A review of
Gates of Fire
This is a novel set around the events of the battle of Thermopylae in Ancient Greece, the same battle that inspired the well-known 300 Graphic novel and film. A tale that still captures the imagination of people thousands of years after the events took place. We all know the story; the 300 brave Spartans who stood against the hordes of Persia, hugely outnumbered and yet, still fought and died bravely to the last man, taking a massive toll on the Persian army.
So going into this book I knew how it was going to end, but what I didn’t expect is just how immersed I would become in the lives of the book’s characters. This book gives us a very well researched glimpse into Spartan life and Ancient Greek culture through the eyes of its main protagonist Xeones. Xeones is not a Spartan himself, but through fate he ends up living amongst them. Unable to become a full Spartan warrior, but still a free man he instead becomes the battle squire for the Spartan commander Dienekes. The story flashes forwards and backwards in time, from his childhood, through parts of his life in Spartan Greece, and of course, to the events surrounding the final battle itself. We see his life, learn how they thought, get a glimpse at the Spartan philosophy and mind-set. We meet his family and friends, his comrades in arms. There were so many amazing characters in this book, from his friend Alexandros, to his master Dienekes, to his rivals, each and every one takes an emotional toll by the end of the novel.
One point I found quite jarring at first, but by the end, I found quite fantastic was Pressfield’s use of Ancient Greek words and phrases throughout the novel. I actually learnt quite a lot of the language by the end, so when it was used I really understood the dialogue on a deeper level. This element shows an incredible level of research from the author and brought a real sense of authenticity.
In short this book was fantastic, there are some heavy emotions involved in the read, but is definitely a must read. There is such bravery and valour, and yet, shows the deep philosophical undercurrent of Ancient Greece and the Spartan culture. By the end I felt I truly understood the characters sacrifice.
If you enjoy ancient Greece, or are a fan of any form of military fiction I can recommend… Hell, everyone should just go and read this book. It’s amazing. Do it, but prepare yourself, it hits hard.
Thanks for reading