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Gates of Fire

Pressfield, Steven

21,283 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0385492510 / ISBN 13: 9780385492515
Published by Doubleday, New York, 1998
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Gumshoe Books (West Columbia, SC, U.S.A.)

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an unopened copy of pressfield's second book. lovely copy. first of his historical novels set in the ancient world. a smashing book. and a beautiful copy. Size: 8vo. Bookseller Inventory # 010951

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Gates of Fire

Publisher: Doubleday, New York

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

Thousands of years ago, Herodotus and Plutarch immortalized Spartan society in their histories; but today, little is left of the ancient city or the social structure of this momentous culture.  One of the few antiquarian marks of the civilization that has survived lies scores of miles away from Sparta, at a narrow Greek mountain pass called Thermopylae.

It was there that three hundred of Sparta's finest warriors held back the invading millions of the Persian empire and valiantly gave their lives in the selfless service of democracy and freedom.  A simple engraved stone marks their burial ground.

Inspired by this stone and intrigued by the lore of Sparta, author Steven Pressfield has brilliantly combined scholarship with storytelling.  Narrated by the sole survivor of the epic battle--a squire in the Spartan heavy infantry--Gates of Fire is a mesmerizing depiction of one man's indoctrination into the Spartan way of life and death, and of the legendary men and women who gave the culture an immortal gravity.

Culminating in the electrifying and horrifying epic battle, Gates of Fire weaves history, mystery, and heartbreaking romance into a literary page-turner that brings the Homeric tradition into the twenty-first century.

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 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

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