300

I finally saw 300 a few nights ago. Stylistically, it's a fun movie, and I have no complaints about it in that aspect. But what really blew my enjoyment of the movie was how I kept comparing it to the present day. The fictional Spartans make a lot of noise about freedom and justice, but these terms don't mean what we think they mean.

Sparta was one of the most thoroughly totalitarian societies in history, with a military caste forming its citizenry and an entire substratum of slaves--the vast of the population--to make its citizens' lifestyle possible. Babies were judged shortly after birth, and any that might not turn out to be a good warrior or a breeder of warriors was killed. If defending this against some foreign aggressor counts as fighting for freedom, well, they can keep it.

This all sounds like the Nazi propaganda campaigns against the USSR in occupied Europe. True, the Bolshevik system was monstrous, and indeed was intent on controlling as much of the Earth as possible, but you'd hardly be defending freedom and civilization by joining, as too many Europeans did, with the Nazi system.

Not to mention that the glorification of martial values makes me uneasy anyway. The Athenians, ridiculed in the movie, had a more complete picture of what a person should be. They had their share of faults as well, no doubt. But the ideal Athenian was not a mindless killer, and if we have to pick one or the other to lionize, the choice is easy.

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Athens & Sparta

My sympathies are with Athens to be sure but there's an "inconvenient truth" for us liberatrians about the Athens vs Sparta debate which is that Athenian society collapsed before Spartan society.

Athens was also imperialist and pretty ruthless.

IIRC, it was because

IIRC, it was because Athenian society decided that waging long wars against just about everybody was a good idea. And in the end, didn't Sparta win due to (among other things) Persian gold?

This is Marta!

"The fictional Spartans make

"The fictional Spartans make a lot of noise about freedom and justice, but these terms don't mean what we think they mean."

Right: in the ancient world, "liberty" meant a city-state was free from foreign rule, or the rule of a tyrant.

Totalitarian

"Sparta was one of the most thoroughly totalitarian societies in history"

It's almost always a mistake to take these terms from modern descriptive politics and try to apply them to societies from times long past.

What are our options when we

What are our options when we want to discuss these societies then?

More reading?

More reading?