The Battle of Thermopylae between a small force several thousand Spartans and their Greek allies against an overwhelming army from Asia under Persian King Xerxes command in 480 BC is told by the lone surviving Greek a squire named Xeones. Xerxes is the ambitious heir, son of Darius the former great ruler of the Persian Empire, wishing to forge his own glorious legacy through conquest of the Hellenic nations who have been at war with Persia for hundreds of years. With a narrative that jumps forward and back in time throughout, Xeones starts his tale in his childhood before he found servitude as the valet of a young Spartan warrior named Alexandros. At the age of ten he and his older cousin Diomache are orphaned when their families are slain by raiders from Argos. They take to the hills along with a trusted family slave trying just to survive. In the course of their wandering over several years, he is caught stealing and has his hands nailed to a board, she is gang raped by soldiers, and their servant dies of hardship and old age. Eventually Diomache is taken in to be a maid of a wealthy Athenian matron, while Xeones follows his dream to someday serve in the Spartan army.
Continuing his narration in gut-wrenching detail to King Xerxes, Xeones tells of the harshness of Spartan warrior training and the rigors placed upon the men who are soldiers for life. Dozens of warriors and their squires are introduced including champion of the games Polynikes, battle-scarred veteran Dienekes, and the father and son duo of Olympieus and Alexandros. Many years pass and Xeones has taken a wife and has a son. As the impending Persian invasion draws near Spartan King Leonitas decrees that 300 peers will be chosen to lead the defense of Greece at Thermopylae but only those having sired male offspring may have the honor of serving. Finding most of her allies have fled or joined the Persian side, the Spartan force will be joined by only a few thousand additional Greek warriors to face the reported 2 million approaching enemy troops. Xeones tells of heroism of the Greeks against staggering odds during his seven days at Thermopylae. The story also intertwines Xeones never dying love for his long lost cousin as well as the incredible strength of the women of Sparta who must watch as fathers, husbands and sons march off to the face death in the defense of country and family.
The review of this Book prepared by David Fletcher