Gates of Fire


Steven Pressfield

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Katalepsis Term Analysis

Katalepsis, or “madness,” is “that yielding to fear or anger which robs an army of order and reduces it to a rabble.” Throughout the book, Dienekes is concerned with the study of fear and self-composure as a means of counteracting katalepsis.

Katalepsis Quotes in Gates of Fire

The Gates of Fire quotes below are all either spoken by Katalepsis or refer to Katalepsis. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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 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 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 29 Quotes

“A most impressive testimony of faith, my lord,” the prince spoke after some moments. “Such devout orations cannot fail to sustain your men’s courage. For an hour. Until darkness and fatigue efface the passion of the moment, and fear for themselves and their families resurfaces, as it must, within their hearts.”

The noble repeated with emphasis his report of the mountain track and the Ten Thousand. He declared that if the hand of the gods was at all present in this day’s events, it was not their benevolence seeking to preserve the Hellenic defenders but their perverse and unknowable will acting to detach them from their reason. Surely a commander of Leonidas’s sagacity perceived this, as clearly as he, lifting his glace to the cliff of Kallidromos, could behold there upon the rock the scores of lightning scars…

Related Characters: Tyrrhastiadas (speaker), King Leonidas
Page Number: 313
Explanation and Analysis:
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Katalepsis Term Timeline in Gates of Fire

The timeline below shows where the term Katalepsis appears in Gates of Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11
Warfare and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Fear, Courage, and Love Theme Icon
...ranks and thinks about the state of mind that Spartans try to avoid at all costs—katalepsis, or possession, “that derangement of the senses that comes when terror or anger usurps dominion... (full context)