Sunday, May 06, 2007

Revisionist History

After watching the excellent 300, I've been thinking a lot about the Battle of Thermopylae, 480BC, when King Leonidas of Sparta funneled the massive army of Xerxes I into one narrow pass, thus taking the edge of the military advantage off Xerxe's superior numbers. The historian, Ctesias, narrates that, on the first day, the Spartans fought a force of 10,000 and only suffered a handful of losses. Herodotus mentions that on the second day, Xerxes sent 10,000 of his finest troops, known as the "Immortals", who were most afraid as they came up against walls made from the corpses of those who'd fallen the day before.

A new fragment, attributed by experts to Herodotus, was discovered this week in the Great Library of Alexandra collection. Having lain unread for thousands of years, the new papyrus fragment finally yielded its secrets to archivists armed with the latest in mass spectrometry and infra-red equipment.

Remarkably, it suggests that contrary to previously known accounts, the Immortals may have come up against, not a wall of human corpses, but a wall of very fluffy ducks, living and breathing, and looking tremendously, tremendously adorable:

Well, the movie took liberties with history - why can't I? :-)


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