“The 300 film series deals with Spartan life by eliding those cultural differences that might put off its target, white, straight, cis, American male audience, such as the separation of men and women (and baby murder), and emphasizing those aspects which Frank Miller and Zack Snyder think could be points of connection. Sparta is recast as a beacon of freedom, pressed on all sides by forces of assimilating liberals (Athenians) and ignorant savages (Persians). Spartans represent a kind of pure, unsullied masculinity–men at their best, who want only to fight side by side with their fellows; to die for each other, and for their honour. In 300, Athenians are confused, ill-trained man-children who must be guided into true manhood by the three hundred Spartans who would die at Thermopylae and thus inspire them. Rise of An Empire must of course deal with Athenians a little differently, as it’s in this film that Athenians finally get to tell their side of the story.
Themistocles, like Leonides before him, represents the best of Athenian life. He is a naval commander who won glory and position by storming a previous Persian expeditionary force and expelling them, and by killing King Darius through a literal long shot, from shore to ship. He lives in a humble home, apparently unmarried, makes speeches about the importance of friendship, freedom, and his dream of a “united Greece.” He fights as a hoplite–ground infantry–as cavalry, and as a commander on the sea. He’s also a politician. He speaks in the forum and travels Greece to use that famous Athenian rhetoric to speak with leaders of other city states. (Too bad all the rhetoric is god awful.) He does it all, and he does it with homespun grace. Leonides was, metaphorically, an American warrior, but Themistocles is an American soldier by day, All-American boy by night.”
—Megan Purdy, "Freedom! Masculinity! Anxiety! 300:: Rise of an Empire is Unsurprisingly Dick-Centric and Decidedly American”