3 The Warrior Archetype

Episode Three: Spartan Women, Part Two

Why did king Leonidas pick the specific 300 warriors that he did to fight the Persians (and to face certain death) at Thermopylae?

To this day, no one knows.

In Gates of Fire, I imagined an answer. Leonidas chose his Three Hundred—including himself, for he knew he too would die in the coming battle—not for their own courage but for the courage of their women.

In today’s video, we’ll investigate further the mindset of these wives and mothers, sisters and daughters of the ancient world’s premier warrior culture.

Subscribe here for the full series, or watch previous episodes here

Subscribe here for the full series, or watch previous episodes here


  1. Andrew lubin on August 24, 2020 at 6:22 am

    “Because you can.” And it remains true today for the wives and mothers of our Marines and Soldiers who marched off to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other climes and places. S/f

  2. Terry Weaver on August 24, 2020 at 6:44 am

    Steve, you reminded me of this quote, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” -G.k. Chesterton, English philosopher known as the “prince of paradox”

    Good stuff, S/F

  3. Joe Jansen on August 24, 2020 at 8:20 am

    I love that this scene was added at the encouragement (insistence?) of Kate and Nita, and it ends up being the scene many readers find most memorable.

  4. Scott on August 24, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    This passage has a hidden subtlety: When Paraleia says, “These are the last tears that the sun will ever see.,” the subtext is that she will doing her grieving at night, alone. She understands that Leonides is *not* asking her not to grieve at all. That would not be human. He’s asking her to swallow her grief in public. I don’t know if the author intended that, but that’s how it reads to me. And it is an example of letting the reader extrapolate on his own from this brief exchange what is forthcoming to her, instead of having a line that later spells it all out, like “and then she sobbed her heart out at night.” This is a marvelous unspoken connection between Paraliea and Leonides, where she shows perfect understanding what he asks of her.

    • Steven Pressfield on August 24, 2020 at 2:47 pm

      That’s it, Scott. That’s it exactly. The key part of the quote is “that the sun will ever see.” Thanks for getting it.

  5. Johanne Crawford on August 25, 2020 at 4:40 am

    Wow…it says so much about mothers in general, how we keep all the plates spinning in midst of the chaos and fear that life throws our way while revealing the warrior mom within that moves forward in the uncertainty.

  6. Erick Yates Green on August 26, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Empowering indeed is it to be invited into this your sharing of the “Warrior Archetype” video series and teachings of you, Steven Pressfield, in amongst the balance of this vlog team of co-witnesses and fellow Life and story voyagers.

    Especially in this time of isolation caused by uninvited frightening Covid-19 invaders, to share this kindred exploration into the history of how woman and mankind gathered enough courageous camaraderie to face their enemies—both physical and Spiritual—is a gift SO damn-sure much appreciated!!!

    And both a filmmaker and film professor [and a confessed creative-ADD easily distracted person}, I also much admire how you present your video series and even ‘Writings Wednesdays’ in singular tangible chapters of wisdom. Not only does your teaching strategy make your given material possible to absorb from beginning to end [to which I am able to reach : ) ], but it also helps bake in each lesson so that it still reverberates throughout the day and week.

  7. Mary on December 29, 2020 at 7:09 am

    Thank you so very much for sharing this episode! I really like it! I like history and write a lot in the academic field (find additional info here assignmenthelp4aussies.com) You are a very good story-teller!

  8. Brian Nelson on February 11, 2021 at 7:12 pm

    I just watched this again, and damn if it doesn’t hit me in the solar plexus with the same power as the time I read it. Same tears. Same nodding of head.

    I’ve generally thought of my own wife in this passage, but tonight I remembered a present day Paraleia who lives outside of Joint Base Lewis McCord.

    BLUF: Lisa Hallett’s husband John was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, 17 days after Lisa gave birth to their daughter Heidi. In short, Lisa, and the other women of 1/17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade, ran through their grief.

    Below is Lisa’s TEDx Tacoma talk, and a link to the organization she created to help people deal with loss and grief. It is truly an amazing story, and a present day example of a woman who personifies the Warrior Archetype.

    TEDx Tacoma:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9v3TMrsbdg

    wear blue; run to remember:https://www.wearblueruntoremember.org

    Lisa’s story in her own words as one of President Bush’s “Presidential Leadership Scholar”: https://www.presidentialleadershipscholars.org/running-to-remember-lisas-story/

    I know Lisa. I’ve learned more about leadership from women like Lisa and my wife than I ever learned in OCS.

    This maybe in the top 1000 words Steven Pressfield has ever written. Thank God you had two women editors!

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  18. Coby Brian on November 12, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    In the enigmatic selection of the 300 warriors for the fateful stand at Thermopylae, King Leonidas may have looked beyond individual bravery, choosing instead for the collective strength of Spartan women. Imagined in Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire,” Leonidas might have envisioned his warriors as embodiments of the indomitable spirit of their female counterparts. This perspective aligns with the deeply ingrained ethos of Spartan society, where the courage and resilience of the women were seen as integral to the endurance of the warrior culture. The intricate interplay between the valor of Spartan men and the steadfastness of their women, as depicted in Pressfield’s work, sheds light on the multifaceted motivations that shaped this historic decision. (Note: Nations of Darkness, by StarFortune)

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