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139 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tell the Spartans, Stranger Passing By
Pressfield manages to bring one of the most historic and pivotal battles of civilization to life through characters of his invention. The battle is Thermopylae where 7000 Greeks led by 300 Spartans held an enormous Persian army of 200,000 at bay for several days, an army that would have changed our civilization had the Greeks not died fighting it. Never before or since...
Published on June 6, 2006 by Edwin C. Pauzer

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy on the history, light on the fiction
A few years ago I read and loved Pressfield's The Afghan Campaign, which is apparently one of his minor works, so I expected to be blown away by this one. Unlike most other reviewers, though, while I think it's competently written, I was never able to enjoy it.

Gates of Fire is primarily about the battle at Thermopylae, as told through the eyes of Xeones, a...
Published on July 18, 2012 by E. Smiley

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139 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tell the Spartans, Stranger Passing By, June 6, 2006
Pressfield manages to bring one of the most historic and pivotal battles of civilization to life through characters of his invention. The battle is Thermopylae where 7000 Greeks led by 300 Spartans held an enormous Persian army of 200,000 at bay for several days, an army that would have changed our civilization had the Greeks not died fighting it. Never before or since has such a badly outnumbered army fought so valiantly nor effectively.

This story is told through the eyes of a Spartan slave who comes to admire his Spartan masters' fraternity, loyalty, and pride they have for themselves, their laws, and their city. It begins after the battle where the slave is wounded, and through a Persian interpreter, recounts his odyssey to Sparta, and his life that led to the moment the battle is over.

Pressfield brings us several ironies in this tale based upon historical fact. The Spartans who ruled the Peloponnesus ruthlessly seem to be the least likely saviors of a civilization from which we draw our roots. The Spartans were the only city-state that could have rallied the other Greeks to fight. And King Leonidas was the only Spartan who thought the best way to preserve his city was to preserve everything Greek. He sacrificed his life and lives of his men to rally a disunited country to attack, and defeat a ruthless invader which they did within the year.

It is also ironic that the Spartans who owned and killed slaves on a regular basis, saved their countrymen from becoming slaves themselves, and in a time of absolute crisis provided the leadership they were so reluctant to give, that saved Greece in the end.

In King Leonidas, Pressfield describes a king who feels it his duty to serve his people rather than being served. Leonidas is the pivotal Spartan, at a pivotal time and place in history that establishes his immortality making him as important as Charles Martel. He could not get his city to move his army, but he got all of Greece to move against the invader.

The fictitious characters in this story seem all too real. We admire them because they know they are making the supreme sacrifice for something greater than themselves. In spite of their society, it provided them with the means to make that sacrifice.

Some have criticized this book because the Spartans owned slaves. Slavery was the consequence of the loser from then until the Age of Progress. It is the valor, sacrifice, and skill that armies ever since have admired about Sparta, not the weakness of their Lycurgic tradition. Their culture, peace, and ruling others sealed their fate. Anyone who judges this story and Spartan society by 20th century standards misses the point, and the debt we owe a warrior class of people who protected the democratic traditions that survived them.

The story ends with the Persian defeat on the Plains of Plataea, and the death of the Spartan slave whose story was faithfully recorded. The Persian interpreter is spared the sword by calling the names of the dead and living Greeks he learned from the dying slave. With his life spared, he is able to establish the fate of the dead and the living he had come to admire and respect.

Every Spartan mother handed her son his shield and said, "[Come home] with it, or on it." The Spartans certainly did. It is everything Greek, it is ironic and it is tragic.

The Persians never attacked Greece again.

Tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here obedient to their laws we lie.
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89 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deep insights into warrior psyche; vivid battle recreation, October 27, 1999
The story of the Spartans' stand at Thermopylae is one of the great heroic legends of all time. How, then, does one tell a well known story with sufficient "freshness" to entice the modern reader? In Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield uses a very sensible approach.
1) He Introduces elements of Ancient Greek culture to give modern readers (many of whom were shorted on ancient history by the modern educational system) familiarity with the historical and cultural context of the novel.
2) He digs deeply into the psychology of creating a social bonding unique to competitive sports and military groups: small unit cohesion. This exposition is crucial when trying to paint a sympathetic picture of men striving to kill one another at arm's length. (Or at any distance, for that matter.)
3) He paints a vivid "spearman's-eye-view" of battle by sword, shield, and spear. The requirement for vivid imagery should not be taken lightly. Today's reader is brought up in a very visual environment, what with TV and the superb directing, cinematography, and special effects of Hollywood productions. Evoking bold images with the written word is often necessary to sustain the interest of the video generation (this includes far too many Baby Boomers, in which demographic, alas, this reviewer falls.)
4) He builds an emotional bridge between the characters and the reader. The difficulty in creating this bridge, between a modern reader and an authentic ancient person, is that the "modern" viewpoint is frequently overwritten onto the ancient character(s). Most of the non-historical characters in Gates of Fire are too modern for my taste, however the linkage works well enough for the story to retain coherence.
5) Above all, Pressfield delves deeply into the "military mind," or more correctly, the warrior's psyche. An eerie reflection of the different temperaments adopted by fighting units at Thermopylae, as illustrated by Pressfield, can be found in a modern non-fiction work, __Blackhawk Down__. (A primary source based account of the firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993.) The contrast between the Thespians(emotional) and Spartans(calmly grim) is echoed by the observed/reported behaviors of Regular Army soldiers, Rangers, and Special Forces(Delta) soldiers. One could argue that Mr Pressfield modeled his ancient warriors on modern soldiers-- perhaps because they do the same job as the ancient hoplites with different equipment and tactics. Whether or not he did so, the author presents a profound male archetype with considerable skill.
Pressfield's prose and his sensible approach makes this legendary battle accessible to the modern reader within the constraints of historical fiction. Xeo's credibility as an observer suffers from an unavoidable awkwardness, as historically the Spartans were slain to the last man. Pressfield's recreation of the battle and the richness of the Ancient Greek cultural setting overwhelm any problems of logic required to place a surviving observer in a position to recount the battle from the inside -- a battle that has only been chronicled from the outside.
The result is a book of mercifully moderate length that is hard to put down. Gates of Fire provides an entertaining and enlightening look at those who fight when all rational instinct is to retreat or surrender, a story that has been retold through the ages from Thermopylae to Bastogne. As with most good authors, Pressfield tells more than the apparent story. He illustrates, for those readers unfamiliar with military arcana, why warriors fight and what they fight for. He asserts as well a timeless theme: Victory and greatness come to those who pay the price, as does the security of those far behind the shield wall.
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155 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressions of Gates of Fire, November 29, 1999
Rebekah Smith (Chapel Hill, NC) - See all my reviews
I loved this book! Five Stars means a thought provoking and powerful reading experience. Gates of Fire is a wonderful story, vividly told and built on "page-turner" techniques as effective as any I've ever met. These warriors, women, mentors, kings, and children evoke love, fear, and honor from the very first paragraph.
The jacket blurbs say "epic," and here "epic" doesn't just mean "long and involved." This historical novel is so true to its times that Homer's blend of perspective and immediacy, Herotodus' human interest and recognition of irony, the power of the gods and of fate are recognizable as you read--as well as a touch of dialogue that is about to become Platonic. By the time the first epic simile appeared in a battle narrative, Pressfield's world and the warrior society and life he had animated stood so solidly behind it that it was as powerfully moving, at least for this reader, as those of the Iliad.
Also moving were the respect and richness with which this Greek world was imagined. The result is a historical novel whose life invades the present. "What is the opposite of fear? How do I live? What is worth dying for?" As a reader you do march out with the army. You find yourself on a battlefield, not in a table-of-contents from a history book.
I recommend this book without reserve to anyone interested in Greek civilization, army life, military history, a meditation on life and time and sacrifice, or simply a good novel. Many thanks to Mr. Pressfield.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death by Honour, August 14, 2004
I came across this book by accident whilst digging around for Spartan history books. After reading all the glowing reviews I gave it a try and boy was i impressed. This book in my opinion is a rare one as it manages to transport you into the mind and soul of ancient greece. It allows you to stand and fight next to the spartans and their allies thrust by thrust and blow by blow. But it is not the detailed and in depth fighting that captures you but rather the mindset of the ancient greeks. How they reasoned, how they trained and how they loved. It is this window into the past that Pressfield has created so well. I have been to Thermopylae and have seen the plains, the springs and the hillock where Leonidas made his last stand. As you stand there and overlook the ancient scene "Gates of Fire" comes to life so vividly you will feel as if the battle was yesterday.

