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Review: Gates of Athens

Conn Iggulden

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Gates of Athens

Gates of Athens is the first book in a new trilogy by Conn Iggulden, the acclaimed author of numerous historical novels. This time the writer decided to take us to the 5th century BCE and show the rivalry of Greek cities with the powerful Persian Empire under the rule of Darius and Xerxes.

The action of the book is twofold. On the one hand, we accompany the Greeks, e.g. Xantippus, Themistocles, Aristides or Militiades, who lead the Athenians and defend the Greek world against the Persian invasion. Then we also get to know the fighting style of the Greeks, social life, political system and family relations. In other fragments we meet the influential leader and leader of the Persians, Darius, and Xerxes, who is to succeed him. The alternation of the two sides allows the reader to understand how different worlds clashed twice at Marathon. The author does not focus on idealizing the Greek world but tries to show its true face. A great example is ostracism, which, despite the fact that it was aimed at defending freedom against hated tyranny, was very often used as an element of political rivalry. It was in this way that the distinguished Greeks Aristides and Xantippus were expelled from Athens. Intrigue, bribery and rivalry were no strangers. Persia, in turn, is a world of exoticism and the dedication of thousands of individuals to the realization of one man’s plans.

The book was published in a very nice form. The cover features a beautiful graphic showing a Greek hoplite in combat. In addition, to diversify the content, very interesting maps illustrating Greece and Asia Minor have been added at the beginning; Athens from the beginning of the 5th century BCE; a map of the battle of Marathon in 490 BCE and movements of Persian troops. In addition, there is a list of characters, places and offices in ancient Greece. At the end of the book you will find a historical note in which the author in a very professional way refers to individual issues in the plot. The only thing I personally missed was the historical sources on which the author relied, and which enthusiasts could explore further.

Overall, the book is very interesting and promises further interesting action. As a person who is particularly interested in the history of ancient Rome, “The Gates of Athens” was an interesting variation that made it possible to visualize how great events for the world took place east of Italy at the beginning of the Roman Republic in the 5th century BCE.

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