Thursday, April 28, 2005

Xeo and Thermopylae

Isn't that a great title! Just look at it. Isn't it beautiful. You have no idea what it means. Doesn't it make me look smart? It really makes this look like an intelligent blog. Don't worry though, I'm not that smart and this will be a pretty easy read. Hopefully by the end the title will make sense to you too!

So I'm reading a new book now about Ancient Greece. This book is part of the reading list I'm working on suggested by Hugh Hewitt in his book "In, But Not Of". The purpose of the list is to get a basic understanding of our Western Culture background.

This book is called Gates Of Fire and is by Steven Pressfield. The thing that surprised me is that it's a fictional book. I thought I was reading a through a list of history books but this one is a novel. The author has taken historically accurate details from that time and woven them into a story. This really is a good thing because I think we remember stories much better than text books. So instead of plodding my way through a history lesson (which I was prepared to try and do) I am now flying through this novel just wanting to get to the next page.

To give you an idea of what I'm reading about besides just Ancient Greece here's what I can tell you. This takes place around the battle of Thermopylae in northern Greece. What was the battle of Thermopylae? Well before I try to explain anything let me remind you the reader (I know at least my wife reads this) that this is the first book I’ve read about Greek history so I have no authority to actually sound like I know what I’m talking about. And the reason I write in this blog is to stimulate brain activity and prevent stagnation for myself as well as any readers. So with that in mind . . . Thermopylae!

At this point in history the Persians had launched an effort to take over as many countries as possible whether by force or by diplomatic means. I think it was more often by threat of force. One of their enemies was Greece which is where the Spartans come from. I think we’ve all heard of the Spartans. In fact I was a Spartan in my middle school but only now do I have an idea of what that means. These Spartans were professional warriors. They trained hard, really hard. This was not just a job to them but it was their life. In fact it seems like it was the life for everyone in Sparta. These men were so deep into this and it was so ingrained into the culture in Sparta that it appears like something of what a modern day cult is. Once you are in you can’t get out and it was worth your life.

So the Spartans, the world’s best warriors, were not willing to let the Persians come in and take over their land. Thermopylae is a narrow rocky mountain pass that the Persians would have to come through to get to Sparta. Only 300 Spartans were sent to defend against the what sounds like millions, of the Persian Army. There were others besides the 300 Spartans but they were farmers and laborers turned soldiers. They were not trained for battle like the Spartans were. This was basically a suicide mission for these Spartans in order to buy time for the Greeks to rally their troops.

Each Spartan has a Squire that assists them with just about everything. These Squires are actually quite highly trained too just by being with the Spartans so much. They are in fact used by the Spartans as training partners quite often. This isn’t as good as it sounds. The main Squire in this book Xeo, gets into all out fights with his Spartan-in-training partner quite often and on purpose. This is to help the Spartan-to-be to learn how to fight better!

The Persians eventually somehoe capture Xeo and the Persian King is very interested in hearing his story. The King wants to know names and events and how the Spartan camp operated. He wants to hear the story of the Spartans from someone who was inside. So the book is told from Xeo’s point of view as he is telling the King his story.

I’m not through yet but the battle is starting to heat up quite nicely now. I’ve never read a battle book. Never thought I’d find it interesting. Like I said earlier though once I start it’s hard to put down and I have to at least finish the chapter. So I should have it completed in the next few days and I’ll try to give a summary.

If you are at all interested in Greek history or war or even just the relationship between a bunch of men in an impossible situation I think you would enjoy this book. Until next time . . .




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