I’ve been playing the computer game Assassin’s Creed – Odyssey for the last week. What a wonderful game this is!
For two years I studied ancient Greece in college. My main focus was the wars of the Diadochi, the successors to Alexander the Great but I spent a great deal of time reading the history of the Greek city states from 500 B.C. to 200 B.C.
Odyssey puts you in Ancient Greece during the golden age of Athens. Your character meets with a host of famous historical figures from Socrates to Herodotus. The wildly unreliable but brilliant general Alcibiades is shown in his youth among many, many more.
You see potters making the clay pots which now fill the British Museum, you see Zoroastrians throwing meat on an altar below the Parthenon, as well as weavers, and a few other trades. Seeing Delphi and the Parthenon in all their glory is truly an experience, even if this is just a computer game.
The team at Ubisoft which created Odyssey hired an expert in ancient Greece, Dr. Stéphanie-Anne Ruatta, and she answered some questions from the curious man who has been exploring games from the perspective of an archaeologist (Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming). That interview is Consulting for Ubisoft on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. You can see some of the depth in the research involved in this game as Mr. Reinhard explains the background behind one quest here.
There are statues everywhere in the Greek cities you visit (and oddly, titanic statues of gods out in the wilderness, for reasons that as yet I do not understand). Some of the statues are painted, which is correct. Some are unpainted, the way they look today in museums, some of made of bronze and a few are covered in gold leaf (also correct).
Statues in Europe are still found in all the major cities, especially the great capital cites like London, Paris, Rome, and Vienna. There is a very long tradition of statues which represent gods which goes back to ancient Greece, and before that, to Ancient Egypt.
People still worship statues in India and much of east-Asia but… there are no statues of great men in Chinese cities and there never have been. Emperors of China, and Japan, and the Kings of Korea and Vietnam never had statues made for them.
Why not? I’ll talk about that in my next post.