- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (September 27, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 055338368X
- ISBN-13: 978-0553383683
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,418 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae Paperback – Unabridged, September 27, 2005
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Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers 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. Literary Guild and Military Book Club selections; film rights sold to Universal Studios for George Clooney and Robert Lawrence's Maysville Pictures; UK rights to Bantam, Spanish rights to Grijalbo Mondadori, Italian rights to Rizzoli.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Other's may disagree, but if you're a fan of military history or fiction, or even if you're just interested in Classical Western History, you will love this book.
We related to the attitudes of the Lacedomonians, their moral lessons, their frequent debates on relevant themes important to their lives. The author's depictions of phalanx warfare raised my heart rate and felt so visceral as I sat in the dust and sun of the afghan mornings. We related to this story in a way i've never related to a story before. The sand, sweat, blood, feelings of combat, thoughts of mortality and deep discussions that men at war share are timeless.
On returning to Canada I bought 6 copies of this book and gave them to several men who i thought might appreciate such a powerful re-imagining of this famous historic event. Gates of fire now stands tall on my list of the greatest stories i've ever read and will re-read again.
This book should be retitled "Spartan warrior ethos" or "Honor + Glory = Spartan". It feels like the author had a great idea to write the book from the perspective of an outsider (Spartan worshipper) and that is great. He wrote the book and found he only had about 170 pages of the lead up, battle, and aftermath. But he had signed a contract to write a 400 page book. So he had to add "backstory" (filler) for a couple hundred pages to "add depth" (more filler) to the story.
I am not opposed to backstory and giving characterizations etc. yet it feels so contrived and cheap, when represented in this fashion. The narrator is literally stated as being "just a conduit", but then proceeds to tell his own story before the Spartans... Uh, who cares about you narrator? You just told us to not care about you, please skip ahead to the Spartans. 50 pages later we get to the Spartans, but then we have to go through the training, the trials, the this, the that until we are just fed up and want to skip ahead in the book (one bright point being a battle between Greeks in these 200 pages). Movies blast through this with a montage, but in this book you got to slog through the whole training regime and love it.
But what Steven gets right; he hits it right on the head. The human element of war is very much on display, and that is awesome because of how many people grace over such a thing. Morale is given a front and center look, fear is evaluated, courage is touched upon, honor is heavily addressed, and glory is shown more for its true colors.
I would have loved this novel if it had been more concise, this would have been a quintessential book on honor, fear, and masculinity if it was 250 pages. As it is I wish I could give it 2.5 stars
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An awful waste.
These are the two thoughts I am left with after reading this book.Read more