Gates of Fire

By Steven Pressfield,

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

Book description

In the Sunday Times bestseller Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield tells the breathtaking story of the legendary Spartans: the men and women who helped shaped our history and have themselves become as immortal as their gods.

'Breathtakingly brilliant . . . this is a work of rare genius. Savour it!'…

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Why read it?

13 authors picked Gates of Fire as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

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…

I chose this for an essential component of historical fiction: giving face and voice to historic characters.

Pressfield transforms the legendary warriors of the Battle of Thermopylae into relatable, three-dimensional characters with depth, emotion, and motivation rarely found in history books. For example, Pressfield imagines Leonidas selecting the men that make up his three hundred Spartans based on the strength of their wives, because the king knows these women will have to endure being widowed.

The battle scenes are epic, describing the terror of standing in the shield wall and finding the courage to face death. The modern city of…

From the moment Xeones uttered his first line, “I had always wondered what it felt like to die,” I was hooked.

Ancient Sparta is brought to life through the characters of this book. We see their motivations, their training, their society, and what, in essence, makes them Spartans. Xeones isn’t a native Spartan, but his admiration for their society and his devotion to his comrades-in-arms makes him the ideal choice to tell their story.

This book had so many things I like in a good novel: history, life-like characters with great arcs, action, and quotable lines.

Before Gerard Butler played Leonidas I in 300, Steven Pressfield wrote his version of the historical event of the Battle of Thermopylae. I loved this book because it does not hide the darker side of the 300 Spartans’ heroism as they stand to fight for their home. This is a well-researched novel about the invading Persians and the significantly fewer number of defenders who held them off long enough for the Greek navy to defeat the Persians at sea and save Greece.  

“Stranger, go tell the Spartans here we lie, faithful to their command,” is the inscription on the stela that marks the battlefield which is the book’s focus. Pressfield’s is not merely to show that 300 Spartans would stand and die or even why. His interest is in what kind of society produces such men. He shows us that.

From Sam's list on the measure of a man.

The Battle of Thermopylae is the story that first set off my profound interest in history. Nothing surpasses the courage and drama of King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans who stood against Xerxes’ overwhelming force during the Persian Wars of 480BC. As far as I’m concerned, the only author who has done the stirring tale true justice is Pressfield.

I heard this story for the first time when I was a child of five, oddly enough at Sunday School, and was awestruck.  It was repeated by chance when I was 13 watching the Hollywood movie, The 300 Spartans with Robert…

The story of the 300 Spartans is one of the oldest in recorded history, and it stands tall today as an account of courage and conviction. The story was sensationalized by Frank Miller with his graphic novel turned feature film, but Pressfield pens a unique perspective and a far more in-depth look at this fascinating warrior culture. Told from the eyes of a willing slave in Sparta, the book follows several characters as they rise through the ranks, but more than that, Pressfield expands our knowledge of the powerful role played by the women of Sparta. From training to sport…

From T. August's list on to transport you across time and space.

Ever since watching the 2006 movie 300 about the famous Spartan defense against the Persians in Ancient Greece, I was intrigued by the people behind the story and the events which shaped it. I immediately fell in love with Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire! He effortlessly blends historical realism with character development while not shying away from the important questions that transcend the ages. What is fear and how do soldiers of any army reach deep into themselves to fight for hearth and home? It was my first foray into Ancient Greece and would shape my vision for Spartan culture…

Pressfield has recreated the famous encounter between the Spartans and the invading Persian armies under Xerxes The Great. What makes men willing to die for their country? Pressfield shows us. He also illuminates the forces that shaped the men of Sparta, who remain the ideal of all soldiers since. I had long been curious about this battle because the Spartans were not merely greatly outnumbered but because Xerxes had conquered much of the ancient world. I wanted to know how those Spartans were relevant to today, and Pressman tells us.

One of the most beautifully said stories about the battle of Thermopylae between Leonidas and his 300 men army and the Persians, told by Xeones, the sole survivor of the battle. It made me shiver and the descriptions were so vivid that I was sure the author lived during that battle. It was the first book I cried while reading. 

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