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Gates of Fire

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  34,794 ratings  ·  2,461 reviews
At Thermopylae, a rocky mountain pass in northern Greece, the feared and admired Spartan soldiers stood three hundred strong. Theirs was a suicide mission, to hold the pass against the invading millions of the mighty Persian army.

Day after bloody day they withstood the terrible onslaught, buying time for the Greeks to rally their forces. Born into a cult of spiritual coura
Paperback, 526 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Bantam (first published October 20th 1998)
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Average rating 4.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  34,794 ratings  ·  2,461 reviews

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Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the two best standalone books that I’ve ever read so far; this is truly historical fiction at its finest.

Lancelot by Giles Kristian was an amazing standalone and now, I’ve found Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. I’m starting to feel that historical fiction is the right genre to visit when I’m looking for amazing standalone books. In my opinion, both Lancelot and Gates of Fire achieved what I think at this point is impossible to find in SFF (my favorite genre) books: a standalone masterp
Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews
Nov 17, 2022 rated it really liked it
Check out my YouTube channel where I show my instant reactions upon finishing reading fantasy books.

An excellent historical fantasy that tells the story of "300" from the eyes of a servant in the Spartan army.

This is only the first Historical Fiction book that I have read, and given that I liked (but didn't love) the first one I read, I had mixed feelings going into this one. Over the past few years I have been exclusively a fantasy reader, but I am also Greek and have always been fascinated
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military
Gates of Fire is one of my favorite books...ever. I first read it back when I was in the Marine Corps. It was on the Commandant’s Reading List for a time - required reading for any motivated teufelhund. The author himself is a former Marine, and draws upon his experiences to create a compellingly insightful look at the mental and psychological makeup of a soldier. The concepts of self-sacrifice, service, community, camaraderie, and duty are the thematic core of this historic novel. Steven Pres ...more
Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.
Gates of Fire is a work of historical fiction that tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae. The history itself is well known. In the fall of 480 B.C., King Xerxes led an army of 2 million soldiers in their second attempt to invade Greece. King Leonidas of Sparta led 300 Spartans and a total force of around 4,000 Greek soldiers to engage the Persians at Thermopylae (the “Hot Gates,” in Greek), a natural choke
Wow, I loved this. To imagine the reality of this tale to be rooted in real history is beyond my ability. I’m writing this short and inconsequential (in historical perspective) review with tears in my eyes, tears of awe and respect for the warriors of Sparta. May the memories of their deeds of honor, bravery and valor never be lost. This particular telling (and the audiobook) is terrific. If historical fiction is something you might enjoy, do not miss this book. 5.0/5.0 stars.
Michelle F
Remarkably engaging, and remarkably bloody!

While I happily delve into historical fiction on an occasionally regular basis and also enjoy some rousing battles in the more speculative genres, I've never found historical military fiction to be particularly entertaining. This buddy-read turned out to be an outlier. I found Gates of Fire to be nuanced and thoughtfully appealing.

This is the battle of Thermopyle (think 300) recounted by Xeones – a servant of the Spartan army – to the invading Persian e
Aug 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Undoubtedly one of the greatest books ever written. Every page, every word feels as if it is a part of something truly special. The history, the characters, the philosophy and the heartbreak amounted to the perfect book.
William Gwynne
My brother and I talk about Gates of Fire on our channel... The Brothers Gwynne

Gates of Fire is one of the most successful historical fiction publication of all time, telling the tale of Thermopyalae, how a small number of Spartans and allies stood against the hordes of the Persian Empire at "The Hot Gates". This is told as a chronicle, by a survivor of the battle, so that they are recounting their own small role in this landmark and history-changing battle as well as the roles of those around h
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said here on it's review page...ah, not much. :-)
It is a terrific book. Dense, and detailed and clever and, in many places, exhilarating. Sometimes I felt that the author was being too clever. Sacrificing flow for sometimes not so relevant story background. There is quite a lot of too-ing and fro-ing in this book. Jumping backwards and forwards between different times and sometimes it worked for me and sometimes it didn't. That is why I nea
Jul 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Soldiers are philosophers by trade, as opposed to nature. Whether they are gifted logicians or readers or not, their profession demands a close association with death and life, fear and courage, love and hate, joy and sorrow. A soldier gets acquainted with these, not as abstract ideas, but as intimate realities which are a part of the day-to-day environment.

