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BUDDY-READS > THE GATES OF FIRE - BR - 02/28/11 - 03/27/11

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 30608 comments This is a buddy read set up by request (Terri).

Aussie Rick and Terri will be leading this informal discussion on the following book:

Gates of Fire An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield by Steven PressfieldSteven Pressfield

Start Date will be February 28, 2011 (or some time during that week) and ending on March 27, 2011. We always start on Mondays so this will work out well.

Remember this is a spoiler thread and anything can be discussed in any order unless you determine how you will read this book and your timeline for discussion of different chapters. We allow each buddy read leader to set things up at their own pace.

Remember, if you cite any other book except for the discussion book for which this thread is named you must do full citations of both the book and the authors.

Good luck and have fun.



message 2: by Terri (last edited Feb 23, 2011 07:51PM) (new)

Terri Hello everyone.
I will be starting to read this book on the 1st of March. I know that I have one other person with me on this buddy read so far (that person is Tasha), but I extend an invitation to all those who would like to read this book with me.

Please mark all your spoilers in this manner;

State a Chapter and page if you can.
EG: Chapter 24, page 154
Or say Up to Chapter *___ (*insert chapter number) if your comment is more broad and not from a single chapter.

Examples of spoiler;
Chapter 24 pg 367
(view spoiler)

To do this kind of spoiler use these steps:

Step 1. enclose the word spoiler in forward and back arrows; < >

Step 2. write your spoiler in

Step 3. enclose the word /spoiler in arrows as above, BUT NOTE the forward slash in front of the word. You must put that forward slash in.

If you don't want to use this feature, then can you please mark spoilers with asterisks like this below example;

****SPOILER CHAPTER 24 PG 367**********************
And then type in your comments and finish with an asterisk line

message 3: by Terri (last edited Feb 23, 2011 08:24PM) (new)

Terri "Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie." reads an ancient stone at Thermopylae in northern Greece, the site of one of the world's greatest battles for freedom. Here, in 480 BCE, on a narrow mountain pass above the crystalline Aegean, 300 Spartan knights & 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 defence--& 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 & 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 & he escaped to Sparta. There he's drafted into the elite Spartan guard & 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, & Rooster, an angry, half-Messenian youth.

Pressfield's descriptions of war are breathtaking in their immediacy. They're also meticulously assembled out of physical detail & crisp, uncluttered metaphor:

"The forerank of the enemy collapsed immediately as the 1st 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

Gates of Fire An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield by Steven Pressfield

From the Author's Goodreads Profile;

I was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943 to a Navy father and mother.

I graduated from Duke University in 1965.

In January of 1966, when I was on the bus leaving Parris Island as a freshly-minted Marine, I looked back and thought there was at least one good thing about this departure. "No matter what happens to me for the rest of my life, no one can ever send me back to this freakin' place again."

Forty years later, to my surprise and gratification, I am far more closely bound to the young men of the Marine Corps and to all other dirt-eating, ground-pounding outfits than I could ever have imagined.

GATES OF FIRE is one reason. Dog-eared paperbacks of this tale of the ancient Spartans have circulated throughout platoons of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since the first days of the invasions. E-mails come in by hundreds. GATES OF FIRE is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Reading list. It is taught at West Point and Annapolis and at the Marine Corps Basic School at Quantico. TIDES OF WAR is on the curriculum of the Naval War College.

From 2nd Battalion/6th Marines, which calls itself "the Spartans," to ODA 316 of the Special Forces, whose forearms are tattooed with the lambda of Lakedaemon, today's young warriors find a bond to their ancient precursors in the historical narratives of these novels.

My struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in my 2002 book, THE WAR OF ART.

I have worked as an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout and attendant in a mental hospital. I have picked fruit in Washington state and written screenplays in Tinseltown.

With the publication of THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE in 1995, I became a writer of books once and for all.

My writing philosophy is, not surprisingly, a kind of warrior code — internal rather than external — in which the enemy is identified as those forms of self-sabotage that I have labeled "Resistance" with a capital R (in THE WAR OF ART) and the technique for combatting these foes can be described as "turning pro."

I believe in previous lives.

I believe in the Muse.

I believe that books and music exist before they are written and that they are propelled into material being by their own imperative to be born, via the offices of those willing servants of discipline, imagination and inspiration, whom we call artists. My conception of the artist's role is a combination of reverence for the unknowable nature of "where it all comes from" and a no-nonsense, blue-collar demystification of the process by which this mystery is approached. In other words, a paradox.

There's a recurring character in my books named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like my conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

Tides of War by Steven Pressfield Steven Pressfield by Steven Pressfield
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield Steven Pressfield by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield Steven Pressfield by Steven Pressfield
For more on Steven Pressfield's books here is his website;
*NB: Those who like to read of WW2 may also be interested in his book Killing Rommel.
Killing Rommel by Steven Pressfield Steven Pressfield by Steven Pressfield

But, for now...let's go kick some Persian butt. :-)

message 4: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Yep, I'm in on this read too! Waiting on my copy from the library. Looking forward to another fun discussion. :)

message 5: by Terri (new)

Terri That makes two of us now. :-) Anyone else want to join us?

message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (Loboz) | 1145 comments Im in

message 7: by Tasha (new)

Tasha His bio is very interesting. It makes me more interested in reading the book now...Terri...;) thanks for posting it.

