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Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

Review of Gates of Fire

This book is about the Spartans and their stand at the Battle of Thermopylae so at the very least the theme could be to fight for what is right and not to give up. As already mentioned this novel is about the Greek forces and their stand at Thermopylae, the years buildi...
This book is about the Spartans and their stand at the Battle of Thermopylae so at the very least the theme could be to fight for what is right and not to give up. As already mentioned this novel is about the Greek forces and their stand at Thermopylae, the years building up to it, and the Persian War. Additionally, the book is narrated by a man named Xeones who was a squire for a Spartiate soldier and outlander from Sparta who came there as a child after his parents were killed and his village burned. He was captured after the battle and was the lone survivor among the Greek forces with many injuries that would eventually cause his death. He tells the story of his life building up to the Battle of Thermopylae to the King of Persia at that time; King Xerxes. I enjoyed this book as it has large amounts of action and is very descriptive, it also is a great read for anyone who is interested in ancient war history (particularly Greece). The author, Steven Pressfield, also writes books dealing with other ancient battles and wars in a similar way (a fictional narrator talking about real events) such as Tides of War.
Xeones is a young man of average stature who is very well built with shoulder length hair. Things that are important to him are his country, his family, and his brother soldiers. His motivation is his need to fight and if necessary die for his country so long as he can be thought of by his Spartan brothers as a fellow soldier, "At that moment, I didn't really care that I was going to die. All that mattered was I was finally needed, and recognized by my fellow warriors as a soldier" (pg.323). He overcomes obstacles in a variety of ways, he will usually think his way through challenges but when this does not work he will usually have to just tough it out which is what made him so strong. Throughout the book he learned to be mentally and physically tough and that country and family, above all, are important.
War is a global theme in the book that affects everyone; the characters are affected by it as all of the male characters die due to it (including the narrator), "A cry of grief as I had never heard tore from my master's breast," (pg. 344). War does not only affect the events of the book, war is the reason for the events in the book. Everything that occurs is due to war, specifically, the Persian War. A statement that could be made based on the global theme is that war is horrible; it brings out the best and the worst in people and kills many.
This book was chosen for the bestseller list for the author's use of imagery and for its creative presentation of the Battle of Thermopylae and the Persian War. I completely agree with this decision as it is a great piece of writing and if you enjoy action/adventure books that carefully feed you information in a rationed manner that still allows for a book that flows well this book is a great choice.

posted by 2340684 on December 3, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Easy read with ancient-sounding prose

Has something of the sound of Homer to it, but in a way that is very approachable and readable. The story is told in first-person, the story of a Spartan from his youth as a villager to his coming into the world of war. It's interesting as a plot but the story-telling i...
Has something of the sound of Homer to it, but in a way that is very approachable and readable. The story is told in first-person, the story of a Spartan from his youth as a villager to his coming into the world of war. It's interesting as a plot but the story-telling is what I'm really recommending. It really gave me the feeling that books did when I was a child reading them, that I was being spirited away to another place and time.

posted by cookywriter on January 4, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2009

