Historia Gaming!

 As a lover of gaming and history, I have always found it fascinating that game developers constantly look to the past for inspiration whilst creating something for the future – and this is something that I want to explore and share with you all in more detail. From “Assassins Creed Odyssey” to “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”, this new blog series will explore mythology and history, discussing people, places and events and their reception in the digital age.

Wait a second – gaming and history?! What’s gaming got to do with it, I hear you ask? Well, as it turns out, an awful lot! Gaming and history happen to be two of my favourite things, especially when interwoven with one another. For years, history and gaming have combined to bring us some of the most memorable games ever made – I mean let’s be honest, who doesn’t love ‘Age of Empires.’ It isn’t hard to see why game developers choose historical settings either. History has a wealth of content to choose from, with events ranging from the gruesome to the fundamentally absurd and with historical figures who you abhor and adore. By playing around with history, game developers are able to create an immersive pseudo-fantastical world that retains elements of reality.

But just how accurate are all these games? Well, that is something this series will be looking at! I will be taking historical sites, sculptures and people, discussing them historically and then analysing just how accurate the in-game depictions really are, beginning with Assassins Creed Odyssey.

So without further ado, let us begin with our first comparison post: The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion.

Sounion’s original temple of Poseidon is believed to have been destroyed by Persian troops around 480 BC during the invasion of Xerxes I. The surviving temple which we see today was built between 444-440 BC during the ascendancy of the Athenian statesman Pericles. He had a thing for buildings apparently – he also restored the Parthenon in Athens.  The temple originally would have had 38 columns, however (sadly) only 16 of these remain today, with four of the columns re-erected in the 20th century. Inside the temple there would have been a huge bronze statue of Poseidon around 6 meters high.

Fun fact: the cliff edge that Sounion is built upon is believed to be the cliff where King Aegeus waited for his son Theseus to return from his quest to kill the Minotaur. When Theseus returned he forgot to change the sail from black to white (idiot), leading Aegeus to believe he was dead. In despair he threw himself off the cliff and into the sea – now called the Aegean.

The temple of Poseidon at Sounion is considered one of the major monuments of the ‘Golden Age of Athens.’ The Golden Age of Athens began in 478 BC following the defeat of the Persians and was a period of economic, political, military and cultural growth for the city. The playwrights Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles lived and worked during this golden age, as did the incredible historians Herodotus and Thucydides, and philosophers Plato and Socrates. It makes sense to me that this beautiful temple was erected at such a prosperous time, and the Greek writer Strabo also noted its beauty calling it “the most notable” temple of Poseidon.

So how does Assassins Creed compare?

Well, sadly (for me), it disappoints. Without a doubt, the temple at Sounion is one of the most imposing and breathtakingly beautiful sites in the world – but in the game it falls flat.

This is primarily due to the fact that the temple is much smaller in the game. The steps leading up to the temple are comparatively diminutive and the height of the temple is lacking which gives it a much squatter appearance than its real life counterpart. The height of the cliff is also greatly reduced, which – once again – detracts away from reality, as the programmers have massively scaled down the temple and its surroundings. Also the temple in the game consists of only 30 of the 38 columns that it had in real life, which indicates that it is not an entirely accurate reconstruction.

Other than size, however, one glaring mistake is the columns – and not just their number, but their style (Get ready to be wowed!)

The columns of the real-life temple are of the Doric Order, which was one of the three columnar orders of classical architecture. Doric columns are easily recognised purely because of their simplicity, as they have no base and drop directly onto the platform of the temple. The top of Doric columns are also very simple, normally circular in form under a square cushion. However, the columns used in the game are definitely not Doric columns:  because of the fancy swirl at the top known as ‘volutes’ – the scroll like ornament which you can see capping the columns  – these belong to the Ionic Order. As you can see here, these bad boys have volutes all over the place, which would insinuate that they are Ionic columns – meaning the game developers haven’ t been quite as historically accurate as they may wish to be.

The colours of the temple however are beautiful and pretty accurate. As we know. temples in the ancient world were not the gleaming white that they are now. Instead they would have been painted and pretty gaudily at that too with purples and yellows. The attention to detail that the game developers show in the murals, the friezes and the statues which surround the temple is incredible and also pretty accurate for the time period.

Historia Accuracy: 6/10 – Overall the game does a really good job reconstructing the temple at Sounion but those pesky columns and smaller size have made it drop a few points!

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