I got it from the library today so I am ready to start!

message 8: by Terri (last edited Feb 25, 2011 01:24PM) (new)

Terri Michael, you are a man of many words. Welcome aboard. :-)

Tasha, Don't you go jumping the gun now you have it. :-) 28th of Feb or 1st of March start.
I can't wait to start it. I have been trying to fit this book in for 6 months.

The one thing that may make you, and others who aren't used to this sort of book, stumble at first will be the names.

Not only the pronunciation, but the amount of strange and unfamiliar names.
There are bound to be a few chapters at the start with lots of unfamiliar place names and characters names. Hang in there. As with most historical fiction, it can become confusing, but eventually it comes together or you learn to live with it.

By the way, I am only guessing about the many names. I haven't sneaked in a few pages at all. I am stuck trying to finish Lords of the Bow by 28th Feb.
Lords of the Bow (Conqueror 2) by Conn Iggulden Conn Iggulden by Conn Iggulden

message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 30608 comments I may try to pop in and participate now and again.

message 10: by Terri (new)

Terri That would be terrific, Bentley. The more people on the buddy read, the more interesting the discussion. :-)

message 11: by Terri (new)

Terri Today is the day for me. I am going to start Gates of Fire around lunchtime here (which will be approx midnight in the U.S).

I have my fingers crossed that we will all enjoy this read. :-)
Gates of Fire has had a lot of positive wraps and I hope they are right.

message 12: by Terri (new)

Terri I am halfway through Chapter 5 and I am well and truly hooked.
In fact, I am so hooked that I read 65 pages in no time flat, then had to drag myself away because I had household chores to do, and now I cannot WAIT to get back into it at bedtime tonight. I love a book that can grab me like this from the start.

Well, I say from 'the start', but I have to admit that up until Chapter 3 I was a bit worried. It read quite complicated and I didn't know if I would like a book that read start to finish in that manner.
But then, Chapter 3 came and all that was forgotten.

Chapter 4;
(view spoiler)

message 13: by Terri (new)

Terri I forgot to mention this excerpt from the pages between the end of the historical note, after the title BOOK ONE and Chapter One.
The couple pages that starts;
'By order of his Majesty, Xerxes son of Darius.....'
(view spoiler)

message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (Loboz) | 1145 comments Just up to Chapter 5 and like Terri I was a bit worried after the first few chapters. But the storyline is now starting to move with momentum. As for the opening excerpt a saying from my work popped in my head "go on about it".

message 15: by Terri (last edited Mar 04, 2011 03:51PM) (new)

Terri I'm glad I am not the only one that was a little concerned at the start, Michael.
Are you listening to Gates of Fire on Audio?

It really was mind blowing how many countries the Persians conquered and I had no idea that Egyptians served in their armies.
I had a quick look online and found this Wikipedia page timelining the 5th century.
I see the Egyptians successfully revolted against Persia in 486BC. The Battle of Thermopylae was in 480BC.

My mind boggles at the thought of an army of 2 million. What does that even look like? And how do you even begin to feed and arm that many men?

Up to Chapter Eight; (don't read unless you have read it)
(view spoiler)

message 16: by Terri (last edited Mar 01, 2011 07:10PM) (new)

Terri Chapter Eleven;
(view spoiler)

message 17: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I finally got a chance to really get into this one this morning. I'm up to chapter 6 and am hooked like you guys. Terri, I agree, Pressfield is a terrific storyteller. I wasn't sure how I would take to this story but man, I'm loving it. I had to concentrate on the couple of early chapters, rereading a few sentences to keep things straight but now I'm off and running.

Knowing that this book is read by Marines, and held in high regard by them, makes reading this book even more interesting. Even just up to chapter 6, I can see how it can be an inspiring read. The conversation between Alexandros and his mentor Dienekes during pages 34-36 was pretty powerful and I can see how this would be inspiring to young men (and women) training for battle.

message 18: by Terri (last edited Mar 02, 2011 06:23PM) (new)

Terri Chapter Fifteen;
(view spoiler)

message 19: by Terri (last edited Mar 02, 2011 06:27PM) (new)

Terri I agree Tasha. Every now and then the writing gets too clever and I wonder how many soldiers give up on the book during these parts, but on the whole, I can see why the modern warrior connects with this novel like he does.

message 20: by Tasha (last edited Mar 04, 2011 07:38AM) (new)

Tasha I agree Terri, that part from Chapter 11 that you highlighted gave me the "shizzles"...Actually, I don't even know what shizzle is but it sounded good ;)

But really, that scene was very COOL!! I can't even imagine being on the enemy side with that scene coming toward me. Very intimidating.

