Sparta in popular culture

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Sparta been the topic of cultural inspiration. Such admiration of the Spartans is referred to as Laconism or Laconophilia. In modern popular culture this is typically centered on the Battle of Thermopylae, which is perhaps the most famous military last stand of all time.

Battle of Thermopylae in popular culture[edit]

The Battle of Thermopylae has long been the topic of cultural inspiration, as it is perhaps the most famous military last stand of all time. This "against all odds" story is passed to us from the writings of the Greek Herodotus, who was not present at the battle himself. He relates the story of 300 Spartans and 700 Thespiae defending the Pass of Thermopylae against almost "2 million" [sic] Persians for three days.[1]

Other[edit]

The development of the English Public Schools was influenced by the schooling of Spartan children.[2]

Novels[edit]

Author Novel Description
Jerry Pournelle Novels set in the Empire of Man Universe Go Tell the Spartans (1991) Prince of Sparta (1993). The seat of the Empire of Man is located on the planet Sparta, not Earth. An Emperor at the time of the Mote in God's Eye(1974) stories (co-authored with Larry Niven) is named Leonidas.
Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels, 1726 In the third book, in a part dealing with summoned spirits, Gulliver writes: "A helot of Agesilaus made us a dish of Spartan broth, but I was not able to get down a second spoonful."
Gene Wolfe Soldier of the Mist, 1986
Soldier of Arete, 1989
Narrated by Latro, a soldier who fought on the Persian side at Plataea (after Thermopylae) and suffered a serious head wound there, which makes him forget everything after 24 hours.
Steven Pressfield Gates of Fire,1998 Focuses on a boy, Citizen of a destroyed Greek city-state who goes to Sparta, where he becomes a helot and squire to a Spartan. He learns much about Spartan culture, and accompanies the Spartan force to Thermopylae. The story is told in flashbacks, as told by him to Xerxes's scribe while he is a prisoner of the Persians.
Halina Rudnicka Trilogy set in ancient Sparta Krol Agis (King Agis, 1963), Syn Heraklesa (Heracles' son, 1966) and Heros w okowach (Hero in manacles, 1969). The biography novels about Spartan kings Agis IV and Cleomenes III.

Films[edit]

Film Date Description
The 300 Spartans 1962 A dramatization of the Battle of Thermopylae.
Troy 2004 Sparta is one of the invading Greek city-states to besiege Troy. Sparta's famous king was Menelaus at the time, and he led his army in the invasion such that he might recover his runaway wife, Helen.
300 2007 A highly stylized recounting of the Battle of Thermopylae based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. The film depicts the struggle of King Leonidas I and his personal guard against the massive Persian army under Xerxes I.
Last Stand of the 300 2007 Documentary. Broadcast on The History Channel.
United 300 2007 A spoof of United 93 and 300 where Leonidas and the 300 Spartans defend a United airline flight against German terrorists and their emperor Jerxes.
Meet the Spartans 2008 A spoof of 300.

Television[edit]

Show Episode Description
Samurai Jack "Jack and the Spartans" A group of 300 warriors, similar in appearance to Spartans, defend a narrow gateway against a vast robot army. They have been in combat for five generations. At the end of the episode the King remarks the 300 and 1 (300 warriors and Jack) when retelling the tale on his death bed.
Xena: Warrior Princess "One Against an Army" Xena and Gabrielle have to defend the pass of Thermopylae from the invading Persian army. However, in this version of the story, Xena herself is up against 300 Persian soldiers, and not 300 Spartans against thousands of Persians.
Robot Chicken "Moesha Poppins" A highly stylized trailer for 1776 (film) that parodies the trailer for Three Hundred. Includes the line This! Is! AMERICA![3][4] Another episode has Leonidas saying THIS IS SPARTA-like quotes in mundane situations, such as watching Two and a Half Men.[5]
seaQuest DSV "Spindrift" After being shot during a rescue mission of his shipmate Lonnie Henderson, SeaQuest's chief of security Jim Brody's last dying words are "With your shield or on it", a reference to a saying attributed to mothers of Spartan men as they went to war. Captain Hudson later explains to Henderson that Brody meant his sacrifice for her, just like the Greeks at Thermopylae, was worth it.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "What You Leave Behind" Dr. Julian Bashir, who has a penchant for last stands, offers to take Ezri Dax on a date in a holosuite program depicting the Battle of Thermopylae.
South Park "D-Yikes!" In a parody of the aforementioned film 300, Mrs. Garrison goes to a "girl bar" which is being bought out by Persians. She is indignant about it, especially their tacky blue carpet and gold curtain rods. When the representative comes, she kicks him in the balls and starts a war. They go tell their boss, Xerxes, who sends many more Persians in a wave. The Lesbians are able to fend them off, and they retreat. Mrs. Garrison then gets Mexicans, disguised as Persians, to infiltrate the Persian club. They find out that Xerxes is a woman and they use that to get him to keep Les Bos a girl bar. Lesbos is an actual island in Greece.[6]

Video games[edit]

Developer Year Video Game Description
Mattel 1982 Space Spartans The first talking game for the Intellivision, the guide related that like the Spartans of old, you had to hang on as long as possible to give others time for a counterattack.[7]
Bungie Studios

343 Industries

Marathon (computer game series) and Halo (series) Bungie games often contain classical references. Among the references to Sparta, Marathon 2 contains a level called "My Own Private Thermopylae." In addition, the main character in the Halo series is a military super soldier trained in the SPARTAN-II program, which is a futuristic equivalent to the training Spartan children received.
Creative Assembly 2005 Spartan: Total Warrior The protagonist is a soldier in the Spartan army. Notable characters from Greek mythology and history also make an appearance in the game (ie. King Leonidas).
Creative Assembly 2004 Rome: Total War Greece is a faction in the game, and Spartan warriors as well as the city-state of Sparta are in the game.
Firaxis Games 2000 Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri One of the seven factions in the game is named The Spartan Federation, and follows a similar ideology and culture as the original Sparta.
SCEA 2005 God of War (series) The protagonist, Kratos, is portrayed as a former general of the Spartan Army. In the sequel, Kratos has usurped Ares as the god of war, and is shown guiding the Spartans in wars across the world, and even joins in on the Spartan assault against Rhodes.
Slitherine 2002 Spartan A turn based strategy game set in late Sparta.
Slitherine 2004 Gates of Troy The sequel to Spartan. One of the scenarios is the battle of Thermopylae, where the player must resist the Persian army for 20 turns.
Collision Studios 2007 300: March to Glory A video game based upon the film with the same name, which in turn is based upon the Battle of Thermopylae.
Riot Games 2009 League of Legends The Champion, Pantheon the Artisan of War, bears a similar design to Spartan warriors.
Creative Assembly 2013 Rome: Total War II Sparta is a faction in the game, as well as the city-state of Sparta are in the game.

References[edit]