Essay on Gates of Fire

677 Words Aug 2nd, 2006 3 Pages
Steven Pressfield's The Gates of Fire is set in the fifth century B.C. in Greece. The story revolves around the famous battle of Thermopylae where three hundred Spartans held off hundreds of thousands of Persians, saving Greece. Pressfield creates a fictional story around the battle where one man, a squire named Xeones, survives to tell the Spartan story of the battle and the events preceding it. Xeones, who is the protagonist, tells his life story to the royal Persian historian while in captivity. This life history of Xeones constitutes the body of the book.

Xeones tale starts when he was a young boy living in Astakiots, a small Greek polis. Xeones is ten and lives a happy life with his mother and father, who are prosperous farmers.
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Xeones, still filled with vengeance, wants to go to Sparta, home of the legendary warriors that constitute the best army in Greece. They cannot decide so they end up parting ways, Xeones to Sparta, Diomache to Athens. In their entire lives they will only meet once more.

When Xeones arrives in Sparta (Lakedaemon) he cannot become a soldier because he is not Lakedaemonian. Instead he becomes a squire, a station that is basically a form of slavery. This in itself doesn't present a conflict to Xeoes, he is willing to do anything to serve with the Spartans.

For the rest of The Gates of Fire the conflicts are not Xeones's, but his master's. Xeones's first master Alexandros is a young Spartan around his age who is enrolled in the Spartan military school. Alexandros's father is Polemarch and he is a pure bred Lakedaemonian. Alexandros isn't the military type though, he is much better at singing. However, since he is a pure bred Lakedaemonian he has no choice but to serve in the military from the age of seven till he is sixty. He will become a full soldier at twenty when he completes military training. Xeones' job as his squire is to be his sparring partner and clean his gear, and basically be his slave. Despite the fact that he is much better soldier than Alexandros, Xeones doesn't resent being his slave, indeed he grows to love him (as a brother.)

One day during military exercises Alexandros lets his shield fall to the ground, a terrible crime in the Spartan…

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