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This 2007 film was partly inspired by Bettany's documentary 'The Spartans'

Bettany travelled to Sparta as an undergraduate at Oxford. She was fascinated by the Spartans; this extreme culture that took boy-children away from their mothers at seven, that pursued military excellence to its very limits, and yet that allowed women a freedom they enjoyed nowhere else in the Ancient World. Ever since that first, solo trip she has specialised in the study of Ancient Sparta. Using this knowledge she has written widely on the subject and went on to make the three hour documentary series 'The Spartans' for Channel 4 and PBS.

The director (Zack Snyder) of Warner Brothers' surprise blockbuster hit '300' used Bettany's documentary as part inspiration in the creation of his movie. It's estimated the film has now been seen by 150 million people worldwide. Bettany now appears as an expert on the '300' Special Edition DVD.

Helen of Troy was of course, Helen of Sparta - and much of Bettany's book investigates the Spartan backstory to Helen's legendary life.


By Paul Fischer

Question: What was the best resource you found of the real history?

Snyder: I really liked Bettany Hughes' documentary; hers was one of my favorites, I have to say. Cause hers isn't dry with it; ... We interviewed her for the DVD - and I'm not plugging her because of that - but honestly, in my research, you'd get these Victor Davis Hanson books, and they're dense, and beautifully written, but they sort of - 'what is the essence of the thing?' - and I felt like she really just said, 'Hey look, this is what a Spartan really is.' But she has no issue with that fine line between the Spartans being slightly barbaric and completely brutal and also admiring them for their crazy society they lived in.

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