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

Gates Of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae [Kindle Edition]

Steven Pressfield
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

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 defence--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 humour: "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 valour of the individual Medes was beyond question, but their light hacking blades were harmless as toys; against the massed wall of Spartan armour, 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,


"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)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 790 KB
  • Print Length: 402 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 055338368X
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital; New Ed edition (23 Feb 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0038AUYGO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #21,021 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Steven Pressfield is a bestselling historical novelist whose books include the classic Gates of Fire, Alexander: The Virtues of War The Afghan Campaign and Killing Rommel. He lives in Los Angeles.

His official website is

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
What a magnificent book this is. I have read a lot of books but none of them - in every genre - comes close to this one. I don't remember ever being this emotionally involved in a story as it unfolded through the novel, and you certainly go through every emotion as you turn the pages. Not only is the story itself, of the heroism of a tiny Greek army in the face of absolutely impossible odds, a remarkable premise in itself, Mr Pressfield has managed to make it even the more remarkable by his totally involving telling. As other reviewers have said, you really do feel as if you know all of the characters, and suffer along with them. Even though they are doomed to die, you can't help hoping that by some miracle, they will be triumphant. It is also descriptively unsurpassed, actually transporting you back into the world of the Spartans and taking you into the formidably painted battle whether you like it or not, leaving you breathless and terrified but unable to put it down. It's a fairly thick book, but I read it in 2 days, staying up into the wee hours because its impossible to put it down. This is the only book I've ever read that made me cry, and when I cried, I didn't stop for about an hour. It has everything - heroism, honour, comradeship, history, the love of family (especially the heartbreaking scene, without dialogue, when we see the great warrior Dienekes inform his wife of his inclusion in the 300 who must go to Thermopylae) - you name it, it will be in there somewhere. By degrees horrifying, hilarious, heartbreaking, shocking, terrifying and ultimately one of the most uplifting reads you will ever come across, "Gates of Fire" will never, ever be forgotten.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read! 3 Dec 1999
By A Customer
I picked up this book almost by accident during a recent trip to New York and simply could not put it down. This is a truly exceptional novel. It's the story of the battle of Thermopylae (the Greek word 'thermopylae' literally translates to 'gates of fire'). Pressfield's descriptions of battle and of everyday Spartan life are fascinating, vivid and detailed. But the book is a lot more than just historical fiction at its finest. Pressfield, through Xeo's storytelling, discusses the basic elements and conflicts of the human psyche in a captivating manner. The struggle between good and evil. The struggle between the two most basic conflicting human emotions : pain and pleasure, hope and fear. The true meaning of leadership, friendship, love, respect, compassion. Do not miss this book.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Here come the Rooster - he ain't gonna die. 28 Mar 2007
By Moz
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a human story, populated by believable characters in a historical backdrop, an epic backdrop. All of them are fleshed out and tug at your loyalties, in a fictionalised romantic way, but that ends up giving you a real involvement and stake in the final battle - no matter how preordained its outcome.

It's portrayal of the harsh disciplines of the era, the morality, the training, the cameraderie, the ethics and the expected behaviour are brought to life - how accurately I wouldn't like to say (I'm not a historian) but quite credibly. Truly a ripping yarn.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction at its very best 24 Oct 2007
Everyone knows the story - the vast Persian empire of the east wants to add Europe to its list of conquests but to do so it must go through Greece, a group of warring city states. The resitance of the Greeks is led by Sparta and the heroic last stand of Leonidas and his 300 Spartans 2,500 years ago is still the subject of book and film.

Why would men march knowingly to battle against an enemy that outnumbers them so ridiculously they have no hope of victory? What makes these men fight and stand for days without breaking, standing with their fellows until they are all cut down?

Pressfield answers these questions and more in a stunningly compelling, immaculately researched story of noble self sacrifice, the brotherhood of war and patriotic valour that created a victory through defeat.

This novel is a fitting testament to those Spartans that fell in a battle that has become a byword for selfless courage.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Preparing to read it again .... 29 Jun 2000
An outstanding novel, exceptional reading. As another reviewer mentioned, I am surprised the movie rights to this book have not been snapped up. I'd love to see Gates Of Fire brought to the theater, if the movie were anywhere near the quality of the novel I think it would be an epic film.
The books passages are vibrant and alive with life, ancient Sparta unfolds in all of its harsh, relentless, and even ruthless glory. At the same time Mr. Pressfield has been able to paint for us in exquisite detail the Spartan code of life, military training techniques, ancient weaponry of the period, battlefield tactics, why the Spartans were feared and almost invincible in war, as well as the role and attitude of the strong, independent, warrior-type women of Sparta. They were as brave as the men of Sparta, if not more courageous ... they knew their men were sworn to die in battle. Interwoven throughout is the off color humor, angst, and fears of the common Spartan soldiers, their sarcasm and commentary on the politics of the divided Greek City States, down to the petty internecine rivalries of the officers in their ranks. But, when it came time to fight, all closed ranks in tight phalanx, locking shields, long spears forward and aligned in perfect rows ... each man locked tightly to the man on his right, all protecting one another. Just as it has always been with soldiers, when in the throes of combat, we take care of each other. Any soldier of any period up to the present will chuckle out loud at these passages, a soldiers lot has always been pretty much the same throughout history ... weapons change, leaders change ... but soldiers of any army of any country are soldiers one and all.
The battle at the Narrows, the Hot Gates, raised the hair on the back of my neck ...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very engaging book, and factually accurate as far as I can tell.
Published 9 days ago by Pete Adams
5.0 out of 5 stars Great picture os Sparta
Well written tale of Spartan life, customs and endeavour....Paints an interesting take on Spartan woman as well, ie, their strenght and courage, albeit from a different aspect.
Published 19 days ago by Philip
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 23 days ago by Waasley
5.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to read more historical books and Gates of Fire was just...
After reading Alaric Longward’s historical novel, I wanted to read more historical books and Gates of Fire was just great!
Published 25 days ago by Susanna Lindstrom
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars for steven pressfield
Riveting read. Extraordinary story extremely well told.
Published 1 month ago by Steve Murrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent
I just finished this book on a flight from New York to London and was awed by the author's mastery of control, atmosphere and character. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Torquil
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read
This was a very enjoyable book and although this work contains elements of fiction, the story was only improved by this.
Published 2 months ago by Ciara
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely breathtaking!!!
One of the best books I have every read. Written with great skill and amazing detail I recommend this book to any one who loves Greek legends.
Published 2 months ago by Pen Name
5.0 out of 5 stars Gates of Fire- a searing read
Intense, absorbing, difficult to put down. One of the best historical novels I have read; kept me awake for several nights.
Published 2 months ago by signifer
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book ever written on the 300
This is the best book ever written on the Spartans. It is a novel but covers their training, philosophy, there warcraft and their flaws. Read more
Published 3 months ago by D
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A king does not abide within his tent while his men bleed and die upon the field. A king does not dine while his men go hungry, nor sleep when they stand at watch upon the wall. A king does not command his men’s loyalty through fear nor purchase it with gold; he earns their love by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake. That which comprises the harshest burden, a king lifts first and sets down last. A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them. He serves them, not they him. &quote;
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‘When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime. &quote;
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‘Habit will be your champion. When you train the mind to think one way and one way only, when you refuse to allow it to think in another, that will produce great strength in battle.’ &quote;
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