Gates of Fire

by

Steven Pressfield

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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 Iatrokles, Dienekes’s brother, then married Arete after Iatrokles died. The two have never had any sons. Dienekes is an accomplished warrior but refuses honors and promotions, preferring the obscurity of being a platoon commander. He has a philosophical bent and considers himself a “student of fear” in particular—a science in which he trains Alexandros. He has a workmanlike approach to battle and dies at Thermopylae like a commander doing his “last and dirtiest job.”

Dienekes Quotes in Gates of Fire

The Gates of Fire quotes below are all either spoken by Dienekes or refer to Dienekes . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Cities, Identity, and Belonging Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam edition of Gates of Fire published in 1998.
Chapter 9 Quotes

We talked for hours in secret on the pursuit of esoterike harmonia, that state of self-composure which the exercises of the phobologia are designed to produce. As a string of the kithera vibrates purely, emitting only that note of the musical scale which is its alone, so must the individual warrior shed all which is superfluous in his spirit, until he himself vibrates at that sole pitch which his individual daimon dictates. The achievement of this ideal, in Lakedaemon, carries beyond courage on the battlefield; it is considered the supreme embodiment of virtue, andreia, of a citizen and a man.

Related Characters: Xeones (speaker), Alexandros, Dienekes
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

This, I realized now watching Dienekes rally and tend to his men, was the role of the officer—to prevent those under his command, at all stages of battle—before, during and after—from becoming “possessed.” To fire their valor when it flagged and rein in their fury when it threatened to take them out of hand. That was Dienekes’s job […]

His was not, I could see now, the heroism of an Achilles. He was not a superman who waded invulnerably into the slaughter, single-handedly slaying the foe by myriads. He was just a man doing a job. A job whose primary attribute was self-restraint and self-composure, not for his own sake, but for those whom he led by his example. A job whose objective could be boiled down to the single understatement, as he did at the Hot Gates on the morning he died, of “performing the commonplace under uncommonplace conditions.”

Related Characters: Xeones (speaker), Dienekes
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

“The gods make us love whom we will not,” the lady declared, “and disrequite whom we will. They slay those who should live and spare those who deserve to die. They give with one hand and take with the other, answerable only to their own unknowable laws […] Now, inspired by blind impulse,” she spoke toward me, “I have saved the life of this boy, my brother’s bastard’s son, and lost my husband’s in the process.”

Related Characters: Arete (speaker), Xeones, Dienekes , Dekton (“Rooster”), Iatrokles, Idotychides
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

“Now consider, friends, that which we call women’s courage.

What could be more contrary to female nature, to motherhood, than to stand unmoved and unmoving as her sons march off to death? Must not every sinew of the mother’s flesh call out in agony and affront at such an outrage? Must not her heart seek to cry in its passion, ‘No! Not my son! Spare him!’ That women, from some source unknown to use, summon the will to conquer this their own deepest nature is, I believe, the reason we stand in awe of our mothers and sisters and wives. This, I believe, Dienekes, is the essence of women’s courage and why it, as you suggested, is superior to men’s.”

Related Characters: Ariston (speaker), Dienekes
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

Nothing fires the warrior’s heart more with courage than to find himself and his comrades at the point of annihilation, at the brink of being routed and overrun, and then to dredge not merely from one’s own bowels or guts but from one’s own discipline and training the presence of mind not to panic, but to yield to the possession of despair, but instead to complete those homely acts of order which Dienekes had ever declared the supreme accomplishment of the warrior: to perform the commonplace under far-from-commonplace conditions.

Related Characters: Xeones (speaker), Dienekes
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 34 Quotes

“Brothers, I’m not a king or a general. I’ve never held rank beyond that of a platoon commander. So I say to you now only what I would say to my own men, knowing the fear that stands unspoken in each heart—not of death, but worse, of faltering or failing, of somehow proving unworthy in this, the ultimate hour […] Here is what you do, friends. Forget country. Forget king. Forget wife and children and freedom. Forget every concept, however noble, that you imagine you fight for here today. Act for this alone: for the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him. That’s all I know. That’s all I can tell you.”

Related Characters: Dienekes (speaker)
Page Number: 355
Explanation and Analysis:
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Gates of Fire PDF

Dienekes Character Timeline in Gates of Fire

The timeline below shows where the character Dienekes appears in Gates of Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Cities, Identity, and Belonging Theme Icon
Faith and Divine Intervention Theme Icon
...god’s hand” delivered him into the service of the Spartan youth, Alexandros, and his mentor, Dienekes. This saved Xeo’s life. (full context)
Cities, Identity, and Belonging Theme Icon
Warfare and Brotherhood Theme Icon
...helot, and platoon leaders have two. Xeo had the good fortune to be chosen by Dienekes as one of these. His duties were to tend and transport Dienekes’ armor, prepare his... (full context)
Chapter 5
Cities, Identity, and Belonging Theme Icon
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...that evening, 12-year-old Alexandros, who was Tripod’s close friend, takes a walk with his mentor, Dienekes. Since Xeo is in Alexandros’s service by this time, he trails along behind. Dienekes speaks... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Dienekes goes on the explain to Alexandros that what Tripod displayed that day was more reckless... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...in his story to the age of 19. He is now in the service of Dienekes of Sparta and has been dispatched in attendance upon him and other Spartan allies to... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Kingship, Loyalty, and Freedom Theme Icon
Xeo accompanies Dienekes when he is urgently summoned to Olympia. Xeo suspects that this has to do with... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
In Olympia, Dienekes shows Xeo the name of his dead brother, Iatrokles, recorded on the Avenue of the... (full context)
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Dienekes goes on to tell Xeo the story of his marriage to his wife, Arete. Arete... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...six years before Thermopylae, when he was 14 years old and not yet employed as Dienekes’ squire. He was working as the sparring partner of Alexandros, Dienekes’ protégé and the son... (full context)
Chapter 9
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Alexandros’s asthma attacks seem to be brought on by fear. Dienekes works with him on the discipline of phobologia, the science of fear. The science is... (full context)
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...“killer instinct” in his friend. When Alexandros’s lungs spasm, Xeo instinctively pulls his punch, but Dienekes furiously goads him into finishing the boy off. Xeo punches Alexandros as hard as he... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...slope onto the field as his friend searches for his loved ones. Both Olympieus and Dienekes emerge unscathed from the fray and embrace Alexandros in shock. His father quickly turns angry,... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...gloating over the vanquished, but offering the humble thank-offering of a single rooster. He watches Dienekes re-forming the ranks and thinks about the state of mind that Spartans try to avoid... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...Captain of the Knights. This makes him a hero for all Greece, “a second Achilles.” Dienekes, by contrast, had been honored as a Knight just once and had declined subsequent distinctions,... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...observes that Polynikes’ courage is “something in the blood and marrow,” an “instinctual supremacy,” whereas Dienekes’ is the courage of “a fallible mortal” whose valor emerges from “the force of some... (full context)
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Finally, Dienekes interjects. He gently asks his protégé why he doesn’t lie like every other boy under... (full context)
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Outside the mess hall, Dienekes speaks to Polynikes, demanding to know why he hates Alexandros. Polynikes replies that Alexandros does... (full context)
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After this, Dienekes takes a walk with Alexandros and comforts him, reminding him that Polynikes really would die... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Before everyone can disperse for the night, a helot boy brings a message from Dienekes’ house. To Xeo’s shock, the summons is for him. He follows the servant boy to... (full context)
Chapter 14
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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... (full context)
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Next Dienekes turns to Xeo. He tells Xeo that a good squire must be “dumb as a... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...the years, Xeo wonders often about his cousin Diomache, but even when his service for Dienekes brings him to Athens, he is unable to learn her whereabouts. He decides he must... (full context)
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At last, the declaration of war comes. Dienekes’ men get the word from another platoon commander, and the word quickly passes down the... (full context)
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Dienekes sends Xeo to his house, with a message requesting Arete and their daughters to join... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
A rump court gathers under cover of darkness, near the mess hall butchery. Olympieus and Dienekes join the other Peers. It quickly becomes clear that Alexandros had tried to persuade Rooster... (full context)
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Female Strength and Influence Theme Icon
...boy, she says, is not Rooster’s at all; he is the son of Arete’s husband, Dienekes. (full context)
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Female Strength and Influence Theme Icon
Arete gets the sobbing Harmonia to admit that Dienekes is the infant’s father. The Peers refuse to believe this or even to ask Dienekes... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Female Strength and Influence Theme Icon
...seeing the Peers frozen in consternation, quietly implores her husband. Staring into her wife’s eyes, Dienekes at last swears that the child is his. He accepts the baby from her, and... (full context)
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As Dienekes helps his trembling wife away (she was “beginning to experience that quaking of the limbs... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Kingship, Loyalty, and Freedom Theme Icon
...the ridgepole of the tent, which nearly struck him that night. He explains that Alexandros, Dienekes, and Polynikes were there, too. Xerxes examines the axehead and then tells Mardonius, “Tell me... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...the marshaling of the tiny force of Three Hundred on the Spartan plain. As expected, Dienekes is among them. More surprisingly, Alexandros, only 20 years old, was also picked. The Spartans... (full context)
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Female Strength and Influence Theme Icon
...Peers are allowed to spend a carefree day on their estates with their families. While Dienekes is occupied with settling farm business, Xeo joins Arete in the farm kitchen. She tells... (full context)
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Arete asks Xeo what happened when he accompanied Dienekes on embassy to Athens last month—did he locate Diomache? When Xeo is hesitant to speak,... (full context)
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On the morning of the march-out, Xeo watches Arete solemnly bid Dienekes goodbye. King Leonidas does the same with his wife, Gorgo. Xeo bids his wife, Thereia,... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...describes massive stores of weapons, supplies, and even sky-high mountains of paper for inventory. Soon Dienekes shows up and begins listening to the story. The merchant, warming to his story and... (full context)
Chapter 23
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That night, Dienekes is restless. Xeo watches his master give up sleep and join the king’s fireside. Xeo... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...well and wonders aloud, “How will we do? […] Will we find the answer to Dienekes’ question? Will we discover within ourselves ‘the opposite of fear?’” (full context)
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Three days before the march to Sparta, Dienekes had taken his platoon on a hunt. As the warriors gather around the campfire that... (full context)
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Dienekes tells the youthful warriors that veterans are not exempt from fear; in fact, they feel... (full context)
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Female Strength and Influence Theme Icon
Achilles, Dienekes says, was mostly invulnerable. Therefore, he cannot be said to have possessed true andreia. Polynikes,... (full context)
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Female Strength and Influence Theme Icon
...set the whole above the part, Alexandros argues, is what’s so admirable about women’s sacrifice. Dienekes promises to later tell them a story about Leonidas that will give them insight both... (full context)
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Kingship, Loyalty, and Freedom Theme Icon
...approaches the camp. He requests an audience with four Spartan officers: Olympieus, Aristodemos, Polynikes, and Dienekes. It turns out that the messenger is Ptammitechus, “Tommie,” the Egyptian marine the Spartan officers... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Before his men enter the fray, Dienekes addresses them. He repeatedly recalls the men’s eyes to him, away from the fighting. He... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...are at the brink of annihilation, they yield to “those homely acts of order which Dienekes had ever declared the supreme accomplishment of the warrior,” not just individually but as a... (full context)
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Dienekes has always sought to de-mystify war by regarding it as “work.” As brave as the... (full context)
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
Xeo eventually finds Dienekes and Alexandros, collapsed in exhaustion on the ground, as the platoon is relieved by allied... (full context)
Chapter 26
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Polynikes joins Dienekes’ fireside, looking grim. Dienekes asks him if he’s had enough of glory. Polynikes doesn’t reply,... (full context)
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Dienekes watches Alexandros with a bitter expression as his injured protégé volunteers to take the place... (full context)
Chapter 27
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When Xeo and Dienekes reach the command post, Xeo sees that the clean nearby spring is now gushing sulphurous... (full context)
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Dienekes says it’s too late for him and Xeo to keep secrets from one another. He... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...three terrified captives are brought before the Spartans. While allies yell for the deserters’ blood, Dienekes decides to intervene. He walks forward and cuts the prisoners loose. To the outraged onlookers,... (full context)
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Dienekes says that these captives must live out their days cursed by the knowledge of their... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Leonidas grudgingly spares a party of 11 soldiers to raid Xerxes’ tent. It includes Dienekes, Rooster, Suicide, Alexandros, and Xeo. Rooster, after all, has only been detained, not executed. They’re... (full context)
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...After a few hours, they take shelter in a warm thicket recently vacated by deer. Dienekes says they’ll come back next fall for a good hunt in this spot, inviting even... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Later, Dienekes speaks to Xeo, reminding him of the earlier conversation with Alexandros and Ariston about fear... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...as a scimitar takes off his friend’s hand as he’s preparing to hurl his spear. Dienekes is there instantly, hauling Alexandros to his feet and ordering them out of the tent.... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...even offer bandages and other supplies for Alexandros. Alexandros is clearly in shock. He asks Dienekes in a childlike voice, “Am I dying?” “You’ll die when I say you can,” his... (full context)
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...Leonidas reports that the Immortals haven’t yet arrived, but that the allies are being dismissed. Dienekes yells at everyone to be quiet and listens carefully for Alexandros’s breathing. Then he gives... (full context)
Chapter 34
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Kingship, Loyalty, and Freedom Theme Icon
...Alexandros’s bravery. He also reports that Leonidas has released all squires from service as well. Dienekes has never compelled Xeo’s service. But Xeo refuses to leave. Rooster points out that Rooster... (full context)
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The men call upon Dienekes to speak, expecting something witty. But instead he tells the men, “Forget every concept, however... (full context)
Chapter 35
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...before the final battle, Leonidas chatted with each of his generals. As he talked with Dienekes about their shared respect for the distant Persians, he expressed his sorrow for them: “What... (full context)
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...shield, and the helmet and cap of other fallen Spartans. He fights alongside Suicide and Dienekes. (full context)
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...of the day. Cavalry and the Persian Immortals are beginning to pour over the wall. Dienekes and another general goes down, not like a Homeric hero, but “like commanders completing their... (full context)
Chapter 36
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Female Strength and Influence Theme Icon
...to say about women’s courage. Xeo does so, as the story was originally told to Dienekes by Paraleia. This occurred a few evenings before the march to Thermopylae. Several wives and... (full context)