[By Nic Lindh on Sunday, 23 October 2005]
_Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,_that here obedient to their laws we lie.
This is the inscription on a stone at Thermopylae in Greece where 300 Spartans and their allies fought a hopeless battle with an entire invading Persian army.
Stephen Pressfield’s Gates of Fire tells the fictional account of one member of the Spartan force, Xeones, who survives the dreadful wounds he has acquired during the battle and tells his story to the Persian Emperor Xerxes. The novel paints an almost painfully vivid picture of Greece around 480 B.C, and of Spartan society’s relentless focus on war and ensuring that its citizens were the best warriors in the world.
Pressfield does an astonishing job of creating believable characters the reader cares about and in keeping his account as historically accurate as possible.
Gates of Fire is, to use the cliché, impossible to put down. Highly, highly recommended.