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Battle of Thermopylae - BRAVERY UNPRECEDENTED
Jun 11, 2004 10:59 AM 4318 Views
(Updated Jul 16, 2004 04:20 PM)




Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,

that here obedient to their laws we lie

This is an inscription found on an ancient stone at Thermopylae (site of one of the bloodiest bravest battles) in northern Greece.

This book is based on the epic Battle of Thermopylae (480 B.C.), though the battle and many characters are real not all incidents might be. The author Steven Pressfield has used small plots and characters to weave this historical classic else it would have sounded more like a documentary.

Before we begin, it is most important for us to have an understanding of the background, of the time during which these events happened.

In those times the invasion means end of clans - the victor will destroy cities and kill men-women-children sparing nobody. Communication between people is very slow paced and setting up an army/navy takes plenty of time.

Greece is not a single country but it is divided into several small districts... Philip II (Alexander's father) will unite them in the near future.


Gates of Fire - The Battle of Thermopylae

In the year 480 BC, the Persian King Xerxes (The book also mentions that his army consisted of Indians!!) son of Great Darius is planning an invasion of Greece with massive forces numbering from 100 to 200 thousand.

This massive army needs to cross a narrow mountain pass (60 feet wide) to attack the Greeks and there is no question of defeat with such an army. But the Greeks had some other heroic plans ....

Under such circumstances the Great Spartan King Leonidas handpicks 300 spartan knights to defend the pass. The objective is to take a suicide stand, to delay the Persian army and their assault, so as to allow the army of Greece to collect and plan a counter assault.

The rest is HISTORY - King Leonidas and his Spartans hold the pass for 7 days!!!!, till a traitor discloses an alternative route.

The Book - Narration

This classical historical novel unfolds in flashback of one Xeo, the sole Spartan survivor of the battle, now captured by the Persians. The Persian's including King Xerxes are interested in knowing more about Spartans, their warfare, their startegy especially how their tiny army was able to hold the might of Xerxes for a week this is about the narrative style

The author first thru Xeo explains the setting of the battle, childhood times, the families, their brutal army training and warfare, the code of conduct in ancient Greece ..

It is thru the eyes of Xeo we see the Battle of Thermopylae. The description of war is mesmerising and very detailed, unfolding a saga of fierceness, bravery, loyalty, pride, patriotism and humility (Ahh adjectives !!). The author has used extensive maps for the reader to relate the progress of battle.

Not that the Spartans are not alone but their King Leonidas refuses all help from other Greek districts so that the Greece may later on repel the invasion. His wisdom in sacrificing only the lives of his warriors pays off ultimately when the Greeks battle for freedom in the coming days.



When the pass of Thermopylae fell, Greece was fully prepared to face the might of Xerxes and the Persian army having recollected/reunited themselves. After the assault of Spartans Persians had fear/terror for them in their hearts. The Greeks masaccared the Persians and remained independent.

Xerxes was not the one to give up and realigned his troops for another battle after his defeat, to be defeated yet again. No other Persian King ever looked at attacking Greece again - they never looked at Europe for that matter.

Just for Time scale purpose: This is the most noble period in India as both Gautam Buddha(563-483 BC) and Vardhamana Mahavira(599-527 BC) have already enlightened Bharata (India) with their wisdom

Movie rights for this novel have been acquired by Universal Studios for George Clooney and Robert Lawrence's Maysville Pictures.


Finally do read a critic's review of the same book at the below mentioned link:

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Gates of Fire - Steven Pressfield