Like many Iranians the world over, Los Angeles based filmmaker Ardeshir Arian -- no supporter of the current Iranian regime -- casts a critical eye on the movie's portrayal of the ancient Persian Empire, and wonders if the filmmakers behind "300" haven't confused the ruling class of that era with the vastly different culture of today.
As an Iranian-American filmmaker who believes in truth and humanity it very much disturbed me to see the magnificent Persian culture and heritage; the great civilization of my origin, the legacy of my ancestors, the facts of history, and the truth as a whole being attacked by a group of filmmakers for “A Fistful of Dollars.” And many now believe that there are also political intentions behind “300.”
No matter the reasons for the making of the film, I feel obligated to set the record straight on some of the misconceptions that this movie is creating for its viewers. I should mention that this film has already sparked enough emotion and resentment to trigger two petitions online that are already among the top 25 in popularity and growing by the minute.
By many historical accounts contrary to his depiction in “300″, Xerxes was a wise man, a tolerant king, and the founder of “Systematic Management”. Not a bald and clean-shaven robotic monstrosity with the synthesized voice of a machine. And certainly not the barbaric, talentless, stupid giant that the makers of “300″ have portrayed him as. 1
The film characterizes the ancient Persians as anti-woman, racist, and undemocratic; none of which is true. In fact, some of Xerxes’ most influential subordinates were female immigrants to the Persian Empire later made citizens. Among the key women of Xerxes’ court were his wife, Queen Esther of Israel, and his Navy Commander Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus, who lead the Persian Navy against the Greeks. His daughter, Homa, is one of the first novelists known to civilization. I think the makers of “300″ have mistakenly transposed the Mullahs’ mess and the era of the Persian Empire with regard to the role of women in Persian culture. 3
Being unusually democratic and tolerant for the era, the ancient Persians did not interfere with the religion, social life, and habits of conquered nations. Xerxes himself did not want to attack Greece, but did so only under pressure from Greek natives within the empire. 4
I do not know whose bright idea it was to use real names in a historical fantasy instead of just calling it fiction. But is there any difference between the makers of this movie and Ahmadinejad? They are both blind to the truth. Brainwashing is wrong whether done by communists, Islamo-Fascists, or Warner Brothers. The intentions may be different, but the results are the same. Obscuring history and slandering a great civilization is an undeniable sin, and an intolerable offense by any standard.
Due to the many falsifications of this film I will not bother to enumerate them all. But for the enlightenment of the reader I should mention that the Persian wardrobe was taken from “Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves of Baghdad”, and the attire of the “Immortals” was stolen from Darth Vader. I guess what these filmmakers lacked – besides substance, knowledge, ethics, and a conscience – was professor Emmett Brown’s flying DeLorean. Maybe they should have invited Michael J. Fox to change history. Alas, that would not help either because the DeLorean was destroyed in the last “Back to the Future.” What a pity.
1. Xerxes, whose character was later distorted in Greek legend, was neither foolish nor overly optimistic; although sensible and intelligent, he was nevertheless, a sovereign by divine right, to whom opposition was as annoying as sacrilege according to G. Glotz
2. Based on the Zoroastrian doctrine, it was the strong emphasis on honesty and integrity that gave the ancient Persians credibility to rule the world, even in the eyes of the people belonging to the conquered nations. -Herodotus
3. She likewise gave to Xerxes sounder counsel than any of his other allies. Against advice of Mardonius, Xerxes acted on her advice when he decided to withdraw from Greece. -Herodotus
4. War against the Greeks With the tranquility of the empire reestablished, Xerxes would willingly have devoted himself to peaceful activities. But many of those around him were pressing for the renewal of hostilities. His cousin and brother-in-law Mardonius, supported by a strong party of exiled Greeks, incited him to take revenge for the affront that Darius had suffered at the hands of the Greeks at Marathon (490 BC). The impressionable Xerxes gave way to pressure from his entourage and threw himself into patient diplomatic and military preparations for war, which required three years to complete (484-481 BC)