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Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield
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Gates of Fire Quotes Showing 1-30 of 55
“A king does not abide within his tent while his men bleed and die upon the field. A king does not dine while his men go hungry, nor sleep when they stand at watch upon the wall. A king does not command his men's loyalty through fear nor purchase it with gold; he earns their love by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake. That which comprises the harshest burden, a king lifts first and sets down last. A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them...A king does not expend his substance to enslave men, but by his conduct and example makes them free.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“Nothing fires the warrior’s heart more with courage than to find himself and his comrades at the point of annihilation, at the brink of being routed and overrun, and then to dredge not merely from one’s own bowels or guts but from one’s discipline and training the presence of mind not to panic, not to yield to the possession of despair, but instead to complete those homely acts of order which Dienekes had ever declared the supreme accomplishment of the warrior: to perform the commonplace under far-from-commonplace conditions.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“The hardship of the exercises is intended less to strengthen the back than to toughen the mind. The Spartans say that any army may win while it still has its legs under it; the real test comes when all strength is fled and the men must produce victory on will alone.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“You have never tasted freedom, friend," Dienekes spoke, "or you would know it is purchased not with gold, but steel.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“For what can be more noble than to slay oneself? Not literally. Not with a blade in the guts. But to extinguish the selfish self within, that part which looks only to its own preservation, to save its own skin. That, I saw, was the victory you Spartans had gained over yourselves. That was the glue. It was what you had learned and it made me stay, to learn it too.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“The opposite of fear," Dienekes said, "is love.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“He who whets his steel, whets his courage”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“War, not peace, produces virtue. War, not peace, purges vice. War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love, eradicating in the crucible of necessity all which is base and ignoble. There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods. Do not despise war, my young friend, nor delude yourself that mercy and compassion are virtues superior to andreia, to manly valor.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“Persian envoy "our arrows will black out the sun..." Dienekes of the Spartans.."Good, then we'll fight in the shade.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“This, I realized now watching Dienekes rally and tend to his men, was the role of the officer: to prevent those under this command, at all stages of battle--before, during and after--from becoming "possessed." To fire their valor when it flagged and rein in their fury when it threatened to take them out of hand. That was Dienekes' job. That was why he wore the transverse-crested helmet of an officer. His was not, I could see now, the heroism of an Achilles. He was not a superman who waded invulnerably into the slaughter, single-handedly slaying the foe by myriads. He was just a man doing a job. A job whose primary attribute was self-restraint and self-composure, not for his own sake, but for those whom he led by his example.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“As all born teachers, he was primarily a student.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“You are the commanders, your men will look to you and act as you do. Let no officer keep to himself or his brother officers, but circulate daylong among his men. Let them see you and see you unafraid. Where there is work to do, turn your hand to it first; the men will follow. Some of you, I see, have erected tents. Strike them at once. We will all sleep as I do, in the open. Keep your men busy. If there is no work, make it up, for when soldiers have time to talk, their talk turns to fear. Action, on the other hand, produces the appetite for more action.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“Habit will be your champion. When you train the mind to think one way and one way only, when you refuse to allow it to think in another, that will produce great strength in battle.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“Never forget, Alexandros, that this flesh, this body, does not belong to us. Thank God it doesn’t. If I thought this stuff was mine, I could not advance a pace into the face of the enemy. But it is not ours, my friend. It belongs to the gods and to our children, our fathers and mothers and those of Lakedaemon a hundred, a thousand years yet unborn. It belongs to the city which gives us all we have and demands no less in requital.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“Fear conquers fear. This is how we Spartans do it, counterpoising to fear of death a greater fear: that of dishonor. Of exclusion from the pack.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“In their minds it is the mark of an ill-prepared and amateur army to rely in the moments before battle on what they call pseudoandreia, false courage, meaning the artificially inflated martial frenzy produced by a general's eleventh-hour harangue or some peak of bronze-banging bravado built to by shouting, shield-pounding and the like[...] It made no difference. None was a match for the warriors of Lakedaemon, and all knew it.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“My wish for you, Kallistos, is that you survive as many battles in the flesh as you have already fought in your imagination. Perhaps then you will acquire the humility of a man and bear yourself no longer as the demigod you presume yourself to be.