I loved this book, even though there are some inconsistencies in the writing, where Pressfield has made errors. For example on one page he says that someone "could not see ten feet in front of them" then on another page he writes that the same chrarcter can see that the soldiers were "out of formation" whilst atop a cliff overlooking the battle field. Or on another page he says that a soldier produced a "to scale blueprint" of Thermoplyae.

But these are all minor distractions to what is a splendid book. There is talk of making GOF a movie, but I fear that as Hollywood does in 95% of cases it will create a wooden and stylised piced of rubbish. Full of noises and fighting for the intellectually challenged masses. For example Troy is based on Homer's wonderous Illiad. Yet thanks to Holloywood it became a cardboard joke, Brad Pitt was woeful and the script corny and horrendous. Why does Hollywood take the greatest stories ever told and turn them into something so mediocre it makes you want to cry?

This is what I dread should GOF ever become a film. It will be a wooden, blood and guts spectacle with a trashy corny script. IF however someone understands the context then a film of this story will be amoungst the best ever made. The old movie "The 300 Spartans" although dated now was a wonderful film, it showed the spartans as a proud and noble people not as a "kick ass fighting machine".

Sorry for the rant..get the book its great!!


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Then we will fight in the shade!, February 26, 2007
This review is from: Gates of Fire (Audio Cassette)
I love reading but I'm also very picky about what i read i wont just pick up any book. I came across this book while looking for "300" the comic by frank miller i bought it and i couldn't put it down. We all know the 300 die but i didn't know i would become so attached to the characters and end up caring what happened to them. I thought there might be something wrong with me cuz i cried while reading it.Pressfield successfully conveys the emotions of these Spartans he makes them human and thats probably the best thing about this book! Im not sure how accurate this all is, and i dont care this book was excellent. I love Ancient Greece and this just took me in, i felt like I was right on the battlefield.

I think i read this book so fast i actually forgot what happend at the beginning of the story. but now im reading it over and it helps to understand the greek terms used in the book. Yes the greek terms are hard at first but its also a history lesson cuz you realize how many of our words derive from greek. once again an excellent read i didnt expect to find such a great, emotional, poetic and brave story in a book about war and death but truly this is a gem. Best book on Sparta I've ever read!!!! I cried my heart out.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars defensive war can enoble, September 23, 2005
It is no exaggeration to say that the Battles of Marathon and of Thermopylae between the invading Persian armies and small Greek forces were of world historical importance as they preserved for the West and the rest of the world Greek political ideals and Greek traditions of intellectual liberty and inquiry. In the battle of Thermopylae an invading Persian army of about 500,000 (the ancient sources claim the Persian army was greater than one million soldiers!) and a small Greek force of no more than 7,000, fought at a very narrow mountain pass (chosen by the Spartan commander Leonidas to at least partially neutralize the Persian numerical strength). Amazingly the Greeks held off the Persians for several days before being annihilated. Because the small Greek force held off the massive Persian armies for several days, the battle fired the courage of the Greeks to resist and ultimately to defeat the Persian invaders. Thus, it is worthwhile remembering and honoring the warriors who fought at Thermopylae.

