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

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Overview

The national bestseller!

At Thermopylae, a rocky mountain pass in northern Greece, the feared and admired Spartan soldiers stood three hundred strong. Theirs was a suicide mission, to hold the pass against the invading millions of the mighty Persian army.

Day after bloody day they withstood the terrible onslaught, buying time for the Greeks to rally their forces. Born into a cult of spiritual courage, physical endurance, and unmatched battle ...

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

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Overview

The national bestseller!

At Thermopylae, a rocky mountain pass in northern Greece, the feared and admired Spartan soldiers stood three hundred strong. Theirs was a suicide mission, to hold the pass against the invading millions of the mighty Persian army.

Day after bloody day they withstood the terrible onslaught, buying time for the Greeks to rally their forces. Born into a cult of spiritual courage, physical endurance, and unmatched battle skill, the Spartans would be remembered for the greatest military stand in history—one that would not end until the rocks were awash with blood, leaving only one gravely injured Spartan squire to tell the tale....

Tells the story of tthe Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., when 300 warriors of Sparta held back an overwhelming number of rampaging soldiers from the Persian Empire for six days before being wiped out.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Steven Pressfield brings the battle of Thermopylae to brilliant life, and he does for that war what Charles Frazier did for the Civil War in Cold Mountain."
—Pat Conroy

"Gripping and swashbuckling...an exciting, romantic, star-crossed story."
The New York Times

"An incredibly gripping, moving, and literate work of art. Rarely does an author manage to re-create a moment in history with such mastery, authority, and psychological insight."
—Nelson DeMille

"A novel that is intricate and arresting and, once begun, almost impossible to put down."
Daily News

"A timeless epic of man and war...Pressfield has created a new classic deserving of a place beside the very best of the old."
—Stephen Coonts

Nelson DeMille
An incredibly gripping, moving, and literate work of art.
USA Today
Richard Bernstein
Gripping and swashbuckling...an excitingromanticstar-crossed story. —The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pressfield's first novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was about golf, but here he puts aside his putter and picks up sword and shield as he cleverly and convincingly portrays the clash between Greek hoplites and Persian heavy infantry in the most heroic confrontation of the Hellenic Age: the battle of Thermopylae ("the Hot Gates") in 480 B.C. The terrifying spectacle of classical infantry battle becomes vividly clear in his epic treatment of the Greeks' magnificent last stand against the invading Persians. Driven to understand the courage and sacrifice of his Greek foes, the Persian king, Xerxes, compels Xeones, a captured Greek slave, to explain why the Greeks would give their lives to fight against overwhelming odds. Xeones' tale covers his years of training and adventure as the loyal and devoted servant of Dienekes, a noble Spartan soldier, and he describes the six-day ordeal during which a few hundred Greeks held off thousands of Persian spears and arrows, until a Greek traitor led the Persians to an alternate route. Rich with historical detail, hot action and crafty storytelling, Pressfield's riveting story reveals the social and political framework of Spartan life--ending with the hysteria and brutality of the spear-thrusting, shield-bashing clamor that defined a Spartan's relationship with his family, community, country and fellow warriors.
Library Journal
On a memorial stone placed at the ancient battlefield of Thermopylae are the words, "Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie." Those simple words end and encapsulate this brilliant and brutal epic tale. Beginning at the training fields of Sparta, Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance) ushers the reader through the climactic Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E, fought by the combined armies of Sparta, Athens, and their allies against the invading soldiers of Persia. Narrated by the sole survivor of the battle at the "Hot Gates," in which 300 Spartans, hundreds of their allies, and tens of thousands of Persians died, this work portrays the men and women of ancient Sparta in intimate, dynamic detail. Pressfield weaves a fascinating tale of valor, fear, comradeship, and a courage that takes a handful of warriors beyond human frailty into immortality. An unforgettable novel. -- Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libraries, Alaska
William Shepherd
This is excellent fiction woven into historical and archaeological reconstruction... Gates of Fire is enjoyable at many levels. It is both a gripping human story of adventure, friendship, loyalty, heroism and love, and a fascinating compilation of historical fact with some speculation, which in the absence of evidence is always at least plausible...Osprey readers interested in the ancient world and key players in military history must add this book to their specialist shelves.
Osprey Military Journal
Kirkus Reviews
A triumph in historical fiction best describes this stirring account of the famous battle of Thermopylae, told by the lone survivor before succumbing to his wounds, in a logical follow-up to Pressfield's Homeric take on golf, The Legend of Bagger Vance (1995). The young squire Xeones is pulled from beneath a burned battle wagon when the carnage finally ends at the narrow mountain pass where, in 480 b.c., three hundred Spartans and a small allied force fought off, for a full week, the two-million-man army of Persian king Xerxes. Xeones is kept alive by the king's own physicians in the hope that he'll tell His Majesty all there is to know about those sublimely disciplined warriors who accomplished so great a victory. In a series of interviews recorded by the royal historian, Xeones recounts his own origins: forced to flee, newly orphaned, when his own city was sacked, he lived hand-to-mouth in the mountains until deciding to go to Sparta in order to learn all there was to know about defending himself. As he recalls Xerxes' army rolling inexorably into Athens, burning the city after a token defense, the survivor describes the decades of hard training endured by every Spartan male, and also the contacts he had with his youthful sparring partner, the silver-throated, sensitive Alexandros, and with the fair-minded, modest Dienekes (whose squire he would become). But by the time Xeones comes to the crux of his story, involving the mighty battle itself and the heroic actions of his comrades-in-arms, things have started to go awry again for the Persians. Although he will soon join his friends in death, Xeones lives long enough to know that their sacrifice was not in vain. While theromantic interests are somewhat stilted, the man-to-man and mano-a-mano elements are all superb, with a fine, elegiac tone. to be expected, frankly, given the subjectþenhancing equally the historical details and the human touches.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553580532
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 82,345
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Pressfield is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance. a mystical golf novel currently under option with Robert Redford and Jake Eberts (Dances with Wolves, Driving Miss Daisy) for feature film adaptation.  He makes his home in Malibu, California.

