Gates of Fire is a book which tells the tale of the war between the Persians and the Greeks. The war occurred about 500 B.C. and the king of Persia at that time was Xerxes. Xerxes conquered most of the Asian territories and in the long run attacked Greece. At that time, Greece comprised of large number of city states but the most prominent were Sparta and Athens. At the time of the invasion by the Persians, the city of Athens was progressive and had philosophers, artists and hedonists. Sparta on the other hand boasted of fearsome warriors led by their king Leonidas.
The narrator Xeones describes the harsh training that the Spartan warriors endured and the responsibility of men as soldiers of life. This is depicted by a fourteen year old who did not remember to take his shield in the course of a brief task. He is punished and whipped up until the ribs display through the skin. This treatment is aimed at making him tough. According to the narrator, the young men therefore endured harsh mental and physical training and they never surrendered in their quest to become Spartan warriors.
As the Persian invasion approaches king Leonidas declares that three hundred peers will be selected to lead the defense of Greece at Thermopylae. Later Leonidas finds out that most of the allies have either fled or joined the Persians. At the battle king Leonidas leads a force of several thousand Spartans supported by a few Greeks against the larger Persian forces.
Xeones narrates of the heroism the small Greek warriors led by Leonidas against astounding odds at Thermopylae. However, they were eventually overwhelmed. The Persian forces managed to break the Spartan phalanx after one Greek man Ephialtes betrayed his country by informing the Persians of an alternative way around the mountains. The author narrates the story by having it articulated by the only Greek survivor Xeones who was also an eyewitness. Occasionally, the story jumps from one narrator to another but it is easy to follow.
The foregoing can be linked with the people in the military in that they are required to be selfless and serve with discipline and honor in defense of their country. This is depicted by several themes which include devotion, self-sacrifice, courage, and duty. Further the place of soldiers in the life of a nation as well as its citizens is properly defined. As the King, Leonidas had the skills to inspire his soldiers and make sure that they were not dispirited even when the mission seemed impossible. This aspect is similar to modern day army where arm leaders provide the necessary motivation especially when they are sent on missions. The preceding themes are as important today as they were during the time of king Leonidas.
Pressfield, S. (2005). Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae. New York: Bantam Dell.