Gentlemen, it's time to start oiling those moobs. According to Frank Miller, the long-mooted 300 prequel now has a title - Xerxes - and a time-period. ""It's the battle of Marathon through my lens," Miller says. "I've finished the plot and I'm getting started on the artwork."
Step this way while we all bone up on our history and explain why he's talking about road races. The Battle of Marathon was fought about 26 miles from Athens by an Athenian army against a Persian force led by the Emperor Darius I, in 490BC. Depending on which accounts you accept - those from history or modern estimates of what's likely - the Greek force numbered around 10,000 and the Persians anywhere from twice to ten times that.
The Athenians beat the Persians back - but not before sending a runner 150 miles to Sparta to ask for a bit of help*. The shirtless Spartans turned up a day or two later (after observing the same religious feast, the Carneia, seen in 300), by which time "those Athenian boy-lovers" had carried the day.That's one of the reasons the Spartans were so anxious to get first dibs at Thermopylae ten years later in 480BC when Darius' son Xerxes came back looking for revenge.
The working title of this prequel might have you thinking it focuses on the Persian Emperor personally, the story of Xerxes' struggle to gain the throne for instance, but as he had an entirely smooth succession a good four years after Marathon that seems unlikely. But on the other hand a quick bit of research on our part hasn't turned up any evidence of Xerxes being at Marathon, so we suspect there's some historical gap-filling going on here to add him to the fray and put him into the battle to create a personal grudge against Greece (as if his father being beaten there wasn't enough).
In any case, we're so far away from a finished film that it's not even worth speculating on whether actor Rodrigo Santoro will return as Xerxes. A far more pressing question is this: will the Athenians wear any more clothes than their Spartan neighbours?