Certainly, anyone wishing to understand Herodotus, Thucydides and Plutarch will want to understand the battle as much of the subsequent history of the classical age was influenced by the inspiration men drew from the courage of the warriors at Thermopylae. For instance, the subsequent Battles of Salamis (where the Persian fleet was destroyed by the Greek navies) and Plataea (where the Persian armies suffered a grievious defeat at the hands of the allied Greek armies once again led by the Spartans) is recounted in both the histories of Thucydides and in Plutarch's Lives (especially in the life of Themistocles).

In his fictional `Gates Of Fire', Steven Pressfield gives us a gripping and largely accurate (according to historians who have reviewed the book) account of the Battle of Thermopylae. In fiction you sometimes get a better, `real-er' sense of the actual event than in an academic history. This is the case I think with Pressfield's novel. It is so well-written and so true to the facts and to the spirit of the Spartan military ethic that the novel grips you and holds you to the end. I read the novel in a single sitting and learned more about the ancient Greek hopite and phalanx battle tactics than in all the histories of ancient battles I've read. Pressfield gives us the story from the eyes of Xeones, or Xeo, a fictional survivor of the battle who is ordered by the God Apollo to tell the story of the battle as he experienced it. (Apparently a movie based on this novel will be released in 2006).

The Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 480 BC, approximately 10 years after the Battle of Marathon. Xerxes I, king of the mighty Persian empire, had accomplished tremendous logistical feats in amassing and supplying a huge army and getting it to the mainland of Greece. Xerxes wanted to avenge the defeat of his father Darius at Marathon. In 484 BC the army and navy of Xerxes arrived in Asia Minor and in a tremendous feat of military engineering built a bridge of ships across the Hellespont to get his troops (500,000 strong), across the waters. A confederate alliance of Greek city-states was quickly formed to meet the Persian threat. The alliance was headed by Sparta, whose warriors were conceded by all to be the best in Greece and probably in the world because they were trained from birth to a fierce military discipline and ethic.

Pressfield is superb in giving us a detailed picture of the kind of training Spartan boys and men underwent to become the best warriors in the world. The novel in fact can be read as a kind of meditation on what it means to be a combat soldier or warrior. He gives center stage to Spartan soldier Dienekes, who later becomes a platoon commander at Thermopylae. We see Dienekes mentoring and training the teenage boys Alexandros and Xeo among others in `manly virtue' as well as in the art of mastering fear-as fear is the soldiers greatest enemy when in battle. We see the boys learning to discipline themselves against the danger of `possession' in the heat of battle...possession is due to the madness or bloodlust that seizes the soldier in hand to hand combat. It is a danger to the warrior as it destroys discipline and breaks up the line and the phalanx. We see the boys learning the fact that they are in the line in order to preserve the life of the man next to them in the battle formation. We see them learning over and over again to polish, repair, honor and guard their weapons (including their own bodies) under any circumstances whatever-even the most brutal or chaotic. Discipline, fearlessness and protocol become second nature to them. They can recite at a moment's notice detailed protocol/responses...what to do given every conceivable kind of threat...under every conceivable condition. It is no wonder that a single Spartan soldier was considered by all in the ancient world to be `worth' several men in any other army. When a Spartan soldier in his Scarlet robe entered any city in the ancient world he as regarded with awe and respect. He was relied on to create order out of disorder and justice where only chaos reigned.

Why was only a small force sent to meet the overwhelming armies of the Persians? For several reasons unflattering to the Greeks. First the squabbling Greeks could not muster their armies quickly enough and thus they needed to buy themselves time to organize commands, supplies etc. Another reason was that the Spartans feared an uprising of their huge slave population who saw the Persian invasion as a chance to gain their freedom. So they wanted to keep a sufficiently large garrison at home to keep an eye on the slaves. A third set of reasons were religious in nature. Oracles had to be consulted and interpreted, and religious festivals had to be completed before war could be conducted.