    Review of Gates of Fire

    This book is about the Spartans and their stand at the Battle of Thermopylae so at the very least the theme could be to fight for what is right and not to give up. As already mentioned this novel is about the Greek forces and their stand at Thermopylae, the years building up to it, and the Persian War. Additionally, the book is narrated by a man named Xeones who was a squire for a Spartiate soldier and outlander from Sparta who came there as a child after his parents were killed and his village burned. He was captured after the battle and was the lone survivor among the Greek forces with many injuries that would eventually cause his death. He tells the story of his life building up to the Battle of Thermopylae to the King of Persia at that time; King Xerxes. I enjoyed this book as it has large amounts of action and is very descriptive, it also is a great read for anyone who is interested in ancient war history (particularly Greece). The author, Steven Pressfield, also writes books dealing with other ancient battles and wars in a similar way (a fictional narrator talking about real events) such as Tides of War.
    Xeones is a young man of average stature who is very well built with shoulder length hair. Things that are important to him are his country, his family, and his brother soldiers. His motivation is his need to fight and if necessary die for his country so long as he can be thought of by his Spartan brothers as a fellow soldier, "At that moment, I didn't really care that I was going to die. All that mattered was I was finally needed, and recognized by my fellow warriors as a soldier" (pg.323). He overcomes obstacles in a variety of ways, he will usually think his way through challenges but when this does not work he will usually have to just tough it out which is what made him so strong. Throughout the book he learned to be mentally and physically tough and that country and family, above all, are important.
    War is a global theme in the book that affects everyone; the characters are affected by it as all of the male characters die due to it (including the narrator), "A cry of grief as I had never heard tore from my master's breast," (pg. 344). War does not only affect the events of the book, war is the reason for the events in the book. Everything that occurs is due to war, specifically, the Persian War. A statement that could be made based on the global theme is that war is horrible; it brings out the best and the worst in people and kills many.
    This book was chosen for the bestseller list for the author's use of imagery and for its creative presentation of the Battle of Thermopylae and the Persian War. I completely agree with this decision as it is a great piece of writing and if you enjoy action/adventure books that carefully feed you information in a rationed manner that still allows for a book that flows well this book is a great choice.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A must read! this is actually on most army units recommended lists

    Pressfield has truly captured the spirit of an infantry or other combat units in Gates Of Fire, it was recommended by my Lt. and once i picked it up i couldnt put it down. The story flows well and is so graphically described that some parts actually make you cringe. The banter between the spartan characters is so realistic you could have put any one of them in todays armies and they would fit right in. This book blows 300 out of the water!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2010

    AP World History

    In Gates of Fire Steven Pressfield brings the legendary Battle of Thermopylae and Spartan culture to life. Pressfield attempts to not only give a detailed description of the Battle of Thermopylae but also Spartan culture, both of which he does beautifully. Pressfield vividly describes not only the harrowing valor of the Spartan 300 but also an unparalleled insight into Spartan military culture and training. In 480 BC the Persian Empire marched with a force of two million men against Greece. In Greece's defense a small forces of 2,500 Greek soldiers marched out in an attempt to slow the Persian advance. 300 Spartans were among this squadron, willing to fight to the death for their homeland. The two armies crashed at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. For six days the small force held off the entire Persian army, inflicting an estimated 20,000 casualties on the enemy. On the seventh day the main Greek force withdrew. The remaining Spartan force and a small number of Thespians stayed giving their comrades time for escape. The residual Greek forces fought heroically to the death. The slowed Persian advance gave Greek forces added time to muster men and eventually repel the invasion. Pressfield's depiction of the heroism of the 300 Spartans has forever immortalized their brave story. Pressfield depicts the story from a Spartan soldier's armor bearer's point of view. The armor bearer, Xeo, tells his life story beautifully from his youth as an outcast to his acceptation into the Spartan military. Through the eyes of Xeo, Pressfield tells of an armor bearer's duties, soldier's thoughts and attitudes, Sparta's military training, and Sparta's military based culture. While he tells that Sparta is a cruel and brutal military society he also tells of the beauty and love that the civilization also possesses. Xeo tells of discussions with his master about deep thoughts about the opposite of fear and other deep and true thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Gates of Fire. The story is historically accurate yet reads like a novel and not like a textbook at all. Pressfield gives interesting facts about Spartan culture, its soldiers, attitudes of religion, and gripping battle scenes. The novel is extremely entertaining and gives a fascinating insight into courage, discipline, love, and war. Based on all of these reason I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading of history or war.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2010

    Must read!

