Movies & TV Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for movie and tv enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In 300 (2006), why does Xerxes consider himself a god? Is there a back story for him somewhere?

share|improve this question
Real story of Xerxes I – Ankit Sharma Oct 28 '13 at 14:47
It is not uncommon for kings to consider themselves (or be considered) gods. – coleopterist Oct 29 '13 at 8:06
I always assumed he portrayed himself as a god rather than believing it himself... – Liath Apr 28 '14 at 10:17
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Looking at the real Xerxes there doesn't seem to be a background suggesting that he ever claimed himself to be an actual god, apart from the mandatorily high self-esteem every great king and conqueror needs. Rather than that it is probably just that naturally high self-esteem exaggerated in a way congruent with the rest of the movie's plot and style.

As you probably know, the movie is not an entirely accurate rendition of the real historical events, but rather an artistically distorted and exaggerated version (upto the point of including fantasy elements), and told from the viewpoint of the Spartans. And in light of this exaggeration and subjective viewpoint it makes perfect sense to depict Xerxes as a god-like creature or someone who regards himself as a god. This is pretty in line with the whole depiction of the Persians as an invincible and ruthless army of millions (while tens of thousand would have been more accurate) and helps to emphasize both the contrast between them and the mere 300 Spartans with their more down-to-earth king Leonidas and the hopelessness of the Spartans' situation.

(Yet I also have to admit that this is an answer more based on common sense than elaborate research of the real events and the comic's/movie's development process.)

share|improve this answer
+1 ... reasonable and feasible answer. My research could not confirm this either, but was thinking along the same lines. I don't think Xerxes actually thought of himself as a god, but more-so expected his people to treat him as such. In order to maintain this, he had to outwardly portray himself as such. Could be self-delusion was at play here as well, though. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 28 '13 at 17:41
+1 for the emphasis that this is from the viewpoint of the Spartans. That has a MAJOR play in it. – MyCodeSucks Apr 8 '14 at 14:57

The historical Xerxes probably did not consider himself a god, but he was a legend in his own time.

He removed a golden statue from the temple of Zeus, desecrating the temple, something his father Darius did not dare to do.

From Herodotus, The Histories (Book 1, Chapter 183, Section 3)

and in the days of Cyrus there was still in this sacred enclosure a statue of solid gold twenty feet high. I myself have not seen it, but I relate what is told by the Chaldeans. Darius son of Hystaspes proposed to take this statue but dared not; Xerxes his son took it, and killed the priest who warned him not to move the statue.

When a bridge, built by Xerxes' engineers, was destroyed by a storm on the Hellespont, Xerxes ordered his men to punish the waters.

Again from Herodotus (Book 7, Chapter 35, Section 1)

When Xerxes heard of this, he was very angry and commanded that the Hellespont be whipped with three hundred lashes, and a pair of fetters be thrown into the sea. I have even heard that he sent branders with them to brand the Hellespont.

As a man, he was regarded as exceptionally handsome. As a king, he had gathered an enormous army (Herodotus claims in excess of 1 million, modern scholars estimate 60-150,000) and marched it across western Asia and into Europe. Regardless of the actual number, he was a living legend.

Unfortunately, movies have a tendency to make everyone bigger than life. So when it's time to portray a person that actually was bigger than life, the only choice is hyperbole and exaggeration. Take Xerxes' actual accomplishments and audacity, and combine that with the idea that some ancient rulers tried to cloak themselves in deity, and it isn't too much of a stretch to portray him as was done in 300.

share|improve this answer
+1 But as to the last paragraph: "Unfortunately, movies have a tendency to make everyone bigger than life. So when it's time to portray a person that actually was bigger than life, the only choice is hyperbole and exaggeration." - This was especially true for 300, but was an artistic decision fitting to the style of the movie/comic, which I wouldn't regard as "unfortunate" in this case (or many other cases/movies in general). – Napoleon Wilson Oct 30 '13 at 8:20
While your answer doesn't directly address my question, I infer from it that he could have fancied himself a god because of his deeds and victories. – DustinDavis Oct 30 '13 at 16:06
@DustinDavis, I don't think that Xerxes thought of himself as a god. I think he was arrogant and drunk on power (and he had an over-abundance of power) – Leatherwing Oct 30 '13 at 16:46
@ChristianRau, I agree, in the case of 300 it was fortunate. I love the movie. – Leatherwing Oct 30 '13 at 16:48

in the new film 300:rise of an empire , his fathers dying words were only a god can defeat the greeks . spurred on by eva greens character artesemsia he gets wrapped in chains and gauze inscribed with sumerian text and wanders into the desert until he finds a cave with a pool of gold liquid , upon exiting the pool , he now has flaming red eyes is hairless and is now a foot taller . literally a god king.

share|improve this answer
I haven't seen the movie yet, but it sounds like there might be some pieces of the back story in there. – DustinDavis Apr 11 '14 at 21:23

The Greeks called all of the Persian kings "God Kings" beause thy were bowed to, and th Greeks had the mindset that only gods were to be bowed to, so they called them that in a sarcastic way.

share|improve this answer
This is an interesting bit of info, but it doesn't answer the original question. Xerxes called himself a god. – DustinDavis Apr 6 '14 at 18:34

That back story is explained in Rise of the 300 where Xerxes, at the behest of Artemisia bathes in some liquid of the Gods, emerging as the "God-King".

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.