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“What's the difference between a Spartan king and a mid-ranker? One man will lob this query to his mate as they prepare to bed down in the open in a cold driving rain. His friend considers mock-theatrically for a moment. .'The king sleeps in that shithole over there' he replies. 'We sleep in this shithole over here.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“The hardship of the exercises is intended less to strengthen the back than to toughen the mind.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“Good. Then we will fight in the shade”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“Sweetest of all is liberty. This we have chosen and this we pay for. We have embraced the laws of Lykurgus, and they are stern laws. They have schooled us to scorn the life of leisure, which this rich land of ours would bestow upon us if we wished, and instead to enroll ourselves in the academy of discipline and sacrifice. Guided by these laws, our fathers for twenty generations have breathed the blessed air of freedom and have paid the bill in full when it was presented. We, their sons, can do no less.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“A thousand years from now" Leonidas declared, "two thousand, three thousand years hence, men a hundred generations yet unborn may, for their private purposes, make journey to our country. They will come, scholars perhaps, or travelers from beyond the sea, prompted by curiosity regarding the past, or appetite for knowledge of the ancients. They will peer out across our plain and probe among the stone and rubble of our nation. What will they learn about us? Their shovels will unearth neither brilliant palaces nor temples. Their picks will prize forth no everlasting architecture or art. What will remain of the Spartans? Not monuments of marble or bronze, but this......what we do here, today." Out beyond the narrows, the enemy trumpets sounded.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“When a man seats before his eyes the bronze face of his helmet and steps off from the line of departure, he divides himself, as he divides his ‘ticket,’ in two parts. One part he leaves behind. That part which takes delight in his children, which lifts his voice in the chorus, which clasps his wife to him in the sweet darkness of their bed. “That half of him, the best part, a man sets aside and leaves behind. He banishes from his heart all feelings of tenderness and mercy, all compassion and kindness, all thought or concept of the enemy as a man, a human being like himself. He marches into battle bearing only the second portion of himself, the baser measure, that half which knows slaughter and butchery and turns the blind eye to quarter. He could not fight at all if he did not do this.” The men listened, silent and solemn. Leonidas at that time was fifty-five years old. He had fought in more than two score battles, since he was twenty; wounds as ancient as thirty years stood forth, lurid upon his shoulders and calves, on his neck and across his steel-colored beard. “Then this man returns, alive, out of the slaughter. He hears his name called and comes forward to take his ticket. He reclaims that part of himself which he had earlier set aside. “This is a holy moment. A sacramental moment. A moment in which a man feels the gods as close as his own breath. “What unknowable mercy has spared us this day? What clemency of the divine has turned the enemy’s spear one handbreadth from our throat and driven it fatally into the breast of the beloved comrade at our side? Why are we still here above the earth, we who are no better, no braver, who reverenced heaven no more than these our brothers whom the gods have dispatched to hell? “When a man joins the two pieces of his ticket and sees them weld in union together, he feels that part of him, the part that knows love and mercy and compassion, come flooding back over him. This is what unstrings his knees. “What else can a man feel at that moment than the most grave and profound thanksgiving to the gods who, for reasons unknowable, have spared his life this day? Tomorrow their whim may alter. Next week, next year. But this day the sun still shines upon him, he feels its warmth upon his shoulders, he beholds about him the faces of his comrades whom he loves and he rejoices in their deliverance and his own.” Leonidas paused now, in the center of the space left open for him by the troops. “I have ordered pursuit of the foe ceased. I have commanded an end to the slaughter of these whom today we called our enemies. Let them return to their homes. Let them embrace their wives and children. Let them, like us, weep tears of salvation and burn thank-offerings to the gods. “Let no one of us forget or misapprehend the reason we fought other Greeks here today. Not to conquer or enslave them, our brothers, but to make them allies against a greater enemy. By persuasion, we hoped. By coercion, in the event. But no matter, they are our allies now and we will treat them as such from this moment. “The Persian!”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“Because a warrior carries helmet and breastplate for his own protection, but his shield for the safety of the whole line.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“His was not, I could see now, the heroism of an Achilles. He was not a superman who waded invulnerably into the slaughter, single-handedly slaying the foe by myriads. He was just a man doing a job. A job whose primary attribute was self-restraint and self-composure, not for his own sake, but for those whom he led by his example.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“Here is what you do, friends. Forget country. Forget king. Forget wife and children and freedom. Forget every concept, however noble, that you imagine you fight for here today. Act for this alone: for the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him. That is all I know. That is all I can tell you.

--Dienekes at Thermopylae”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
“instill courage not by his words alone but by the calm and professional manner with which he spoke them. War is work, not mystery.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
“performing the commonplace under uncommonplace conditions.”
Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire

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