Thus, the Spartans contributed only a small force of 300 hoplites, hand-picked and commanded by King Leonidas. Hoplites were Greek infantrymen and were the basis of Greek military prowess. A hoplite was heavily armored wearing and carrying upwards of 70 pounds of equipment during battle including a metal and leather helmet, a 30 pound wood , bronze and iron shield, a metal breastplate, shinguards, a 7 foot long spear, and a 3 foot long xiphos or sword. The hoplites deployed themselves in a phalanx, a wall of overlapping shields and layered spearpoints. After the spears had done their damage Pressfield has the phalanx moving forward in tightly woven formation literally shoving the enemy off the field with the huge hoplite shields and stabbing with short sword. Other military historians do not believe that these shoving tactics were widely used. Instead they believe that the hoplites fought individually about six feet apart. Whatever the case, the hoplite offensive line was incredibly disciplined and could move rapidly and efficiently even in the most chaotic of conditions. This discipline, of course, was due to the years of training every Greek boy and man had to undergo.

Although the scene is not exactly reproduced in Pressfield's novel, Plutarch mentions, in his Sayings of Spartan Women, that Gorgo, the wife of Leonidas was told by Leonidas to remarry as he and his 300 men would likely not return alive. The Spartans knew that this would be a suicide mission designed only to delay the Persians. Pressfield gives us very rounded portraits of Spartan women who come across as fircely intelligent, brave and self-sacrificing. There is a very moving scene in the novel between Leonidas and Arete, a Spartan woman who will lose two of her loved ones at Thermopylae. In the scene, interestingly, we see the real kingly qualities of Leonidas as well as the amazing courage of the Spartan women.

Leonidas chose to stop the Persian armies at the mountain pass of Thermopylae, the "Hot Gates," (named for its hot water springs). At the time it consisted of a pass so narrow that no more than two chariots could pass through at a time. On one side of the pass stood the sheer side of the mountain, while the other was a cliff dropping into the sea. This awesome and terrifying natural setting would be the site of one of the most spectacular battles in history. The Greeks hastily repaired an old wall in the center of the pass in order to give them some protection from the Persian archers who numbered several thousand and who send so many metal tipped arrows onto an enemy at once that the skies darkened. When Dienekes was informed that the Persian arrows blotted out the sun, he is said to have remarked "So much the better, we shall fight in the shade." Pressfield has this remark coming on the night before the major battle began thus lifting the mens spirits at a critical time.

Xerxes could not bring himself to believe that such a small force would actually try to fight him, and thus he gave the Greeks three or four days to retreat. Then when no retreat was forthcoming he tried to buy off the Greeks and offered them substantial treaty concessions and local autonomy. He would make them rulers of all Greece etc Leonidas responded with characteristic Greek audacity: He sent the messengers back with an offer of leniency to the Persians upon their unconditional surrender!

Once the battle commenced, the Persians, with wicker shields and short spears, could not break through the long spears of the Greek phalanx. Enormous casualties were sustained (many thousands) by the Persians as the well-disciplined Spartans flawlessly performed a series of maneuvers that left the Persians dazed and confused. Pressfield described these feint retreats and quick reformations beautifully. The Spartans had practiced the maneuvers literally thousands of time and thus were able to do so under the chaotic conditions of battle. Because of the narrowness of the pass, the Persians were unable to surround or flank the Greeks, thus rendering their superior numbers almost useless. The slaughter of the Persian infantry was so huge that the Greek hoplites collapsed from sheer exhaustion from so much killing. No solid ground was left as all the fighting began to take place on the bodies of the fallen. The scene must have been horrific with so much blood and gore in so small a space. Pressfield does a fine job of bringing its horrors to life. After one line of Greek fighters collapsed from exhaustion a second line who had rested reformed and started the slaughter anew. Despite the slaughter the Persian commanders just kept sending in men in waves...Finally, Xerxes decided to send in his legendary Persian Immortals, but even these highly trained warriors could not break the Spartan phalanx and they were forced to retreat with heavy casualties.

