For me personally, reading this book has been exactly what I had hoped it would be. The concepts of self-sacrifice, service, community, camaraderie, and duty are the thematic core of this historic novel. The Persian army threatens to invade and take Sparta. I have enjoyed reading it many times over. As a Greek it gives me goosebumps to think that the events in this book are to a large extent the true history of my ancestors. Bush administration in the Middle East in the first decade of this century. Thrown into despair, because his hands are so damaged that he can never wield a sword, Xeones heads off by himself to die.
Pressfield is an ex-marine and it comes across in this novel because of the unique way he gets into the characters head during wartime. 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. Animated with that cheerful thought, I wonder if life appears this way to everyone else. His character's stentorian cries of freedom seem shallow when you understand the nature of Sparta. He will lie, steal, cheat, murder, melt down the very statues of the gods and coin their gold as money for whores.
. The boy survives and learns to be an archer. Xeones continues on to Sparta while Diomache goes into Athens. Those who are confused as to why a friend or loved one wants to join the military can very likely gain their answers from this book. Many of the famous lines are all here, from fighting in the shade due to the number of arrows the Persians would be able to fire to telling the emissary of the Persians 'to come and get them' referring to the Greek weapons after being asked to hand them over. I could try to tell you all the incredible building blocks that make up this book and warrant these high praises but believe me that I will fail.
Xeones' tale covers his years of training and adventure as the loyal and devoted servant of Dienekes, a noble Spartan soldier, and he describes the six-day ordeal during which a few hundred Greeks held off thousands of Persian spears and arrows, until a Greek traitor led the Persians to an alternate route. This book and the narrator are top notch. It's still difficult for me to understand why anyone would willingly ignore the pointless bullying, the tedious machismo, the cynical grasping and snatching after pathetic shreds of power, and the sheer unadulterated lunacy all adequately portrayed in this novel that seem to invariably accompany military life. Meanwhile, the Syrian Army is shelling the much smaller nation from the north. Let me instead try to constrict my review to two factors: the philosophical content and the prose. But having tried to communicate something of what I've seen and felt, I realize now just why so many who served so honorably chose to remain so silent as to their experiences.
Sacrificing flow for sometimes not so relevant story background. Bruxieus dies and the two children head toward Athens. This struck me with a kind of awe. From the start, there was no question but that the Spartans would perish. The Thespians and Spartans form phalanxes that charge the Persian line from the mountain side of Thermopylae. You learn life as a Spartan warrior.
By the end of the book I felt that I had learned something about history, politics, friendship and duty - all while being wonderfully entertained. They went to the Hot Gates to die, and die they did. Day after bloody day they withstood the terrible onslaught, buying time for the Greeks to rally their forces. On uchopil Spartu a v románu ji přiblížil lidem. Bueno, no, que me linchan. This is probably the most I've ever learned about the realities and intricacies of war from a single book. I requested this audiobook a year ago, and finally, with the release of 300, we got it.
When faced with such larger-than-life concepts, though, words often fail, no matter how important or meaningful a place they hold in every day life. It is taught at West Point and Annapolis and at the Marine Corps Basic School at Quantico. Thousands of years ago, Herodotus and Plutarch immortalized Spartan society in their histories; but today, little is left of the ancient city or the social structure of this momentous culture. Still, it served to drag me away from the story and my emotional involvement with it, and sometimes even caused confusion as to the timeline. Each character of the story is clearly etched out, be it Xenos himself or Alexandros, or Dienekes, or Polynikes or Rooster or King Leonidas.
Then I thought, Wait a minute, this idea is even crazier than the idea for Bagger Vance. 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. This is superbly presented at some time in the book :Dekton was the first person I had ever met, man or boy, who had absolutely no fear of the gods. But he experiences a visitation from the Archer god Apollo Far Striker and realizes he can still wield a bow. Absolutely the best fiction written on the Battle of Thermopylae.
Not only did this book cover the journey of a boy to manhood, but it also covered the journey of a man to a soldier, and a soldier to death. Ironically, wars also bring into focus how amazing and inspiring humanity can be. The valor of the individual Medes was beyond question, but their light hacking blades were harmless as toys; against the massed wall of Spartan armor, they might as well have been defending themselves with reeds or fennel stalks. There is more philosophy in this book than one would expect from a war novel, but this is why I consider it both insightful, and at times inspiring…even after the fifth read. This being the first Steven Pressfield book I've read, I can only hope this isn't his one hit wonder. For example the oligarchic Sparta is compared with the democratic Athena so that the Spartan way of leaving is better contoured. 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.