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Read an Excerpt

I had always wondered what it felt like to die.

There was an exercise we of the battle train practiced when we served as  punching bags for the Spartan heavy infantry. It was called the Oak  because we took our positions along a line of oaks at the edge of the  plain of Otona, where the Spartiates and the Gentleman-Rankers ran their  field exercises in fall and winter. We would line up ten deep with  body-length wicker shields braced upon the earth and they would hit us,  the shock troops, coming across the flat in line of battle, eight deep, at  a walk, then a pace, then a trot and finally a dead run. The shock of  their interleaved shields was meant to knock the breath out of you, and it  did. It was like being hit by a mountain. Your knees, no matter how braced  you held them, buckled like saplings before an earthslide; in an instant  all courage fled our hearts; we were rooted up like dried stalks before  the ploughman's blade.

That was how it felt to die. The weapon which slew me at Thermopylae was  an Egyptian hoplite spear, driven in beneath the plexus of the ribcage.  But the sensation was not what one would have anticipated, not being  pierced but rather slammed, like we sparring fodder felt beneath the  oaks.

I had imagined that the dead would be detached. That they would look upon  life with the eyes of objective wisdom. But the experience proved the  opposite. Emotion ruled. It seemed nothing remained but emotion. My heart  ached and broke as never it could on earth. Loss encompassed me with a  searing, all-mastering pain. I saw my wife and children, my dear cousin  Diomache, she whom I loved. I saw Skamandridas, my father, and Eunike, my  mother, Bruxieus, Dekton and "Suicide," names which mean nothing to His  Majesty to hear, but which to me were dearer than life and now, dying,  dearer still.

Away they flew. Away I flew from them.

I was keenly conscious of the comrades-in-arms who had fallen with me. A  bond surpassing by a hundredfold that which I had known in life bound me  to them. I felt a sense of inexpressible relief and realized that I had  feared, more than death, separation from them. I apprehended that  excruciating war survivor's torment, the sense of isolation and  self-betrayal experienced by those who had elected to cling yet to breath  when their comrades had let loose their grip.

That state which we call life was over.

I was dead.

And yet, titanic as was that sense of loss, there existed a keener one  which I now experienced and felt my brothers-in-arms feeling with me. It  was this.

That our story would perish with us.

That no one would ever know.

I cared not for myself, for my own selfish or vainglorious purposes, but  for them. For Leonidas, for Alexandros and Polynikes, for Arete bereft by  her hearth and, most of all, for Dienekes. That his valor, his wit, his  private thoughts that I alone was privileged to share, that these and all  that he and his companions had achieved and suffered would simply vanish,  drift away like smoke from a woodland fire, this was unbearable.

We had reached the river now. We could hear with ears that were no longer  ears and see with eyes that were no longer eyes the stream of Lethe and  the hosts of the long-suffering dead whose round beneath the earth was at  last drawing to a period. They were returning to life, drinking of those  waters which would efface all memory of their existence here as  shades.

