The essay argues that the historical evocation of the heroic deeds of the ancient Greeks in the two blockbusters 300 (2007) and 300: Rise of an Empire (2014), which critics have mainly read in connection with the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, actually belongs within an older tradition. The essay investigates how the two movies revive a political paradigm dating back to the Founding Fathers, which represents the effort of the revolutionary colonies to oppose the British empire in terms of the Spartans’ attempt to stop the advance of the Persian imperial army at the Thermopylae, and connects the new nation’s imperial ambitions with the triumph of the Greek coalition in the battle of Salamis, marking the establishment of an empire in the Aegean Sea. Finally, the essay explores the exceptionalist implications of projecting the national formation and the imperial aspirations of the United States into a mythical and epic past, and of the chronological and ideological overlapping between the independence of the thirteen colonies and the rise of the American empire.
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