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Friday, July 1, 2011

Gates of Fire

Read a book Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, a historical novel based on the battle of Thermopylae. It is a nice mix of fact and fiction , the drama just enough to smoothen the rough edges and to add a little spice to a simple battle report.

Of course the victors write the history and it would be worth remembering the words of Mark Twain

"The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice."

Though over 2500 years have passed since, the Spartan culture , governed by the laws of Lycurgus continues to inspire and influence military minds, particularly the spartan way of training for war.

The story is narrated in the words of a low ranking person in the Spartan society helot / Squire. It reminds me of another great book on written by a German private , one of the best books I have read on World War - II, "A Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sager .These books paint a broad brush on the macro events while concentrating on the innermost emotional experiences of soldiers during war and what soldiers call minor tactics or battle craft.

The language used is not scholarly but simple narrative style. Even a profound statement is reduced to simple words. During a lull in the battle a non Spartan tells the Spartans , "I now realize that all the drill and discipline you Spartans love to pound into each other's skulls were really not to inculcate skill or art, but only to produce this glue that bind a unit together"

" Only to produce this glue"; The words ring true even today. In military academies they talk of camaraderie, team spirit and bonding which are nothing but the quantity and quality of 'this glue'. At least in infantry battles it this 'glue' which decides the outcome, even in the 21st century.

1 comment:

Anu said...

Will give this a go, I like reading about Sparta.