After the second or third day of fighting day a Greek by name of Ephialtes, whose name will live in infamy alongside that of Judas, defected to the Persians and informed Xerxes of a separate path through Thermopylae, which the Persians could use to outflank the Greeks. The pass was defended by a 1000 Greeks fighters from Phocis but they offered only ineffectual resistance to the Persians before fleeing (the episode is not described in Pressfield's novel).

Leonidas realized that further fighting would be futile. On August 11 he dismissed all but what remained of the 300 Spartans, who had already resigned themselves to fighting to the death. However, a contingent of about 600 Thespians, led by Demophilus (called Dithyrambos in the novel), refused to leave with the other Greeks. Instead, they chose to stay in the suicidal effort to delay the advance.

On the last day of battle the fighting was said to have been extremely brutal, even for hoplite combat. After their spears broke, the Spartans and Thespians kept fighting with their xiphos short swords, and after those broke, they were said to have fought with their bare hands and teeth. Although the Greeks killed many Persians, including two of Xerxes' brothers, Leonidas was eventually killed, along with all of his men. The last Spartans were killed by a barrage of arrows after fighting fanatically to recover their king's body, having been driven back into the narrowest part of the pass onto a small hill.

To this day there is an epitaph on a monument at the site of the battle with the poet Simonides's epigram:

Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,

that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
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189 of 238 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laconians Arise! To the gates!, June 7, 2001
D. Roberts "Hadrian12" (Battle Creek, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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In 480 BC, led by the Persian king Xerxes, son of Darius, the Persians arrived on the border of Thessaly and Greece with an invading force totalling over 2 million. Here, at a mountain pass called Thermopylae, 300 Spartan warriors + a handful of squires and allies made one of the most valiant stands in military history. The Lacedamonians held the pass for the better part of a week, slaying something like 20,000 Persians (of which roughly 18,000 were university of Michigan fans). The title of Pressfield's book is appropriate as in Greek Thermo = "hot" and Pylae = "gates."
The battle is recorded in Book VII of Herodotus' "Histories." When the Spartans repeatedly repel Xerxes' stunned forces, Herodotus details the scene thus: " became clear to all, and especially to the king [Xerxes], that though he had plenty of men, he had but very few warriors." (Histories, Book VII, trans: George Rawlinson).
The text centers around a fictional Spartan squire named Xeones, the lone Laconian warrior to survive the battle (albeit with a multitude of serious wounds). In reality, the only Spartan to survive was a fellow named Aristodemus. Supposedly, he was a messenger who tarried along the path to Thermopylae and missed the battle. He spent the rest of his life in disgrace in the eyes of his fellow Spartans, despite a heroic showing at the battle of Plataea (the decisive battle of the Persian war).
Back to Xeones. Pressfield's presentation of the story is nothing short of brilliant. Captured by the Persians, Xerxes orders his personal historian to record the infantryman's story. Through the persona of Xeones, we are informed of events in the Persian war before, during and after the battle of Thermopylae. Xeones interacts with historical figures on both sides of the war, such as the Spartans Leonidas and Dienekes, as well as Xerxes, Orontes and Artemisia.
In this way, the book is much more than simply a narrative on the battle itself. We are invited to glimpse the rigid lifestyle of a Lacedamonian warfighter. The Spartans were able to relentlessly pound their adversaries into submission, but not with superior numbers. Rather, they relied on a brutal training regimen which instilled within their men an exemplary discipline and code of honor. Today, it takes 6 months for an individual to earn the Trident and Eagle of a U.S. Navy SEAL; the most respected fighting force of the present world. 2,500 years ago, it took 13 YEARS for a Spartan youth earn his place as a Lacedamon warrior (7-20), + another 40 years of military service to his country (20-60). Thanks to an obviously arduous scholarly research, Pressfield does a magnificent job of describing for us the extreme dedication that was entailed within this rigorous lifestyle.
This is a must-read book for anyone who is even vaguely interested in military or classical history. It is also a refreshing text for everyone who tires of the modern military climate where political correctness and social engineering projects are deemed more important than combat readiness. I would recommend this book to all history buffs, anthropologists, classical scholars and students / fans of Michigan State University! I will leave you with a passage from Nietzsche which glazed thru my mind over & over as I was reading this book. It engages the austere life of the gallant warrior:
They call you heartless: but you have a heart, and I love you for being ashamed to show it. You are ashamed of your flood, while others are ashamed of their ebb.
-"Also Sprach Zarathustra," first part, section 10: "On War and Warriors," trans: Walter Kaufmann of Princeton university.
This book is a tremendous feat. All the texts bearing the name "Gates Of Fire" will exalt all who have the ability to read: MOLON LABE!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 300 of Thermopylae, December 13, 2005
Filippos Raftopoulos (AGRIA - VOLOS, MAGNESIA Greece) - See all my reviews
"Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,

