The Assassin’s Creed series is well known for its historical gameplay. The designers take pains to recreate historical locales with surprising accuracy, and weave historical as well as legendary stories throughout. In Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the historian whose writing is the source for so much Greek history isn’t just behind the scenes — he is a main character.
Herodotus is known as the “Father of History.” Many stories of Ancient Greece are known to use first and foremost through his writing. Without Herodotus, little of the storytelling in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey would be possible.
The ancient Greek writer was born in the year 484 BC in the city of Halicarnassus, which was a Greek settlement within the Persian empire — what better vantage point to write about the Greco-Persian Wars which form part of the backdrop of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
Herodotus travelled across the Mediterranean Sea for most of his life recording in every land he set foot the stories of not only true events but also what we would call myths and legends. Herodotus did not differentiate as a modern historian would. At the time, “history” was not defined.
So maybe it’s fitting that Assassin’s Creed, so much of which is indebted to his writing, is also a mixture of fact and imagination.
Set in the year 431 BC, about ten years after Herodotus wrote his famous work, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey puts the player in the shoes of a character that roams and explores the islands of Ancient Greece, the land of myths and legends. Throughout the journey, you will come across different in real-life locations, moments and people, even Herodotus himself.
Herodotus also spent time in Athens, where he became known for his storytelling, in which he would read aloud from his “Histories,” a word which also meant, “Inquiries.” His book starts off with a famous opening sentence: “Herodotus of Halicarnassus, here displays his inquires, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time and great and marvellous deeds. Some displayed by Greeks, some by barbarians, may not be without their glory”.
While some of Herodotus’s so-called history is clearly made up, some seemingly fictional stories may still have a basis in fact. For example, he claims that there is a type of an ant that is the size of a fox in Persia that would spread gold dust when digging their mounds. Many people assumed this must be false but in 1984, French author and explorer, Michel Peissel, confirmed that a species of marmot in Afghanistan was known by locals for digging up gold with their mounds. A mistranslation of the name may have produced, “mountain ant.”
The Assassin’s Creed series have always brought a healthy respect for history into the world of gaming. The next installment in the series is rumored to revolve around Vikings and their conflict with the Saxons, so expect the Assassin’s Creed writers and designers to be spending lots of time with the Poetic Edda and the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.
So if you can’t wait for the next game, you could study up on those texts too.
Image credit: Ubisoft