Fantasy notes on Snyder/Miller’s gazillion-dollar opus–with apologies to Italo Calvino

How well I know!–the Old King cried from beyond the Styx–the rest of you can’t remember, but I can. We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous moon, and when she was waxing she sailed so low she just about impaled herself on the peaks of Thermopylae. Climb up on her? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out in a boat, prop up your spear with a corpse on the end for support, then scramble on up.

The spot where the moon was lowest was along the shore where the invaders disembarked. There was always a flight of projectiles–spears, lances, assagais, bronze-pointed arrows of every type and description–showering in from the littoral and across the moon’s bloody face, hanging from that crimson-speckled ceiling or suspended in midair, a phosphorescent swarm we had to drive off, waving banana leaves at them.

But what did we do then that Maciste hadn’t already, my army of critics wondered, in Cabiria for Pastrone, that impostor! Stand around and flex in front of porticos and stelae–it’s all the man was good for, but we had plasma, cubits upon cubits of Type A, Type O, and of course he didn’t. So call us poseurs in our sandals and thongs, but let me tell you, you don’t get splatter effects like that on the cheap.

Did I like Xerxes, lord of all he surveys? Well obviously I did, and why wouldn’t I–all that jewelry on face and fingers, the opals, the sapphires and gilt, enough to stock a thousand etuis for my one true love, my queen. But we were enemies sworn to the death and I told X that firmly–we Spartans will never surrender, never consort with the axis of evildoers invading our fair Peloponnese! So call it “clash of civilizations” if you must, in the grand backwater tradition of Friday Night Lights and buzkashi matches everywhere, but we all knew what the limits were then.

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“Prepare for glory, Spartans, for tonight we dine in HELLLL!!!! So which of you hell-raisers will pick up the damn check?