    What makes a Spartan a Spartan? This book will tell you. Outstanding account of the creation of the warrior from psychological to physical.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2010

    A magnificent epic of the warrior ethos

    This novel paints the true warrior ethos as accurately as I've ever seen it described. An excellent read from start to finish and a superbly creative way to tell the tale of the battle at Thermopylae.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2012

    Simply said THE most enjoyable read I have ever read. The last c

    Simply said THE most enjoyable read I have ever read. The last chapter about the Athenian Golden Age and it's profound legacy to our -OK ...MY Western Culture and to the best of civilization should be required reading to every student of Western History. When O man when, shall we we see a movie from this novel. 300 though OK as an homage to the 1962 movie, it is nothing like GATES OF FIRE.

    N.B. 97% of readers gave this novel 5 stars. Few books can boast of his. ignore the ninnys that gave the book 1 star because he/they had a hard time following the book. "Stupid is as stupid does Sir!" as Forrest would say..

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    An amazing novel!

    A great read for a Soldiers mind.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Stunningly excellent

    Just finished reading this for the third time, and it's continually astonishing to me how a book can be so simultaneously poetic and brutal, so romantic and realistic, so inspirational and painful. Pressfield provides an infantryman's eye view of the bloody hand to hand combat present at Thermopylae. My sleep was actually disturbed for two nights after I finished the book, yet the beauty of its characters (including the women) has endured. This novel shatters the absurd caricature of the Spartans from the movie 300, which depicted them as contemptuous of their position and unafraid. In Pressfield's novel, they are terrified, but even more afraid of letting down their comrades or shaming themselves. They knew they'd been sent to die, and they did their duty. Phenomenal book and a must-read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2010

    If you like thrill, adventure, action, epic battles, and historical fiction, then this is a great book if anyone enjoys those categories. This must be one of my favorite novels that I have ever read.

    The book is called "Gates of Fire" written by Steven Pressfield. Gates of Fire is about the epic battle at Thermopylae with the 300 brave Spartans going up against the millions of soldiers in the Persian army. The story on a Spartan soldier's point of view about his tale in the army and how he got there with all of the brutal training and punishments he had to endure in order to be tougher, stronger, and wiser as a warrior. The reason why I chose this story is because I like the adventure and thrill of the Spartans and also I like reading about war battles because of the suspense.
    The time period of this book setting is in 480B.C in Greece and the Middle East of the Persian Empire. The ruler of the Persian Empire at this time was King Xerxes and he wanted to expand the Persian Empire out east to conquer all of Greece. This then lead to the rise of the 300 brave Spartans hand pick from their king, Leonidas, and also the Sparta ally, the Thespaian, fought along side the Spartans in the battle and died with them till the last man stands within six days while killing millions of Persians. The importance of this historical event to modern historians or readers is to show the bravery, courage, and loyalty on how the Spartans did not give up and did not allow the Persians to take over Greece which the Persians never had the chances to succeed their goal. Later Alexander the Great started making attacks to the Persians when he was 20 years old in 336B.C when he became king of Macedonia after his father's death.
    Steven Pressfield was born in 1943 in Port of Spain Trinidad because his dad was in the Navy. Pressfield then joined the Marines in the 1960s and later graduated from Duke University. Pressfield mostly writes about military historical fiction. One of the works Pressfield is famous for is the "The Legend of Vagger Vance" which later became a movie in 1995. Then one of his famous books after that is "Gates of Fire" and it is so great of a book that some military schools like West Point, Annapolis, and the Marines Corps Basic School at Quantico have this on their reading lists. The point of view that Pressfield uses to express the hidden voice in the book is 1rst person and this really gives you an inside scoop of how the main character feels and acts along the story. Finally the reason why Pressfield decided to write about the 300 Spartans is because he was thinking of the soldiers in Iraq and how once earlier in time there was once an epic battle between the Persians and Spartans.
    This book is a great story to see how this certain culture of the Spartans would prepare soldiers to war since some of the squires (a word used for Spartan cadets) were training ever since they were young as the age of six. What made the Spartans so fascinating about how they treat war than other cultures is that they were really harsh on the young squires and would work them hard, make them tougher by beating them till they can't stand up or do hard training exercises, and make them wise and know the ways of war. In the story, King Leonidas says about a Spartan Soldier, "That half of him, the best part, a man sets aside and leaves behind. He banishes from his heart all feelings tenderness and mercy, all compassion and kindness, all thought or concept of the enemy as a man, a human being like himself. He marches into battle bearing only the second portion of himself, the baser measure, that half which knows slaughter and butchery and turns the blind ey

