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

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

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By (author) Steven Pressfield

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Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, That here, obedient to their laws, we lie. Nearly 2,500 years ago, in 480BC, at a bleak pass in a far-flung corner of eastern Greece, three hundred Spartan warriors faced the army of Xerxes of Persia, a massive force rumoured to be over a million strong. Their orders were simple: to delay the enemy for as long as possible while the main Greek armies mobilized. For six days the Spartans held the invaders at bay. In the final hours - their shields broken, swords and spears shattered - they fought with their bare hands before being overwhelmed. It was battle that would become synonymous with extraordinary courage, heroism and self-sacrifice: it was Thermopylae. In Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield tells the epic story of those legendary Spartans: the men and women who helped shaped our history and have themselves become as immortal as their gods.

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Author information

Steven Pressfield is the author of the bestselling historical novels Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Alexander: The Virtues of War and The Afghan Campaign. His new novel - Killing Rommel - will be published in Spring 2008. He lives in Los Angeles.

Review quote

"Breathtakingly brilliant... there have been many books about Sparta and its warrior code, but none have captured so magnificently the hearts, minds and spirits of the warriors who fought at Thermopylae. This is a work of rare genius. Savour it!" -- DAVID GEMMELL "Incredibly gripping, moving and literate... rarely does an author manage to recreate a moment in history with such mastery, authority and psychological insight" -- NELSON DeMILLE "Brings the battle of Thermopylae to brilliant life... he does for that war what Charles Frazier did for the Civil War in Cold Mountain. When you finish Pressfield's work, you will feel you have fought side by side with the Spartans. This novel is Homeric" -- PAT CONROY "A tale worthy of Homer, a timeless epic of man and war, exquisitely researched and boldy written. Pressfield has created a new classic" -- STEPHEN COONTS

Editorial 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 followup 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 the romantic interests are somewhat stilted, the man-to-man and mano-a-mano elements are all superb, with a fine, elegiac tune - to be expected, frankly, given the subject - enhancing equally the historical details and the human touches. (Kirkus Reviews)