“Madness? This is Sparta!” – Leonidas (Gerard Butler) in ‘300’ (2006)
There is an estimated $300 billion in the world in the form of unclaimed prizes and legacies. More than 300 different products can be made from peanuts including: cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, plastics, wood stain, soap, linoleum, medicines and cosmetics. By the time he died, George Washington owned 300 slaves (he freed them in his will). There are 300 Andaman Islands (in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of Burma), of which only 26 are inhabited. During the course of a year, a single chimpanzee will eat from as many as 300 different species of plants. 300 donkeys were milked every day to fill Nero’s wife Poppaea’s bath. A hedgehog’s heart beats 300 times a minute. The government of Cameroon allows the legal export of 300 Goliath frogs a year, but the frogs are so elusive that this total is rarely reached. The enigmatic Jewish empire of the Khazars ruled the steppes of southern Russia for 300 years, from the seventh to 10th centuries. Britain has up to 300 earthquakes a year, but most of them are too small for most of us to notice. John Steinbeck used 300 pencils to write East of Eden.
The city of Split in Croatia was built in the year 300. The Roman emperor Diocletian built a huge palace in the city in that year, ready for his retirement. Today it is filled with restaurants, shops and homes, and is a Unesco World Heritage site – one of the most complete surviving Roman palaces left in the world.
At the same time an Indian sage named Vatsyayana produced the Kama Sutra. Most of the Kama Sutra is advice about how to be a good citizen, offering insights into relationships between men and women. It devotes nine pages to the care of wives, but there are 26 pages explaining how to seduce other men’s wives. The sutra also contains advice on a number of other lifestyle skills, including tattooing, playing musical glasses filled with water, making lemonade, solving word puzzles, cockfighting and teaching parrots and starlings to speak.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Treasure Act of 1996 defines gold or silver finds older than 300 years as “treasure” and claims them for the crown. Finds must be reported within 14 days. Scotland’s laws are broader: treasure does not have to be gold or silver and can be less than 300 years old, but in both jurisdictions, a significant find will be offered to museums. Important finds still slip through the cracks – a bronze Roman helmet found in Cumbria was auctioned off by Christie’s in 2010 for $3.6 million to a private collector. Because it was a single object and made of bronze, it didn’t technically qualify as “treasure”. Amateur treasure hunters with metal detectors find nearly 90 per cent of archaeological artefacts in Britain.
Lightning strikes Britain an average of 300,000 times a year. Using an average over 10 years, this should mean that someone is struck once every 6,000 strikes and someone is killed once every 100,000 strikes.
David Allison, a biostatistician at the University of Alabama, looked into the claim that the average sex session uses up 300 calories – and his findings were quite disappointing. According to his survey, the average sexual bout only takes six minutes, and so the amount of calories used up is a paltry 20. That’s about the same as one egg white or a very small meringue.
The lowest recorded attendance at a World Cup game was 300, for Romania versus Peru in the inaugural competition held in Uruguay in 1930. Because there is a requirement for host nations to make sure stadiums can fit at least 30,000, the record will probably stand forever.
Perhaps the most famous 300 of all were the Spartan soldiers under Leonidas, who held Xerxes’s 100,000-strong Persian army for three days at the pass of Thermopylae in 480BC, delaying their invasion of Greece. In fact, there were only 298. One of the men was sent off to deliver a message, and the other had to sit out the fight because he had an eye infection. He did manage to redeem himself later on by dying in another battle, but the messenger committed suicide from the shame of not fighting.