When faced with such larger-than-life concepts, though, words often fail, no matter how important or meaningful a place they hold in every d
The first thing* anyone visiting Thermopylae will notice is that it looks nothing like it should. The shore has expanded outwards dramatically and a highway has been plowed through the middle. Visitors to the site spend upwards of five minutes wandering the short distance from the little parking lot to the hill of the last stand before passing by on their way to more inspiring destinations (2.5 millennia later Thermopylae is still the gateway to the north). They could be forgiven for wondering w ...more
Stjepan Cobets
One of the best book I've read lately. With ease, I was drawn into the story of Spartans. In my head, I imagined each piece of equipment and felt the anticipation of oncoming battles that have become legends. No one can remain indifferent to the heroism of the Spartans who opposed the massive Persian army. ...more
Anthony Ryan
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Whilst Frank Miller's 300 may have captured the spirit of the battle of Thermopylae - elephants and wizards not withstanding, Steven Pressfield takes a much more realist approach. Greece in 480 BC is presented as a place of constant warfare united only by the prospect of imminent Persian invasion. The Spartans are as brutal and oppressive as they are stoic and courageous, so much so in fact that the Persians seem a relatively civilised and cultured lot in comparison. Despite the repugnance much ...more
Absolutely amazing. Anyone interested in ancient history or military fiction simply must read "Gates of Fire." By Zeus, this is one of those books that everyone should read, regardless of what their favorite genre is. Steven Pressfield has an amazing gift for transplanting the reader into his era of choice.

I could attempt to spend hours writing a witty review, but ultimately it would not do this book justice. So do yourself a favor and add it to your "To Read" shelf, or the gods will surely curs
Feb 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
Highly recommended to me, but highly disappointing. This is a romanticized historical fictional account of the Spartans' stand at Thermopylae against the massively superior forces of Xerxes. It does offer a depiction of the warrior culture of Sparta. But the writing: trite, tedious, melodramatic, sometimes overly flowery faux archaic, and at others base sixth grade genital/excrement humor. One of the major humor touchstones was a character whose catchphrase was "Wake up to this", which cracked e ...more
Daniel Clausen
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-books
This book is about the Battle of Thermopylae in ancient Greece, where 300 Spartans fought to the death. The main character of the book is a slave who is captured by the Spartans. Even though he is a slave of the Spartans, he begins to admire their bravery and courage.

During the course of the book, we see the slave’s hometown get destroyed, we find out how he becomes a slave, and why he admires the Spartans’ courage. We also see the slave become a warrior who fights next to the Spartans. This wa
Aug 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
I read this entertaining 1998 historical novel, which glorifies the ancient military dictatorship of Sparta, in part because it cost only $7.99 for a Kindle download. Then I realized that I couldn't write a coherent review of it, because I still, in spite of the intervening years, am an incandescent tower of blistering but impotent rage at the senseless loss of life and treasure which resulted from the blunderings of the George W. Bush administration in the Middle East in the first decade of thi ...more
Charles  van Buren
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review of Kindle edition
Publisher: Bantam
January 30, 2007
531 pages

Like G.K. Holloway's 1066: What Fates Impose, this novel by Steven Pressfield is what historical fiction should be. Well researched story of Thermopylae, true to the time and place, informative, excellent character development and a well written, engrossing story.
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, literature
This was an interesting book. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it and had thought it would be a book of history, but was actually a work of historical fiction. It was well told and, from what I know, an accurate enough telling of the story of the 300. Herodotus also tells this story in his histories and it is hardly surprising that a tale of so few holding off an army of so many should be remembered as one of the great military stories of all time. This one is told through the eyes of a capture ...more
Mar 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
When I first tried reading this book about the Battle of Thermopylae, after a while I just had to put it down. I didn't know if it was because I just didn't like it, or if it was because it wasn't the right time to read it. So I tried again.

Forgive me for saying something like this, but it's clear the book is written by a man. There is way too much detail, but absolutely no emotional foundation. I think one of the reviewers captured it best when he/she commented on Pressfield's ability in writin
Oct 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Steven Pressfield's first foray into historical fiction is a masterful account of the battle of Themopylae (thermos = hot, warm, fire; pylos = spring or gate; hence "Gates of Fire").

Told from the perspective of a captured, critically wounded Spartan helot (all the Spartans died, after all) who is being questioned by Xerxes (King of Persia) for information about the Greeks, the story presents a sympathetic, insider view of Spartan society and accurately presents the values of Greek civilization i
rating: 5/5 (more like 4.75 but I'll round)

The story didn't really grip me (although it was still interesting)until the last 3 books (the novel is split into 8 "books" or sections), which were filled with jaw droppingly amazing battle and camp scenes from Thermopylae. I am a sucker for well written battles and soldier camaraderie and this was it, one of the best I've read so far.

It was filled with a ton of historical accuracy, from the events to the historical people and through battle techniqu
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stunning. If you have any interest in ancient history, the ancient Greeks, history in general, warfare, or just plain good writing, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

I don't want to be long winded here, because I think most of the other reviews for this book do it justice already. But what Pressfield does here is nothing short of masterful. This is truly his magnum opus. The way that he builds up the suspense to the final, horrifying, and shocking calamity that is Thermopylae, is incredib
Mar 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
I chose this book reluctantly from my library's audiobook shelf. I thought I should read it because my knowledge of ancient history was pretty gap-filled, and because at some point I'm planning to rent "300" and this would be good background. I always pick up books I "should" read with grudging feelings.

Well. I was foolish to have hesitated over it, because this book is excellent. I'm just a few tracks from the end, and I feel wrecked by it. Knowing the outcome makes no difference--and even thos
Chris Berko
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
About ten years ago I watched a movie titled House of Flying Daggers that my friend said was "a feast of the senses." I thought that was kind of a melodramatic and corny way to describe a movie but after watching it I understand exactly what he meant and it remains one of my favorite films to this day. The sets, scenery, costumes, and colors were beautiful, the script and pacing were a perfect blend of action, intrigue, drama, and romance, and the fighting scenes were well choreographed and edit ...more
Overbooked  ✎
I'm no lover of brothers in arms novels nor of battlefield butchery, however I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Historical research is evident throughout the narration, I was impressed by the accuracy of the historical facts and the faithful portray of the Spartan society. I was moved by many scenes and dialogues between the characters which investigate interesting psychological and philosophical issues.

The language is beautiful employing the actual Greek vocabulary therefore providing a interesti
Dee Arr
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most historical fiction books, which I do enjoy reading, seldom grab my attention as intently as this book by Steven Pressfield. There are many reasons why I recommend this book. Here are a few of them:

1. The writing carries with it the essence of past days. The writing style of writers like Homer, Plato, and Plutarch have clearly influenced the voicing the author chose to characterize this book.

2. “Gates of Fire” is incredibly researched. Not only is a great story being retold in an imaginative
Westerly Wind
Aug 14, 2022 rated it really liked it
Not a spoiler: They all die in the end. As you already know, thanks to history or pop culture (“300”). 
This is the historically accurate version of the Battle of Thermopylae, i.e. not 300 Spartans with bare abs against two million degenerate Persians. But rather a few thousand Greeks led by 300 Spartan knights – with armor – against some hundred thousand Persian soldiers.
The battle is recounted by Xeones, a lone survivor and Spartan squire, to the Persian emperor Xerxes. Xeones’ narrative spa
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Having just finished all the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, this was a strong change of perspective and tone. I was initially disturbed by the depictions of war and life in ancient Greece. Whether I adjusted over the first hundred pages or it's simply that the most disturbing material is in the beginning, I can't say. I do know that I quickly became engrossed in both the story and setting.

Now I want to see the armor and weapons from the time period so I can better understand the phalanx
Barnabas Piper
Oct 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Steven Pressfield writes fantastic historical fiction. I have read a few of his books, and i think this is my favorite so far. He finds a way to tell a story in great detail without being laborious from a unique perspective without being obvious or cheesy. He is masterful and the story is powerful.
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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 a

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