Gates of Fire


Steven Pressfield

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Gates of Fire: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

The following evening, both Alexandros and Xeo are whipped for having gone to Antirhion—Alexandros by his father before the peers, and Xeo, unceremoniously, by a helot. Rooster helps Xeo away and bathes and dresses his wounds. He is well acquainted with such discipline and the doctoring it requires, and he cares for Xeo effectively, with unusual kindness. Suddenly they are startled by Alexandros sneaking through the trees. He’s stolen some wax of myrrh, the medicine of the Peers and much superior to Rooster’s homespun ointment. Rooster gains newfound respect for Alexandros’s courage, knowing he’d be beaten half to death if discovered.
The contrast between the two boys’ relative stations in life is highlighted by the way they’re each disciplined. Rooster shows a kinder side as he cares for Xeo, and Alexandros shows surprising courage when he brings them the illicit ointment. Alexandros has a great deal of courage, even if it isn’t always displayed in the most societally celebrated ways.
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The next morning, Suicide, Dienekes’ squire, summons Rooster and Xeo. They’re filled with dread, but Suicide tells them they must be under a lucky star. Dienekes tells Xeo that he’s useless as a field hand, and furthermore, he’s a troublemaker and a bad influence on Alexandros. Rooster, too, is pathetic and loose-lipped. For some reason, Olympieus wants Rooster as his new squire, replacing Meriones. Blinking at this strange turn of events, Rooster runs off to his new duties.
Rooster and Xeo are sure they’re in trouble for the stolen ointment, but it turns out that the fortunes of each are about to change for the better. Dienekes, perhaps prompted by his wife Arete, sees Xeo’s promise, and Rooster is maneuvered into a position where he might be better connected.
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Next Dienekes turns to Xeo. He tells Xeo that a good squire must be “dumb as a mule, numb as a post and obedient as an imbecile”—and Xeo’s credentials are “impeccable.” Then Suicide pulls out Xeo’s old bow, taken from him when he’d first entered Sparta. Dienekes tells him that if he manages not to screw up, he might make a decent second squire. He’ll pack, hunt, and cook for Dienekes. He looks at Xeo with wry amusement and adds, “with luck, you might even get in a potshot at the enemy.”
Xeo is finally reunited with his old bow and elevated to a position that will put his old wilderness skills to good use. Dienekes’ wry words turn out to be predictive, as well. 
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