A Love Letter to Herodotus

‘Father of History or ‘Father of Lies?’ is the age old question which surrounds the work of Herodotus of Harlicarnassus. Although some of his work has been proven to be factually correct, other bits are…shall we say, less so. His work, like his life, is shrouded in elements of the unknown and to this day historians are trying to piece together what they can about Herodotus and his ‘Histories.’ Due to what little is available biographically about Herodotus, it is really hard to actually gain much of an impression as to what he would have been like as a person. Unlike Alcibiades, no ancient author refers to him as a drunk fornicator with gorgeous looks. Instead his contemporaries are actually rather snide about him and his life’s work, calling him a ‘story teller’ and placing little credence in his ‘facts.’ His personality is referred to very little and as such Herodotus really becomes almost mythically mysterious.

That being said however, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey brings Herodotus to life and infuses him with personality.

Marble bust of Herodotos MET DT11742.jpg
Roman copy of a bust of Herodotus. Image taken from Wikipedia

Please note like my article about Alcibiades, this is not a biography of Herodotus but merely my opinion of how he is presented in the game.

We first meet Herodotus at Delphi where he is intent on seeing the oracle to gain information for Pericles about the war against Sparta. From there, he fast becomes your companion and decides to accompany you on your travels and can be found mainly on your ship the Adrestia. Now whilst originally I thought this was a little strange that Herodotus would so readily hop aboard, the more I thought about it the more sense it made – primarily because Herodotus must have travelled round the Greek world to gain his facts and legends. I have to admit, I love having Herodotus on board because who doesn’t want to explore the ancient world with an ancient Greek legend who also loves history?!

Fragments of the Histories by Herodotus on  Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 2099, early 2nd century AD. Image taken from Wikipedia

His interest in history is made explicit throughout the game which is something I absolutely love as I feel like it is very true to character. When at Thermopylae for example Herodotus recalls the events of the battle and fills your character in about the Persian wars and Xerxes, even adding some personality to the Persian king, portraying him as a real villain. His information a lot of the time, if not the vast majority of the time when recalling historical facts in the game is accurate and adds another element of historical realism to the game.

As Assassin’s Creed Odyssey mixes fact with fiction however, some of what Herodotus discusses is purely myth and legend. That being said, in the game he does such an amazing job of weaving together fact and fiction that his in game persona embodies the legacy of the real life Herodotus, famous for his interwoven history full of legend and truths. Thus, his enthusiasm for legends in the game and his interest in the mythical Spear of Leonidas, makes sense and again adds another dimension and layer to a personality that is in reality so difficult to imagine.

The game developers have also made Herodotus a loveable character which in reality, I think he fails to be. I for example always thought he was rather dull and his Histories were not my favourite book – quite the opposite- whilst studying at University. However this game has given me a new interest in Herodotus and his works and I have returned to them with a fresh mindset.

This is because in the game we see multiple facets of his personality; humour, adventure, intelligence, kindness and vulnerability all combine together to create a realism that I think other characters are lacking in the game. This is especially evident in the quest where you return to his home where we see and feel his grief at missing his parents funeral, and his hurt at his brother’s harsh words. The level of realism the game developers have given Herodotus is in my opinion mind blowing and he is able to escape the historical stereotype which ruins a lot of characters in the game. He breaks the mould of what I believe history has assigned to him and isn’t the stuffy historian I always envisaged but is this multi-layered, multi-dimensional figure. I enjoyed his companionship and I do think he becomes a father figure during the game, relating perhaps to his fatherly figure as the ‘father of history’ – see what I did there *smug*

One thing that annoys me however is that whenever you go to speak to him outside of quests he just says “there’s much to do and many unknowns on our horizons.” That sadly, and the occasional line from him where he says how much he enjoys sailing, is all we really get outside of cut scenes and this is what I find frustrating. I want to quiz him on everything!!! But, for enjoyment reasons I can see why the developers left this option out so crazy Classics nerds like me didn’t just spend all their time asking Herodotus everything.

Overall however, I have to give Herodotus a solid 9/10 and I have to say I enjoyed my interactions with him above any character in the game- even above all the flirty sexy times with Alcibiades!

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