Flirting with the Ancient Greeks; Alcibiades

Hello everyone and welcome back to Ancient Greece! Today I will be discussing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, focusing on the flirtatious fornicator; the one and only Alcibiades.

Alcibades being taught by Socrates, François-André Vincent.jpg
Alcibiades being taught by Socrates’ by Francois-Andre Vincent. Image taken from Wikipedia

Please note this isn’t going to be an in-depth biography but instead is my view on how he was presented in Assassin’s Creed.

Alcibiades is outrageous in the game, but he was also outrageous in reality. Known to be incredibly attractive, arrogant and vain, Alcibiades was the pupil of Socrates noted for his unruly behaviour. Champion of symposiums he is famously known for being the prime suspect in the destruction of the hermai, odd looking statues which comprised of a head and a penis, the penises being the bit he supposedly knocked off in a drunken rampage.

Herma of Demosthenes from the Athenian Agora- 280 BC. Image taken from Wikipedia

Drunken penis destruction aside however, he was also a statesman, orator and military commander turned traitor when faced with the death penalty in Athens, he fled to Sparta where he waged war against his native Athenians. During his time in Sparta he defected again to the Persians and was eventually re-instated as an Athenian general before being exiled again and eventually assassinated in 404 BC. His life was spent involved in the political machinations of the Peloponnesian War where he manipulated, negotiated and fought his way through conflict to become one of the most famous names in ancient history. Intelligent, manipulative, flirtatious and handsome his story is complicated, his character even more so- is it any wonder why Ubisoft made him so scandalous?

We first meet Alcibiades at the house of Pericles where we have been invited to a symposium and can I just say this symposium is an ancient historians playground. You can talk to Socrates, Euripides, Aristophanes, Pericles and Aspasia, not to mention your in-game mentor Herodotus and engaging with all these amazing historical figures really did give me goosebumps. But I digress, back to the man of the hour.

When we meet Alcibiades at the symposium he is drunk and scantily clad, dressed in a tiny loincloth, his long flowing blonde hair and six pack on show for all the world to see- yum. He waxes lyrical about Socrates for a few moments and then proceeds to stagger past where he grabs another rather naked man and takes him into a room. When we come to actually speak to Alcibiades for the first time he flirts outrageously with sentences dripping with innuendo and then offers up the chance to spend a night with him. It is up to you whether you take him up on his rather raunchy offer involving olive oil! Following this first, drunk encounter, we then meet Alcibiades again throughout the game where he is characterised as crafty, intelligent, witty and quietly manipulative with a serious political side hinted at occasionally. However despite these elements to his personality, Alcibiades is primarily portrayed in the game as a handsome, sex crazed flirt who engages in threesomes and foursomes with every gender and has sexual innuendos ever at the ready and, if you so wish, sexual encounters.

‘Socrates dragging Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure’ Jean-Baptiste Regnault, Image taken from Wikipedia

But as a Classicist, how did I enjoy this overly sexualised rendering of one of the most complex figures in ancient history?

I loved it!

Every innuendo, every flirtatious comment and every time Alcibiades popped up on my screen I lapped it up. Who wouldn’t want a chance to flirt with an ancient Greek hunk?! I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed being able to have a little flirt with him as it added a whole new dimension to the game and my perception of him. His comments throughout the game are outrageous, his quest lines really enjoyable and his interactions with other characters are so multi-faceted and involved that you really do feel like Alcibiades has come to life. I found him intriguing and hilarious and I wanted to know more about him every time he left the scene. The way he hints towards the end of the game that he will soon show people the ‘real Alcibiades’ and unleash his political ambitions displays the darker side to the character and is indicative of a manipulative nature that historians believe him to have possessed. By making Alcibiades so likeable however, I believe that Ubisoft create an atmosphere where you want to know more; you want to dig deeper into the history of the character to see what he actually was like historically. Ubisoft could have portrayed Alcibiades as a serious character, but the fact his seriousness is only hinted at makes him a more intriguing, multi-faceted personality which contrasts with a lot of the characters in the game.

I do think a lot of people found Alcibiades in the game to be overly ridiculous, however it is very easy when playing games that are set in historical settings to be overly critical and I am guilty of this myself. It is easy to point out the mistakes, discrepancies and inaccuracies and to sit and think ‘Alcibiades wouldn’t have been like that!’ But when looking at history, we don’t actually know what anyone would have been like! We get glimpses of personality through historical records and biographies but as always when looking at historical texts, these contain bias and inaccuracies of their own. So when game developers take a historical figure and create a personality, they are doing exactly what we do when we read about these figures. And who better to use than Alcibiades?

What did you think of Alcibiades?

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