Sunday, January 20, 2008 we shall fight in the shade..

"Our arrows will blot out the sun"... "Good, then we shall fight in the shade"...

I got "300" on DVD for Christmas and finally got chance to watch it this morning, it's one of those films that the ladies in my house were not really keen to see, and having watched it, the severed limb quotient is high - not to mention the gallons of fake blood, so it's probably a good thing that the two youngest females didn't see it anyway!

Wikipedia tells me that the quote above is from Herodotus who wrote "Dienekes, a Spartan soldier, was informed that Persian arrows would be so numerous as 'to blot out the sun', he responded with a characteristically laconic remark, 'So much the better, we shall fight in the shade.' "

...and what about the film?? Well it's based on a graphic novel by a guy called Frank Miller and the director has managed to give the whole film a slightly stylised, slightly comic book, feel - all the Spartans have eight packs (rather than six) for example. It doesn't detract however, it reminded me of "Gladiator", and I was wholly into the film - until the Persians turned up on the scene!

..unlike most wargamer's I'm happy (enough) to let Hollywood have it's wicked way with history as I understand it's about entertainment, but the Persians are depicted in the film as being one of Sauron's auxiliary armies fresh out of Mordor.... trolls, chains, whips, armoured rhino's, piercings, you name it, they had it.... overall?? I thought it was entertaining, I might even watch it again.. the single best bit of the film from a wargaming perspective was when the first Persian attack went in and the Spartan shield wall is pushed back under weight of numbers, and you could imagine what it was really like to be in the phalanx... For the rest?? Sheer (enjoyable) hokum, with various Spartans leaping "Troy" like into the air.. buckets of blood, mounds of severed limbs, but what were they thinking of with the depiction of the Immortals?! Having said all that, there's also a real desire to start painting Spartans immediately (!)... so I would say 3.5 to 4, out of 5...

Separately, and on a totally separate war, I was browsing the "League of Augsburg" site (click to go there) and found reference to a film called "The Sovereign's Servant" which is a Russian film released last year, and based around events in the Great Northern War... the following is a clip from the film on YouTube and is their depiction of Poltava - if you like it there are another couple of clips there from the same sequence (just search on Poltava).


  1. 300 - a film you have to watch whilst being prepared to suspend your historical beliefs. I enjoyed it for all that it was and for once didn't find myself saying "that's not right" probably because it was so far, and intentionally, removed from the history.
    The cavlary charge was also well done and gave a feeling of terror to the waiting troops.

    Then there's that second clip. A film I'm going to have to find I think and hope it has subtitles. This is the sort of stuff we should have more off.

    But it's also the sort of thing that makes me say "that's not right" - for example steel ramrods? Not yet have to wait another ten years for those to appear.

  2. And how about those "exploding" cannonballs, eh?

    Actually the clip looks like the film might be worth getting . . . but I'll pass on "300" I think.

    -- Jeff

  3. 300. Given it was from a comic book I thought it was fine and I could rationalise the Lord of the Rings type army on the basis that the Spartans were being faced by a really huge and alien looking army and that may have been how they saw it. What was annoying was how they go on about the importance of disciplined fighting in a phalanx and after the first attack they are all leaping around as individuals. Try and be consistent at least! I still prefer the 300 Spartans!

    The Poltava scene looks good in a very "clean" way. I think when you use reenactors as I would gues these are their uniforms always look too clean. Grand Manner have some great eighteenth century redoubts now..