The Battle of Thermopylae in modern times
Indeed, the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. is a classic revelation of the valor and bravery of the 300-strong Spartan army, led by then King Leonidas I, against a hundred thousand Persian soldiers, led by King Xerxes I. This world famous battle scene is retold countless times, including film.
The most contemporary motion picture based on the battle story is the film 300. It sparks back to life the historical account of the Battle of Themopylae, with actor Gerald Butler in the role of King Leonidas I and Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes I. The film was an adaptation of the comic book (or graphical novel) written by Frank Miller of the same title published in 1998.
Spartan army in motion picture 300
The film’s Spartan army is a close reproduction to the ancient one. Although some critics noted the absence of breastplates as historically incorrect, the foot soldiers of ancient times wore helmets, shields, spears, swords, and greaves like those in the film.
The Spartan soldiers are called hoplites, a name derived from their huge shields called hoplon. Their shield is very important in the battle, since its absence meant that the hoplite has to switch to their swords instead of the spear. It usually covered half of the wearer’s body and the other half of the soldier to his left.
300 movie battle swords and spears
The Spartans, in ancient times, use their spears as primary weapon. Assembled in a phalanx (a human wall of a depth of eight men), they charge against their enemies. In the film 300, they are seen wielding their spears in their right hands and carry their swords in a badric (sword belt) hanging low at their left waist.
The Spartan sword is reserved for close combat, when the phalanx has cracked open or the shield has splintered or the spearhead has broken off. Read more information about the uses of the Spartan sword in the article Greek sword fighting.
Spartan and fantasy sword
The Spartans in Classical period used the typical Greek swords. They were simplistic leaf-shaped blade widening from the foot of the hilt and then tapering off to the point. But the motion picture 300 opted for a more stylistic design of the fantasy sword. King Leonidas sword and of his men hold swords that resembled Turkish scimitars or specifically, massive Turkish kilij, that were once used by Ottoman Empire in medieval times.
King Leonidas sword has an incomplete knuckle guard with a break at the middle. Its blade is slender at the lower end, an axe-like cross-section at the upper portion towards a flared up tip. This type of Spartan sword is also carried by other soldiers in the film.
Persian army swords
On the side of King Xerxes I, the Persian soldiers are historically carrying acinaces. These are short swords or, closer approximation, daggers. Broken potteries and murals of ancient Persian kings and rock relief bear many kinds of designs of acinaces.
This Persian sword has a lobbed guard and a straight, double-edged blade. Greek sources have shown Persian soldiers carrying kopis, a hook-like hilted sword with a convex-shaped cutting edge.
Persian swords in the film 300
The Persian swords of foot soldiers in the film 300 are distinct from the Immortals, the personal bodyguards to King Xerxes I. The foot soldiers are carrying the Greek sword leaf-shaped xiphos. The immortals on the other hand are carrying a shorter, less curved, sword.
Collectible 300 movie swords
Many collectibles of King Leonidas sword, Spartan swords, Persian soldier swords, and the Immortals swords are now available. Some distributors have been given the go-signal to sell officially licensed replicas of the movie props. There are some merchandise available too. There is wolf tooth necklace, a replica of Immortal shield, helmet of King Leonidas replica, copies of Spartan cape, and Spartan spears. Read our fantasy and movie prop swords guide for more information.
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