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Gates of Fire Essay

Why I chose this book:
I have no particular reason why I chose this book. While searching through the commandant’s new reading list, the title of the book stood out to me. It did not seam like a boring documentary or and endless biography that goes on and on but rather an interesting read that would keep me interested. When I went to go check it out from training I read the summary on the back of the book and was immediately intrigued about the storyline. I like the adventure and thrill of the Spartans as well as reading about war battles.

Give a brief description about this book:
This book is about a legendary Battle of Thermopylae and the Spartan culture. In 480 BC the Persian Empire marched with a force of two million men against Greece. In Greece’s defense a small army of 2,500 Greek soldiers marched out in an attempt to slow the Persian advance. 300 Spartans were among this squadron, willing to fight to the death for their homeland. The two armies crashed at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. For six days the small force held off the entire Persian army, inflicting an estimated 20,000 casualties on the enemy. On the seventh day the main Greek force withdrew. The remaining Spartan force and a small number of Thespians stayed giving their comrades time for escape.

The residual Greek forces fought heroically to the death. The slowed Persian advance gave Greek forces added time to muster men and eventually repel the invasion. The author depicts the story from a Spartan soldier’s squire (armor bearer) point of view. The armor bearer, Xeo, tells his life story from his youth as an outcast to his acceptation into the Spartan military. Through the eyes of Xeo, the author tells of an armor bearer’s duties, soldier’s thoughts and attitudes, Sparta’s military training, and Sparta’s military based culture. While he tells that Sparta is a cruel and brutal military society he also tells of the beauty and love that the civilization also possesses.

Tactical lessons learned from this book:
Some of the tactical leassons I learned from this book come from the battle at Thermopylae. Some of the tactics that interestead me, even back in those days, is when the Spartan army first arived at Themopylae. They scouted the area to see it they could possibly be flanked by the opposing army. They rounded up all of the random people that were not part of the battle so that their opposition could not use them for land navigation. The Spartans even burnned all the fields of crops so that their foe could not use the crops for rations. It is clear to me that fighting a battle is not all about who is the better fighter. I learned that witts and logistics are key elements for victory.

Leadership lessons learned from this book:
One of the leadership lessons that could be learned from this book involves courage. On multiple occasions in the book the leadership tries to instill in their men the philosophy that training for war has little to do with strengthening the war fighter physically but rather to toughen the mind. Polynikes also had the men realize that any army can win a battle with its legs still under it, it is when all strength has fled and the men must produce victory on will alone. I learned that if I want my Marines to be the best, I have to expect the best as well as adopt this mentality so that I may lead by example.

How can the lessons learned be used today:
The spartans trained to achieve victory while face whith constant adversity. Today the younger generation has adopted the attitude of, if it can’t be done with a reassonable amount of effort, then it can’t be done and they give up. We as leaders can learn from the spartans will to push through anything against all odds. So, by pushing our Marines until they give up and then pushing them more with expectaions of exelence can be a useful tool in teaching our Marines that they can jump over the wall instead of running into it.

I would or would not recommend this book to my peers, and why: The author
gives interesting facts about Spartan culture, its soldiers, attitudes of religion, and gripping battle scenes. The novel is extremely entertaining and gives a fascinating insight into courage, discipline, love, and war. Based on all of these reason I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading of history or war.


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