I'm in Chapter 12 right now and just keep loving this one. What a great story and the details of the events are really great. Pressfield really gives you a sense of what it was like to be right there.

I'm going to back up a minute since I've have not really had the chance to make comments since starting.

Chapter 9 (view spoiler)

The description of the war train from the main body of the troops to the very end of the train, ending with the sacrificial animals, must have made an impressive sight!

message 21: by Tom (new)

Tom Terri -
please check 'message 15' I think there is a error in your end spoiler tag and it is eating the rest of the messages in this topic.


message 22: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Chapter 11
(view spoiler)

I like the ticket system they used. It seemed a great way to account for everyone.

message 23: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (Loboz) | 1145 comments I am up to chapter 11 and loving it. Yes the ticket system is great, the first ever dog tag.

message 24: by Terri (new)

Terri Tom,
I see the end of that spoiler had a ? instead of a >, but I am confused about what it was doing to the thread. I have changed it though, and I hope that fixes the problem. :-)

message 25: by Terri (new)

Terri I there archaeological or written evidence of the tag system or whether it was straight from Pressfield's imagination???

I hope it is real. :-)

message 26: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I forgot to say that I really loved the way Leonidas joined his men in battle. So in contrast to Xerxes!

message 27: by Terri (new)

Terri I have finished. Wow.
No-one read my review of this book (that includes you Tasha..:-)..) because I don't want any of my review to give away anything for you guys until you have finished.

Yes, they certainly were two different Kings, Leonidas and Xerses. One surrounded by his men on the battlefield, one surrounded by his tents and concubines and carpets and luxuries of the east
In my view,
Kings that battle in the ranks are noble and brave Kings, but Kings that sit back in safety and direct are smarter Kings. A battle is usually over if a King falls. They have to keep themselves safe.

message 28: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) It sounds like you guys are really enjoying your book so if any of you wanted to read further after "Gates of Fire" I could recommend one very good history book; "Thermopylae: The Battle for the West" by Ernle Bradford.

Thermopylae The Battle for the West by Ernle Bradford by Ernle Bradford

message 29: by Terri (new)

Terri Thanks for that Aussie Rick. :-) I shall go look at the link now. Although my next book will be
The Good Soldiers by David Finkel David Finkel by David Finkel

message 30: by Terri (last edited Mar 05, 2011 05:06PM) (new)

Terri Chapter 35;
(view spoiler)

message 31: by Terri (new)

Terri I thought these links were interesting. I got a bit of a thrill seeing the photos of items found at Thermopylae like arrowheads;

And these links show sites from near the battle and the site of the Battle.
I found the images in the first link quite interesting. The sea used to come right up to where the main road is now located.

message 32: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Pretty neat photo's on some of those links Terri, I really enjoyed the one of the arrowheads as well!

message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 30608 comments Great links Terri.

message 34: by Tom (new)

Tom Terri wrote: "Tom,
I see the end of that spoiler had a ? instead of a >, but I am confused about what it was doing to the thread. I have changed it though, and I hope that fixes the problem. :-)"

thanks - it was not displaying the rest of the messages in my browser, the topic ended on your spoiler. i had to click it to see the other messages.

message 35: by Terri (last edited Mar 06, 2011 01:40PM) (new)

Terri Thanks Tom. What a bizarre glitch. I appreciate you letting me know.

After reading Gates of Fire, it was a real buzz seeing those photos. Seeing the path and the lay out of the land. Seeing the arrows and the statue/bust of Leonidas that was found in Sparta.

Here is a better picture of the arrowheads. It shows spearheads also. The picture was right at the bottom of one of those other links I posted and I thought I'd single it out because it shows spearheads whereas the other website link shows only arrowheads (although, in it's favour, it does show the arrowheads up close)..

message 36: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Finished! Great, great book, a definite 5 star read for me. Thanks Terri. :)

message 37: by Terri (new)

Terri You are most welcome!!!! {:o)

message 38: by Terri (new)

Terri I keep forgetting to drop back to this thread to say;

Suicide was my favourite character. I liked his darning needle javelins even if I did have trouble visualising them.
don't read if you haven't read the whole book;
(view spoiler)

message 39: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Terri wrote: "I keep forgetting to drop back to this thread to say;

Suicide was my favourite character. I liked his darning needle javelins even if I did have trouble visualising them.
don't read if you ha..."

It was (view spoiler)

message 40: by Terri (new)

Terri Last chapter;
(view spoiler)

message 41: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Last chapter (view spoiler)

message 42: by Terri (new)

Terri Last Chapter;
(view spoiler)

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Books mentioned in this topic

Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae (other topics)
The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life (other topics)
Tides of War (other topics)
Killing Rommel (other topics)
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Steven Pressfield (other topics)
Conn Iggulden (other topics)
Ernle Dusgate Selby Bradford (other topics)
David Finkel (other topics)