Gates of Fire


Steven Pressfield

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Gates of Fire can help.

Gates of Fire: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

That winter, Xeo, Diomache, and Bruxieus suffer through the cold in the mountains. Xeo refuses to go into the city for medical treatment. He hates himself for the cowardice he displayed under suffering. Bruxieus tries to reassure him: “Only gods and heroes can be brave in isolation […] No one may expect valor from one cast out alone, cut off from the gods of his home.”
Xeo feels disgraced by the way he reacted to suffering. Bruxieus, describing his own condition as an enslaved person alienated from his city, comforts him with what will become a recurrent theme: real courage is impossible outside of brotherhood, which isn’t something Xeo can experience.
Cities, Identity, and Belonging Theme Icon
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Related Quotes
One night, despairing and racked with fever, Xeo sees his chance and climbs to the top of a mountain to die. He suddenly sees a man standing above him as he slumps at the base of a tree in the snow. The man speaks to Xeo with the majestic voice of a god, remarking that he has “always found the spear to be […] a rather inelegant weapon.” Xeo wonders at the significance of this and then notices the bow on the man’s shoulder and realizes that he is Apollo. He apprehends that Apollo is telling him that while he will never be able to grasp a spear with his mangled hand, he can still shoot a bow and arrow. Then Xeo hears Diomache calling for him and assures his weeping cousin that he is all right.
Xeo sees no way out but suicide, but the intervention of the god Apollo saves his life and inaugurates a lifetime in the god’s service for Xeo. He inspires Xeo to take up archery, and more than that, renews his desire for life and sense of purpose. Again, the supernatural is taken for granted as a real, prevalent force.
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon