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Publisher's Summary

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. One of the few antiquarian marks of the civilization that has survived lies scores of miles away from Sparta, at a narrow Greek mountain pass called Thermopylae. It was here that 300 of Sparta's finest warriors held back the invading millions of the Persian empire and valiantly gave their lives in the selfless service of democracy and freedom. A simple engraved stone marks their burial ground.

Inspired by this stone and intrigued by the lore of Sparta, author Steven Pressfield has brilliantly combined scholarship with storytelling. Narrated by the sole survivor of the epic battle, a squire in the Spartan heavy infantry, Gates of Fire is a mesmerizing depiction of one man's indoctrination into the Spartan way of life and death, and of the legendary men and women who gave the culture an immortal gravity. Culminating in the electrifying and horrifying epic battle, Gates of Fire weaves history, mystery, and heartbreaking romance into a literary tale that brings the Homeric tradition into the 21st century.

©1998 Steven Pressfield; (P)2000 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Reading this fine novel, it is not hard to understand why warfare has proved to be one of the most enduring subjects of literature." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Derek Jacobi is brilliant: his soldiers are terrifyingly gruff, and his breathless account of the fighting is so vivid that one can almost smell the blood." (Audiofile)
"An incredibly gripping, moving, and literate work of art. Rarely does an author manage to re-create a moment in history with such mastery, authority, and psychological insight." (Nelson DeMille)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Excellent, but very sad it's abridged

Gates of Fire is a superb book. It is historical fiction at it's very best. I believe this is the best of Pressfield's works, so it is nice to finally see this book in audio. The reading is terrific. In fact, I have only one minor quibble, in that the voice adopted for Polynikes sounds like a 40 year old man rather than a 23 year old. Narrator should have used that voice for Dienekes. But truly a quibble. A wonderful book and a superb story of the bond between men and between men and women. I give it 4 stars vs. five merely because it is abridged, and there are some truly wonderful insights about characters (especially Suicide, Arete, and Dienekes) that are in the book that are not in this abridged volume. Still, if you like this era of history and you like stories of courage, valor, and frienship, you cannot do better. This book has some of the best quotes I am aware of for sacrifice and friendship. It is a literary achievement.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Absolutely the best fiction written on the Battle of Thermopylae. Beautifully performed narration by Derek Jacobi.

I requested this audiobook a year ago, and finally, with the release of 300, we got it.

300, while a fun popcorn movie, and equally fun graphic novel, does not compare to the thrilling, well researched and most historically accurate account of what occured at the Hot Gates.

If you want politics, intrigue, romance and action, mesmerizingly narrated, you will find it here.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Siphon
  • South Carolina
  • 11-05-10

Who wants abridged?

I truly enjoy reading Steven Pressfield. This particular book is probably one of my favorites of all the books I've read. It would definitely have gotten 5 stars if they'd only left it unabridged...

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Spencer
  • Midland, MI, USA
  • 10-19-07

Better than 300

This book shares many similarities to the recent movie "300"; however, it is better. Covering the same battle at the hot gates of Thermopylae, this version is told by the sole surviving Spartan, Xeo. When Xerxes presses him to tell the story of how 300 Spartans and their allies could hold off his troop numbering over 100,000, Xeo starts at his beginning. He was not originally a Spartan, yet he came to love it and join its army, ultimately getting to fight in this final stand of his comrads. This version explains a great deal of how Sparta was so strong as a nation, as well as why the suicide force was sent to buy time at the gates of Thermopylae. Great battle scenes, terrific suspense, and wonderful storytelling bring this legendary battle to life! Great Job Steven Pressfield!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • C
  • Aspen, CO, United States
  • 12-27-07

Top quality audio

Not given to reviews but this book is exceptional. Both the writing - that reminds me of Robert Fagles translation of the Illiad and the Odyssey - and the pitch perfect narration. The battle scenes are brilliant; vivid and crystal clear images without unnecessary violence. Wonderful listen.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Neil
  • Stoke on TrentUnited Kingdom
  • 09-01-07

The Definition of Excellence

I knew that I would like the subject matter and I know that Derek Jacobi is a wonderful narrator, but I was quite unprepared for just how good this book is.

The quality of the writing and the power of the narration are simply superb. The overall experience was totally immersive and at times it almost seemed that I was at the hot gates myself!

Not everthing about Spartan society was admirable, and this book shines an unflinching light on both the good and the bad, in an open and objective manner. The story brings to life not only the Spartans themselves, but the brutality of the times, the hardship of their lives and the strength of their character.

By the end of the book I felt that I had learned something about history, politics, friendship and duty - all while being wonderfully entertained.

In my opinion, Gates of Fire is the very definition of audio book excellence.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Angela
  • Taylors Lakes, Australia
  • 04-12-12

Excellently delivered

Would you listen to Gates of Fire again? Why?

Yes, and I often don't read books more than once

What about Derek Jacobi’s performance did you like?

Derek Jacobi helps to make the amazing works of Steven Pressfield come to life. I was a little disappointed though when I learnt that some of the content in the novel is not in the audio file.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

this book makes you cringe and often due to the great detail Pressfield puts in.

Any additional comments?

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Quite a journey!

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. The deep themes of honor, dedication, and selfless service to something greater than one's self rang true in this book, and by the end had me wanting to jump up and cheer for heroes I hadn't expected to arise! Excellent historical fiction!

300 was enjoyable, but this book really makes it look like the comic book it is.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Justin
  • Gillette, WY, USA
  • 05-11-08


This is my favorite book. It is vivid, exciting, instructive, and scrupulously researched. The reader is quite possibly the ablest I've come across. It would be unfair of me to give the book a lower rating because it is abridged, as it is clearly labeled such; but I would certainly buy the unabridged edition as well were it ever made available. I do not think I am alone here.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Anthony
  • doral, FL, United States
  • 04-01-07

Entertaining and really well narrated

this is a great read. It is perhaps more interesting than the movie 300. A bit gory in some places, but overall, it is an excelent read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • Gareth
  • 12-18-09

Great book, shame it's abridged

Great book, great narrator. First book of his i have read really enjoyed it.....almost as much as Valerio Manfredi's book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Louise
  • 08-07-07

An Atmospheric, Palpable Epic

Gates of Fire is a truly atmospheric and palpable epic made all the richer for being read by Derek Jacobi. I have felt as though I were watching from the side lines to the point where I could almost smell the blood, see battles, hear the roars of the Spartan Warriors, and feel the squelch of mud and sludge between my own toes. I could feel my emotions get entangled with the characters, as I became totally absorbed in the book. Steven Pressfield's insight into the Spartans' lifestyle is incredible, and his book is a great work of art. This is a truly wonderful audio book that I will repeatedly listen to.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Asmodeous
  • 10-27-16

Awesome book but sadly abridged...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes due to the amazing narration and wonderful story but sadly it is abridged to the point of distracting from the enjoyment. So many fine aspects to the story are sadly missing.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The Narrator.

Have you listened to any of Derek Jacobi’s other performances? How does this one compare?

As good as the others I have listened to - please put his version of the Illiad on audible.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Moving,exciting and a wonderful example of first class narrating. Pity this is abridged if it were unabridged it would have been five stars in every area and one of the very best audio books in existence.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jack Cox
  • 07-28-15

Another great escape from Mister Pressfield

Very easy to listen to and a great escape from the rat race on my way to and from work. Thank you Mister Pressfield!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful