Gates of Fire


Steven Pressfield

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Gates of Fire Characters


“Xeo,” son of Skamandridas of Astakos, is a young man and squire of the heavy infantry, rescued by Apollo after the battle of Thermopylae and tasked with telling the story of what happened there. While… read analysis of Xeones

King Xerxes I

Xerxes is the King of Persia. At the beginning of the novel, his forces are overrunning Greece. Having conquered most of Asia, he now has ambitions to overrun Europe as well, beginning with Greece. When… read analysis of King Xerxes I

King Leonidas

Leonidas is the King of Sparta and a foil for King Xerxes. He is around 60 years old at the time of Thermopylae. Leonidas is beloved for treating his men like comrades, training and… read analysis of King Leonidas


Apollo is a god of the Greek pantheon, the deity of archery among many other things. At the beginning of the novel, a dying Xeo sees a vision of him on the battlefield and believes… read analysis of Apollo


Alexandros is a noble Spartan youth enrolled in the agoge whose service Xeo enters after he’s rejected by the helots. He and Xeo become close friends. Alexandros is Olympieus’s and Paraleia’s son… read analysis of Alexandros
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Dienekes is a Spartan warrior who serves as Alexandros’s beloved mentor and whom Xeo serves as squire at Thermopylae. His wife is Arete. He loved Arete while she was married to Iatroklesread analysis of Dienekes

Dekton (“Rooster”)

Dekton is a half-Spartan, the son of Arete’s brother Idotychides, and half-Messenian. He serves the Spartan army as a helot and mightily resents the Spartans. He is an atheist, the only one Xeoread analysis of Dekton (“Rooster”)


Diomache is Xeo’s cousin, age 13 at the beginning of the story. After her hometown is attacked, she is raped by Argive soldiers. She eventually moves to Athens but lives a hellish life there… read analysis of Diomache

Antaurus (“Suicide”)

Suicide is a Scythian who served as Iatrokles’s and Dienekes’s squire and Xeo’s instructor. He fled to Sparta after committing a crime and tried to get others to kill him, to no… read analysis of Antaurus (“Suicide”)


Arete is Dienekes’s wife. She was first married to Iatrokles. She has several daughters but is subsequently barren, never bearing a son. She is an audacious woman, shaping Spartan events behind the scenes… read analysis of Arete


Polynikes is a pitiless warrior, a knight, and a famed Olympic champion. He is a nephew of Leonidas. Polynikes has always had a grudge against Alexandros and treated him brutally while Alexandros was in… read analysis of Polynikes


Bruxieus is Xeo’s family’s household slave. He was initially enslaved and blinded by the Argives as a young man. He was acquired by Xeo’s father past the age of 40. He is loved by… read analysis of Bruxieus


Elephantinos is a merchant (a blade-sharpener) from Miletus who follows the Spartan army to Thermopylae after they help him with his broken-down wagon along the way. He ends up becoming “a kind of mascot or… read analysis of Elephantinos
Minor Characters
Tenagros is Diomache’s father and Xeo’s uncle. He survives the attack on Astakos, but after sending the children to safety in the city, he is never seen again.
Teriander (“Tripod”)
Tripod was a young Spartan-in-training who was whipped to death by his drill instructors, refusing to ask for mercy. He was Alexandros’s close friend.
Iatrokles was Dienekes’s brother. He was married to Arete. He died a hero’s death at 31 and was considered the noblest warrior of his generation.
Olympieus, a Spartan warrior, is Alexandros’s father and Paraleia’s wife. He dies at Thermopylae.
Gobartes the Historian
Gobartes is the Persian historian who transcribes Xeo’s tale for the historical record at Xerxes’s command, effectively making him the book’s narrator. When Greece prevails at the end of the book, he is nearly killed by Spartans, but Rooster spares him when he hears of Gobartes’ connection to Xeo.
Orontes is King Xerxes’s captain. He becomes a confidant of sorts to Xeo while Xeo is Xerxes’s captive.
Demaratos is a deposed and exiled Spartan king who lives as a guest and trusted adviser in Xerxes’s court; when Xeo becomes suicidal on hearing of Leonidas’s desecration after Thermopylae, Demaratos assuages Xeo by appealing to his piety toward Apollo.
Paraleia is the wife of Dienekes and mother of Alexandros.
Arete’s late brother and father of Rooster.
King Xerxes’s field marshal and trusted adviser.
Warrioress and queen of Halicarnassus; King Xerxes’s trusted adviser.
Gorgo is Leonidas’s wife and queen of Sparta; her name means “Bright Eyes.” Her son, Pleistarchus, will one day become King of Sparta.
Thereia is Xeo’s wife. She is Rooster’s cousin, a Messenian, and has two children with him. Xeo regrets that he can’t love her as she deserves.
Sphaireus, “Ball Player”
Ball Player, like Xeo, was an orphaned refugee after the attack on Astakos. Unlike Xeo, he seeks to profit from war and becomes a scout for the Spartan troops at Thermopylae. He also joins the raiders when they infiltrate the Persian camp.
A Spartan Skirite ranger, who’s accompanied to Thermopylae by his hunting dog, Styx, and is nicknamed accordingly.
Ariston is a young Spartan warrior. He is killed in the first day of battle at Thermopylae. He is Alexandros’s brother-in-law, brother of Agathe.
Agathe is Ariston’s sister and becomes Alexandross wife.
Meriones is Olympieus’s beloved, elderly squire, who is killed on the battlefield in Antirhion.
Messenieus is believed to be Rooster’s and Harmonia’s son, later found to be Dienekes’s son.
Harmonia is Rooster’s wife and mother, by Dienekes, of Messenieus.
A seer who accompanies the Spartans to Thermopylae.
A Persian noble and captain, husband of a Greek woman, who warns the Spartans that the Persian Immortals are on their way to encircle them. They dismiss his warnings.
Ptammitechus (“Tommie”)
An Egyptian marine and ship captain whom the Spartan officers Olympieus, Aristodemos, Polynikes, and Dienekes meet on embassy. He later serves as a messenger for King Xerxes and begs the Greeks not to go to war with Persia, but they reject his plea.
A Spartan Peer who examines Dienekes’s son, Messenieus, when he is an infant. He then deems Dienekes eligible to be chosen for the Three Hundred and Thermopylae.
A Spartan officer alongside Olympieus, Polynikes, and Dienekes.