Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
I enjoyed the brief break in professional reading over the Christmas holiday to read an actual novel. It made a nice change!
As you might guess, Gates of Fire is set at the Battle of Thermopylae but told in a different format. In fact it isn't really about Thermopylae at all but about the Spartan culture as recounted by a squire of the one of the 300 Spartan peers.
As opposed to the recent movies, Pressfield's novel is very much based in historical fact. It follows the education and building of a Spartan warrior, the social demands upon him and his family, and the Spartan society as a whole and how it functions. Pressfield also puts the allied contingents at Thermopylae into the spotlight, highlighting their contributions until their withdrawal was ordered, leaving only the small Spartan contingent.
This is not a faced paced, action packed book but I quite enjoyed it nonetheless. It was quite engaging and left one wondering how the action would progress at the Hot Gates, even though you know how that battle concludes. My only gripe is that Pressfield seemed overly determined to prove he had done a bunch of research and loved throwing in Greek words and terms in the book. In many places in was quite right and added theme, but he overdid it in my opinion and I was left trying to remember what that word was. Not a big gripe overall, but there it is.
If you like ancients, hoplites, phalanxes and the like then this book is for you. I really enjoyed it and, inevitably, it had me scrolling through the lovely 6mm offerings at places like this.