Some four decades ago the late Sir Moses Finley, then Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge University, published a powerful series of lectures entitled Democracy Ancient and Modern (1973, republished in an augmented second edition, 1985). He himself had personally suffered the atrocious deficit of democracy that afflicted his native United States in the 1950s, forcing him into permanent exile, but my chief reason for citing his book here, apart from out of continuing intellectual respect, is that its title could equally well have been Democracy Ancient Versus Modern.
Let’s be clear of one thing right from the word go: this is not in any useful sense a historical movie. It references a couple of major historical events but is not interested in ‘getting them right’. It uses historical characters but abuses them for its own dramatic, largely techno-visual ends.
By Paul Cartledge
In 2006 the Frank Miller-Zack Snyder bluescreen epic ‘300’ was a box office smash. The Battle of Thermopylae – fought between a massive Persian invading army and a very much smaller Greek force led by King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans in a narrow pass at the height of summer 480 BC – had never been visualised quite like that before.