that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."

This epigram, carved on a marble plate, is what reminded the people that in a narrow path in central Greece, one of the most inspiring events ever, took place.

Steven Presfield's book describes the tale of Xionis, a volunteer in the Spartan army and his narration of the events of the heroic week of August 480 BC, when 300 Spartan guards and some 4700 other Greek soldiers held back one million Persian soldiers under the king Xerxes.

The story takes a little time to build, but since it does, there is no way you're gonne put down the book.

Excellent battle descriptions, magnificent poetic lines "borrowed" from Homers Iliad and other epics, amazing emotional moments, make you "see" what Presfield describes.

If you enjoy war stories like "Band of Brothers", then this is a book you will definately enjoy.

Although the landscape has changed much since then, you can still see the sights of the battle today, opposite of the modern monuments built in memory of the Spartans and the Thespians that fought to very end, some 25 cenuries ago, exactly as the book describes.

** The book was supposed to be shot to film somewhere in 2000, but hollywood executives preffered to slaughter the Iliad first by making that parody of an epic "Troy".
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63 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stark and memorable, May 25, 2000
Susan Shwartz (Forest Hills, NY United States) - See all my reviews
Writing in a spare, violent prose that reminds me of what I (almost) remember of the Attic Greek I once knew, Mr. Pressfield brings ancient Greece and, in particular, the Spartans and those tributary to them with shocking clarity.
He has pulled off a technical tour de force, in making a period of history far removed from us seem once again fresh and in making us care as passionately as Xeo -- who wasn't even a Spartan born.
This is a story of heroism. But it is also a story of discipline, of loyalty between fighting men and to a state. For a book as violent as this, it is also a story of profound caring, both among the characters of the story and the readers it draws.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book which brilliantly succeeds in its genre, December 3, 1999
This review is from: Gates of Fire (Hardcover)
As soon as I behold this book on the shelves of my local bookstore, I knew that I would have to buy it.
The subject of this novel is somewhat dear to my heart as I have had an intense interest in the Battle of Thermopolye and Spartan warfare for many years. So, as I bought the book I felt a certain amount of apprehension, thinking that the book may not live up to my expectations. It did, however, wildly exceed my greatest hopes!
The novel is brilliantly written, with an incredibly fast - paced style and this, included with the short length of the chapters makes it a real page - turner. I simply could not put the book down was I so enthralled in the adventures of the main character and those of his Spartan masters.
Throughout the numerous battle scenes, such is the quality of the writing that the reader can almost feel the heat and the dust and smell the blood and death of battle.
In conclusion, this book is a well - written, thrilling and successful historical novel, which vivedly recreates the experiences of the narrator and the Spartan way of life and its soldiers who died defending the freedom of Greece.
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