But we from Thermopylae, we were aeons away from drinking of Lethe's  stream. We remembered.

A cry which was not a cry but only the multiplied pain of the warriors'  hearts, all feeling what I, too, felt, rent the baleful scene with  unspeakable pathos.

Then from behind me, if there can be such a thing as "behind" in that  world where all directions are as one, came a glow of such sublimity that  I knew, we all knew at once, it could be nothing but a god.

Phoebus Far Darter, Apollo himself in war armor, moved there among the  Spartiates and Thespaians. No words were exchanged; none were needed. The  Archer could feel the men's agony and they knew without speech that he,  warrior and physician, was there to succor it. So quickly that surprise  was impossible I felt his eye turn toward me, me the last and least who  could expect it, and then Dienekes himself was beside me, my master in  life.

I would be the one. The one to go back and speak. A pain beyond all  previous now seized me. Sweet life itself, even the desperately sought  chance to tell the tale, suddenly seemed unendurable alongside the pain of  having to take leave of these whom I had come so to love.

But again, before the god's majesty, no entreaty was possible.

I saw another light, a sicklier, cruder, more coarse illumination, and  knew that it was the sun. I was soaring back. Voices came to me through  physical ears. Soldiers' speech, in Egyptian and Persian, and  leather-gauntleted fists pulling me from beneath a sheaf of corpses.

The Egyptian marines told me later that I had uttered the word  lokas, which in their tongue meant "fuck," and they had laughed  even as they dragged my shattered body out into the light of day.

They were wrong. The word was Loxias—the Greek title of respect  for Apollo the Cunning, or Apollo Crabwise, whose oracles arise ever  elusive and oblique—and I was half crying to him, half cursing him for  laying this terrible responsibility on me who had no gift to perform  it.

As poets call upon the Muse to speak through them, I croaked my  inarticulate grunt to the Striker From Afar.

If indeed you have elected me, Archer, then let your fine-fletched arrows  spring from my bow. Lend me your voice, Far Darter. Help me to tell the  tale.

Thermopylae is a spa. The word in Greek means "hot gates," from the  thermal springs and, as His Majesty knows, the narrow and precipitous  defiles which form the only passages by which the site may be  approached—in Greek, pylae or pylai, the East and West  Gates.

The Phokian Wall around which so much of the most desperate fighting took  place was not constructed by the Spartans and their allies in the event,  but stood in existence prior to the battle, erected in ancient times by  the inhabitants of Phokis and Lokris as defense against the incursions of  their northern neighbors, the Thessalians and Macedonians. The wall, when  the Spartans arrived to take possession of the pass, stood in ruins. They  rebuilt it.

The springs and pass themselves are not considered by the Hellenes to  belong to the natives of the area, but are open to all in Greece. The  baths are thought to possess curative powers; in summer the site teems  with visitors. His Majesty beheld the charm of the shaded groves and pool  houses, the oak copse sacred to Amphiktyon and that pleasantly meandering  path bounded by the Lion's Wall, whose stones are said to have been set in  place by Herakles himself. Along this in peacetime are customarily arrayed  the gaily colored tents and booths used by the vendors from Trachis,  Anthela and Alpenoi to serve whatever adventurous pilgrims have made the  trek to the mineral baths.

There is a double spring sacred to Persephone, called the Skyllian  fountain, at the foot of the bluff beside the Middle Gate. Upon this site  the Spartans established their camp, between the Phokian Wall and the  hillock where the final tooth-and-nail struggle took place. His Majesty  knows how little drinking water is to hand from other sources in the  surrounding mountains. The earth between the Gates is normally so parched  and dust-blown that servants are employed by the spa to oil the walkways  for the convenience of the bathers. The ground itself is hard as  stone.

His Majesty saw how swiftly that marble-hard clay was churned into muck  by the contending masses of the warriors. I have never seen such mud and  of such depth, whose moisture came only from the blood and terror-piss of  the men who fought upon it.

When the advance troops, the Spartan rangers, arrived at Thermopylae  prior to the battle, a few hours before the main body which was advancing  by forced march, they discovered, incredibly, two parties of spa-goers,  one from Tiryns, the other from Halkyon, thirty in all, men and women,  each in their separate precincts, in various states of undress. These  pilgrims were startled, to say the least, by the sudden appearance in  their midst of the scarlet-clad armored Skiritai, all picked men under  thirty, chosen for speed of foot as well as prowess in mountain fighting.  The rangers cleared the bathers and their attendant perfume vendors,  masseurs, fig-cake and bread sellers, bath and oil girls, strigil boys and  so forth (who had ample intelligence of the Persian advance but had  thought that the recent down-valley storm had rendered the northern  approaches temporarily impassable). The rangers confiscated all food,  soaps, linens and medical accoutrements and in particular the spa tents,  which later appeared so grimly incongruous, billowing festively above the  carnage. The rangers reerected these shelters at the rear, in the Spartan  camp beside the Middle Gate, intending them for use by Leonidas and his  royal guard.

