History is a craft, and you can make it appear however you like. This is the first lesson you learn when you begin your college degree in history. I find this to be what a TV show host by the name of Adam did to the ancient Spartans and the Heroes under Leonidas when he talked about the 300 on his show Alex Ruins Everything. Shock value most definitely played a role in keeping up his ratings and viewership. So I thought a real Greek historian should weigh in on some of the claims he made.
The number of soldiers at Thermopylae was way more than 300
This is true, it was actually around 7,000 when combined with the other Greeks that were helping, but it was still a garden pea compared to the massive Persian forces of 120,000 to 300,000. Their prolonged victory over the invaders was still a remarkable achievement. To downplay that is simply dishonest.
Persia was so appealing that some Greek Cities sided with them
This is false, not for saying that some Cities sided with the Persians. They did. It is dishonest for saying they did it because they liked Persia. They did it because they were terrified of Persian power. In fact, the Battle of Marathon that happened 10 years earlier, was preceded by a rebellion of Greek Ionians against Persian authority that they were already under. So if it was so appealing, why did they rebel? Athens sent help but the rebellion failed. However, Darius of Persia was determined from that point to make the Athenians pay for promoting the rebellion, and in fact to conquer all of Greece as a way to finally eliminate any Greek uprisings against his rule.
The Spartans routinely killed weak babies
I think we all agree that killing or endangering a child is wrong, but this statement is dishonest. If a baby seemed unfit, they would be left exposed to the elements to see if they could survive. Though obviously most would result in death, we would be led to believe that some survived and therefore proved their worth. But there was no non-negotiable death sentence. The Spartans tested the weak for survival traits.
Spartans sexually abused every boy who made it through training
Dishonest. The age of consent in Sparta at that time was 12, probably because people didn't live very long back then. Of course this is wrong, but in the United States, the age of consent was 10 to 12 as late as 1880. In Delaware, it was SEVEN. That is unbelievable. I can't imagine what was going through the heads of the legislature to think that's ok. In Hawaii, it was 14 as late as 2001. So we might say that the ancient Spartans were more civilized than modern United States. But the obvious history behind lower ages of consent in older times, was the fact that people didn't live as long as they do today. Again, still wrong, but there were various reasons behind it.
Young Spartans were forced to murder a slave
False. We all know the Spartans had slaves known as Helots, but the young Spartans were not employed to kill them for no reason. Rather, they were assigned guardianship over the slaves, and would not use deadly force against them unless they rebelled against Spartan authority or broke protocol. While I am sure it happened to the contrary at times, the young Spartans were employed to keep the slaves under control, not to mercilessly kill them. Of course, still wrong, but there was not a Holocaust.
Sparta didn't value Western values like democracy
This is true, but the statement is misleading. Because the Persians were defeated, every historian agrees, Western democracy and civilization was saved. The Persians believed they had rights to rule everything in their path, which means they were tyrants. These kinds of governments are never friendly to democratic rule, especially if it goes against them or they can't control it.
Persia was very socially tolerant
Yes, Persia did allow the places they conquered to keep their local religions and customs, but that was because they valued loyalty more than a certain kind of government, which makes the Persians more along the lines of authoritarians.
Greek historians, like Herodotus, made the Persians look bad and the Greeks good
Well, of course, this happens in everyone who writes history about themselves, even the Persians. No one ever sees themselves as being on the wrong side, ever. But the fact remains that the Persians had no rights whatsoever to the Greek lands and were determined to take them by force, and when they were successful in doing this, they burned the civilization down and slaughtered those who resisted. The Persians invaded Greece, and successfully in some places. How many people do you think were murdered in this process? How many women do you think were raped? How many slaves were acquired? How many homes and temples were burned? Yes, the Persians were bad.
In short, I think Adam's show is more about craft and shock than actual history.
In the Goodness of the Gods,