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2006

    Xerxes: 'Lay Down Your Weapons'

    Leaonidas: 'Come and Take Them'. I was going to give this book 4 stars, but the more I thought about it I had to give it 5. You know a book is good when you've been reading into the wee hours of the night and then lay there for an hour thinking about what you just read. The actual battle is only about the last third of the book as opposed to a book like Black Hawk Down were most of the book IS the battle. The result however, are amazingly well developed characters and a look inside the methods of building a first class fighting force. Even the women in this story are some of the strongest characters which is quite impressive considering it is essentially a war book. The battle scenes are intense and I can't stress enough that it feels like you are there amongst the Spartans. I do have to say that it wasn't really JUST 300 Spartans. They started off with about 5000 soldiers from all over Greece versus an outrageous force of 100,000s from all over the known world(The numbers seem to vary). The final battles are made up of the remnants of this force led by 100 Spartans. These almost super human soldiers stalled Xerxes' army while the rest of Greece rallied it's forces. Read this book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Amazing book

    Great writing style, great story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 11, 2011

    Truly outstanding

    Couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2011

    Amazing read

    Like many of the other readers, I just couldn't put this book down. How different war was for the ancient people. I cant even image being that close to a enemy in battle. This is definitely a recommended must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    This book is a must read

    You will love this book from start to finish, and all in between.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2011

    Suspensful

    amazing cant put it down

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2011

    Gates of Fire is amazing

    Gates of Fire is about the story of the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae against the millions of Persian soldiers. The author of the book is Steven Pressfield and he gives us an adventure of a single Spartan soldier out of the 300 and describes his journey becoming a soldier and the risks he endures to become a warrior.
    The main character of the book is a boy named Xeones. Xeones originally lives in a small little city state when eventually one day invading soldiers comes in and takes over the town. Xeoenes luckily escapes and goes to Spara to become a Spartan. Doing so, we see his story of how he managed the hard and brutal work in order to be a warrior of Sparta.
    When the year 400 B.C.E came along, the king of Sparta, Leonidas, gathered his fearless 300 Spartans (including Xeones) and their allias, the Thespians, to march out of Greece to fight against the incoming millions of Persian soldiers lead by King Xerxes I. From there on we the endurance that the Spartans and Thespians encounter with strong fighting and blood being shed.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure, warfare, thrill, and historical fiction. If you ever start a book club, this would be a great book to thrill your imagination. I give this book fives stars and truly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    I really enjoyed this book from the action to the information with spartan life it was truly amazing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 27, 2010

    Ancient glory revealed

    Fantastic book about the Battle of Thermopylae and the brave Greeks who fought against Persian invaders, as told by a crippled survivor to the Emperor Xerxes himself. The narrator goes into great detail about Spartan daily life, the road to war, and individual heroes and the lives they lead. It gives great insight into the minds of men in Sparta. Immensely gripping, I could not put this book down -- this will be one of the rare books I read more than once!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2010

    Awesome!

    This is a must read. I was glued to my chair while reading this book. I felt like I was part of the book, and part of the characters life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    Easy read with ancient-sounding prose

    Has something of the sound of Homer to it, but in a way that is very approachable and readable. The story is told in first-person, the story of a Spartan from his youth as a villager to his coming into the world of war. It's interesting as a plot but the story-telling is what I'm really recommending. It really gave me the feeling that books did when I was a child reading them, that I was being spirited away to another place and time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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