Why did I love this book?
We all know the story of Thermopylae: 300 Spartans fight heroically for three days against an overwhelming Persian force, with the Spartans all killed during the three-day fight as Greece used their lives to buy time to successfully defend itself. But historical fiction Gates of Fire adds a new twist: as the Persians are pulling the bodies off the battlefield, they find a sole wounded Spartan, and after nursing him back to health, have him recount the battle from the Spartan viewpoint.
Author Steven Pressfield, a former Marine, is a superb storyteller as he describes the battle – and Spartan training - in a gripping blend of courage, humor, ethics, and brilliant historical research. Xeones, the survivor, was a squire to the Spartans, and had trained with them. “War is work,” he explains, “with conditions contrived to make the exercise as close as possible to the actual campaign.” “Shared misery bonds” Xeo says, “The goal is less to strengthen the back and more to strengthen the mind.”
After two days of brutal, exhausting combat, Xeo tells the Persians, how the Spartans are reminded of these bonds when one of the remaining sergeants tells his squad ‘Tomorrow; forget king, forget family, forget yourself; fight for this alone: for the man who stands and fights at your shoulder. He is everything as he fights for you.” Who would not want to be a member of such a group? Highly Recommended!