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Thus reads an ancient stone at Thermopylae in northern Greece, the site of one of the world's greatest battles for freedom. Here, in 480 B.C., on a narrow mountain pass above the crystalline Aegean, 300 Spartan knights and their allies faced the massive forces of Xerxes, King of Persia. From the start, there was no question but that the Spartans would perish. In Gates of Fire, however, Steven Pressfield makes their courageous defense--and eventual extinction--unbearably suspenseful.
In the tradition of Mary Renault, this historical novel unfolds in flashback. Xeo, the sole Spartan survivor of Thermopylae, has been captured by the Persians, and Xerxes himself presses his young captive to reveal how his tiny cohort kept more than 100,000 Persians at bay for a week. Xeo, however, begins at the beginning, when his childhood home in northern Greece was overrun and he escaped to Sparta. There he is drafted into the elite Spartan guard and rigorously schooled in the art of war--an education brutal enough to destroy half the students, but (oddly enough) not without humor: "The more miserable the conditions, the more convulsing the jokes became, or at least that's how it seems," Xeo recalls. His companions in arms are Alexandros, a gentle boy who turns out to be the most courageous of all, and Rooster, an angry, half-Messenian youth.
Pressfield's descriptions of war are breathtaking in their immediacy. They are also meticulously assembled out of physical detail and crisp, uncluttered metaphor:
The forerank of the enemy collapsed immediately as the first shock hit it; the body-length shields seemed to implode rearward, their anchoring spikes rooted slinging from the earth like tent pins in a gale. The forerank archers were literally bowled off their feet, their wall-like shields caving in upon them like fortress redoubts under the assault of the ram.... The valor of the individual Medes was beyond question, but their light hacking blades were harmless as toys; against the massed wall of Spartan armor, they might as well have been defending themselves with reeds or fennel stalks.Alas, even this human barrier was bound to collapse, as we knew all along it would. "War is work, not mystery," Xeo laments. But Pressfield's epic seems to make the opposite argument: courage on this scale is not merely inspiring but ultimately mysterious. --Marianne Painter --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
this one got me hooked on historical fiction. He is a master of this genre. A true storyteller.Published 3 days ago by tim shymkus
This reminds me of books that I my 5 year old son reads where they are more focused on teaching him some new words then telling a story. Read morePublished 12 days ago by M. Hayden
As a military officer I am always looking for written works that portray leadership and warrior discipline. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Louie E. Moore Jr.
Great. I bought a number of these for gifts. Always provides a pleasant read. I got it on time and as expected. I am very happy with the purchase.Published 16 days ago by JPD
It's not an exciting read at times, but it's a wonderful insight into aspects of Greek culture and military culture. I recommend it to anyone!Published 24 days ago by Will
Award winning author Steven Pressfield takes his readers back in time to ancient Greece, circa –480 BC and the battle of Thermopylae. Read morePublished 25 days ago by Harold Y. Grooms