxes to attack them from behind.
Learning of the Persian maneuvers, the Greeks realize their position is indefensible, but the Spartans and a few others refuse to retreat. Before engaging the Persians for the last time, Leonidas orders one Spartan (Dilios) to leave, so that he might survive to tell their story.
On the third day Xerxes has the Spartans surrounded, their remaining allies (Thespians) already dead. He gives Leonidas one final chance to surrender and kneel to him. After some hesitation, Leonidas finally complies and throws down his arms. This, however, is a trick by Leonidas, and signals the Spartans to fight. Leonidas throws his spear at Xerxes, intending to make the "God-King" bleed, and succeeds. The Spartans are killed to the last man by arrows.
The story then shifts about a year later and ends as now-Captain Dilios relates the heroic sacrifice of Leonidas and his Spartan comrades to his troops before the historic Battle of Plataea.
Criticisms[edit | edit source]
Miller, in the letters page of the series, replied to accusations of homophobia from a reader regarding the phrase "Those boy-lovers": Template:Bquote
Writer David Brin has criticized 300 as being historically inaccurate, with particular reference to the bravery and efficacy of the non-Spartan Greeks:
References in other works[edit | edit source]
There are references to the Battle at Thermopylae in several of Frank Miller's other comic books. In Sin City: The Big Fat Kill, Dwight considers Leonidas' choice of "where to fight" and manages to loosely recreate the Spartan defense tactics by cornering the enemy gang in a tight alley; they then annihilate them with heavy gunfire and explosives. Also in Hell and Back when the protagonist is drugged he sees his friend as Leonidas with a machine gun. In The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Miller's "omega" Batman stories, there are references to a character named "Hot Gates" (the literal translation of Thermopylae), an adult film star who first makes a version of Snow White, and then declares herself Dictator of Ohio.
In the Emmy Award winning episode Jack and the Spartans of the cartoon Samurai Jack, Jack meets a group of Spartan warriors fighting Aku's minions. This episode was partially inspired by Miller's comics.
References[edit | edit source]
Film adaptation[edit | edit source]
- Main article: 300 (film)