The Spartan king, when he arrived, refused to avail himself of this  shelter, deeming it unseemly. The Spartiate heavy infantry likewise  rejected these amenities. The tents fell, in one of the ironies to which  those familiar with war are accustomed, to the use of the Spartan helots,  Thespaian, Phokian and Opountian Lokrian slaves and other attendants of  the battle train who suffered wounds in the arrow and missile barrages.  These individuals, too, after the second day refused to accept shelter.  The brightly colored spa tents of Egyptian linen, now in tatters, came as  His Majesty saw to protect only the beasts of transport, the mules and  asses supporting the commissariat, who became terrorized by the sights and  smells of the battle and could not be held by their teamsters. In the end  the tents were torn to rags to bind the wounds of the Spartiates and their  allies.

When I say Spartiates, I mean the formal term in Greek,  Spartiatai, which refers to Lakedaemonians of the superior class,  full Spartans—the homoioi—Peers or Equals. None of the class  called Gentleman-Rankers or of the perioikoi, the secondary  Spartans of less than full citizenship, or those enlisted from the  surrounding Lakedaemonian towns, fought at the Hot Gates, though toward  the end when the surviving Spartiates became so few that they could no  longer form a fighting front, a certain "leavening element," as Dienekes  expressed it, of freed slaves, armor bearers and battle squires, was  permitted to fill the vacated spaces.

His Majesty may nonetheless take pride in knowing that his forces  defeated the flower of Hellas, the cream of her finest and most valiant  fighting men.

As for my own position within the battle train, the explanation may  require a certain digression, with which I hope His Majesty will be  patient.

I was captured at age twelve (or, more accurately, surrendered) as a  heliokekaumenos, a Spartan term of derision which means literally  "scorched by the sun." It referred to a type of nearly feral youth, burned  black as Ethiopians by their exposure to the elements, with which the  mountains abounded in those days preceding and following the first Persian  War. I was cast originally among the Spartan helots, the serf class that  the Lakedaemonians had created from the inhabitants of Messenia and Helos  after they in centuries past had conquered and enslaved them. These  husbandmen, however, rejected me because of certain physical impairments  which rendered me useless for field labor. Also the helots hated and  mistrusted any foreigner among them who might prove an informer. I lived a  dog's life for most of a year before fate, luck or a god's hand delivered  me into the service of Alexandros, a Spartan youth and protege of  Dienekes. This saved my life. I was recognized at least ironically as a  freeborn and, evincing such qualities of a wild beast as the  Lakedaemonians found admirable, was elevated to the status of  parastates pais, a sort of sparring partner for the youths enrolled  in the agoge, the notorious and pitiless thirteen-year training  regimen which turned boys into Spartan warriors.

Every heavy infantryman of the Spartiate class travels to war attended by  at least one helot. Enomotarchai, the platoon leaders, take two.  This latter was Dienekes' station. It is not uncommon for an officer of  his rank to select as his primary attendant, his battle squire, a freeborn  foreigner or even a young mothax, a noncitizen or bastard Spartan  still in agoge training. It was my fortune, for good or ill, to be  chosen by my master for this post. I supervised the care and transport of  his armor, maintained his kit, prepared his food and sleeping site, bound  his wounds and in general performed every task necessary to leave him free  to train and fight.

My childhood home, before fate set me upon the road which found its end  at the Hot Gates, was originally in Astakos in Akarnania, north of the  Peloponnese, where the mountains look west over the sea toward Kephallinia  and, beyond the horizon, to Sikelia and Italia.

The island of Ithaka, home of Odysseus of lore, lay within sight across  the straits, though I myself was never privileged to touch the hero's  sacred soil, as a boy or later. I was due to make the crossing, a treat  from my aunt and uncle, on the occasion of my tenth birthday. But our city  fell first, the males of my clan were slaughtered and females sold into  slavery, our ancestral land taken, and I cast out, alone save my cousin  Diomache, without family or home, three days before the start of my tenth  year to heaven, as the poet says.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 312 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 312 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

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  • 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.

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