Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 26, 2007 / 7 Nissan, 5767

The lessons of “300”

By Jack Kelly

>
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | A low budget movie with no recognized stars that presents a cartoonish version of an event that happened long ago and far away is a surprising box office hit.


The movie is The 300, about the battle at Thermopylae between Greeks and Persians. It's opening grossed more than $70 million, more than the next ten highest grossing movies playing that weekend combined.


The 300 has been denounced by the government of Iran, and the battle it describes cited by former Vice President Al Gore in his congressional testimony Wednesday as inspiration for Americans to fight global warming. That's a lot of buzz.


The 300 has plenty of violence, sex, and the largest number of ripped abdomens ever seen on the silver screen, which doubtless counts for much of its appeal. But there is more to it than that.


The 300 is a simple story of good versus evil. A handful of valiant Spartan warriors, inspired by love of country and love of liberty, fight to the death against a foreign oppressor. (Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.)


The reality is more complicated. The contemporary society Sparta most closely resembled was Nazi Germany. The 300 were more like the Waffen SS than the Minutemen. The Persian was the most benign of ancient empires. Its founder, Cyrus the Great, is praised in the Bible for having freed the Jews from the Babylonian captivity.


The Persians had reasons to be peeved with the Greeks. Some 20 years before, ethnic Greeks in what is now western Turkey revolted. Athens sent troops to help them. They sacked the provincial capital of Sardis, killing thousands of noncombatants.


The Ionian revolt was quelled, but King Darius' efforts to punish the Athenians came a cropper when a Persian force of 25,000 was routed on the plains of Marathon by a Greek force less than half its size.


Darius was succeeded by his son, Xerxes, who was determined not to make dad's mistake of sending too few troops. He assembled an army of 250,000 men and a navy of 6,000 ships. To oppose them, the Greeks had an army of about 10,000 commanded by King Leonidas of Sparta, and a navy of 380 ships, commanded by the Athenian statesman Themistocles.


Leonidas made his stand at Thermopylae, a narrow mountain pass which prevented Xerxes from bringing his vastly superior numbers to bear. But a traitor showed the Persians a path through the mountains behind them. Leonidas learned of the treason in time to get most of his troops out of the trap. But he, his 300 Spartans, and about 1,100 soldiers from Thespia and Thebes chose to remain, to fight to certain death.


Leonidas' last stand didn't prevent the sack of Athens. (It was Themistocles' naval victory at Salamis a month later that forced the Persians to withdraw.) But it made for a great legend, which is why Leonidas is better known to history than is Themistocles, a fascinating figure who was a combination of Winston Churchill and Lord Nelson.


Despite its oversimplifications, The 300 is good history. The three battles of which Thermopylae is the most famous marked one of the greatest turning points in world history. Had the Persians succeeded, democracy would have been strangled in its crib, and the Hellenization of the ancient world never would have occurred. We may never have known Plato, Aristotle or Euclid.


The 300 is soaked with the masculine virtues of courage, honor, patriotism and self sacrifice, and the camaraderie that exists among fighting men who have been through a shared ordeal. These are little valued in Hollywood or contemporary society, and there is a hunger for them. This, I think, is the key to the movie's appeal.


We need to rediscover these virtues. At once the most preposterous and the most dangerous of contemporary beliefs is "nothing was ever settled by violence."


A cursory reading of history makes it clear that virtually every important development in the history of mankind has been, for good or ill, a product of violence. Every empire that's ever arisen rose by force. Islam was spread by the sword. Christianity is a religion which preaches (and often practices) turning the other cheek. But the Christianization of Europe got its jump start at the Milvian bridge, and was preserved from Islamic conquest at Tours, Lepanto and Vienna. The United States, the most pacific of great nations, was born in revolution.


It is the soldier, not the priest, who protects freedom of religion; the soldier, not the journalist, who protects freedom of speech. History teaches that a society that does not value its warriors will be destroyed by a society that does.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

Jack Kelly Archives


© 2007, Jack Kelly

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles