Gates of Fire


Steven Pressfield

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Polis is the general term for a Greek city-state, the center of culture and identity. Xeo suffers a loss of identity when his polis, Astakos, is destroyed at the beginning of the novel, and he seeks a new identity in the polis of Sparta.

Polis Quotes in Gates of Fire

The Gates of Fire quotes below are all either spoken by Polis or refer to Polis. 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 6 Quotes

“Listen to me, boy. Only gods and heroes can be brave in isolation. A man may call upon courage only one way, in the ranks with his brothers-in-arms, the line of his tribe and his city. Most piteous of all states under heaven is that of a man alone, bereft of the gods of his home and his polis. A man without a city is not a man. He is a shadow, a shell, a joke and a mockery. That is what you have become now, my poor Xeo. No one may expect valor from one cast out alone, cut off from the gods of his home.”

Related Characters: Bruxieus (speaker), Xeones
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Bruxieus began to fear for us. We were growing wild. Cityless. In evenings past, Bruxieus had recited Homer and made it a game how many verses we could repeat without a slip. Now this exercise took on a deadly earnestness for him. He was failing, we all knew it. He would not be with us much longer. Everything he knew, he must pass on.

Homer was our school, the Iliad and Odyssey the texts of our curriculum […] Bruxieus tutored us relentlessly in compassion, that virtue which he saw diminishing each day within our mountain-hardened hearts […]

We must have a city, Bruxieus declared.

Without a city we were no better than the wild brutes we hunted and killed.

Related Characters: Xeones (speaker), Diomache , Bruxieus
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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Polis Term Timeline in Gates of Fire

The timeline below shows where the term Polis appears in Gates of Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Cities, Identity, and Belonging Theme Icon has been annihilated, and not just physically: “the very spirit of our nation, the polis itself, that ideal of mind called Astakos […] Without a city, who were we?” (full context)
Chapter 5
Cities, Identity, and Belonging Theme Icon
...and they try to regain a sense of Astakiot fellow-feeling, “but the extinction of our polis had severed those happy bonds forever.” It’s everyone for himself. (full context)