Graphical fidelity has played its role in many a modern video game. The advantage of this impressive visual scope can also have its incredible effect in the realm of history – as aptly presented by the wonderful reconstruction of ancient Athens in the upcoming game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey by developer Ubisoft. Now if we go by the (relatively short) ‘history’ of the Assassin’s Creed series itself, the games have previously covered a range of historical locations, from ancient Egypt, late-medieval Rome, to Revolutionary period Paris and 19th century London – and all of these areas were, for the most part, represented in rich and varied details. And this time around, the developers decided to set their action-adventure title during the ascendancy of what we know as Classical Greece, circa 5th century BC.
In the following video, the Ubisoft (Quebec) developers talk about how they went on to recreate the painstaking details of ancient Athens, circa 431 BC –
Now from the gaming history to actual history, the origins of Athens hark back to the Neolithic period, probably beyond the ‘threshold’ of 5000 BC. In case someone is interested, as we discussed in one of our previous articles (on Greek history), here is the excerpt that talks about the brief history of Athens before the emergence of the Classical Era (circa 5th century BC) –
It should be noted that Athens as a settlement was probably inhabited by humans since at least circa 5000 BC, complemented by earlier evidence of Neolithic habitations found in surrounding Attica. In fact, the elevated flat-topped nature of the famed Acropolis of Athens was well suited to defense, with its substantial height of 490 ft and expansive surface area of around 3 hectares (7.4 acres). However, the real impetus to the growth of Athens was not borne by rich agricultural lands (since there were few of them), but rather fueled by sea trade. And over time, Athens was inducted as one of the Mycenaean strongholds, by circa 1550 – 1100 BC.
To that end, the first massive structure atop the Acropolis possibly pertained to a Mycenaean megaron (palace complex) built in the Bronze Age, circa 1200 BC. Soon this massive complex was guarded by an imposing wall structure that was around 760 m (or 2,500 ft) long, 10 m (33 ft) high and had an average thickness of 4-6 m (about 16 ft). From the structural perspective, this gargantuan defensive work boasted two parapets constructed from large stone blocks that were merged and bonded together by an earth mortar known as emplekton.
Anyhow, after the sudden Bronze Age collapse of the Mycenaean Greeks and the mysterious ‘Dark Age’ interlude, Athens proverbially emerged from its ashes in circa 8th century BC, with the city now wielding its political power over the proximate areas of Attica. Much of this influence was held by the rich aristocrats, thus resulting in a precarious hierarchy of power where lesser landowners were unfairly dependent on the whims of the few-numbered political elite. In early 7th century BC, statesman Draco tried to resolve the conflicting issues by introducing his set of written laws, but they proved to be too severe to serve practical purposes (hence the term Draconian). And it was then that the great lawgiver Solon was called upon to modify and amend them. And so Solon, who was an aristocrat himself, created a series of laws which sought to equalize the political power of the citizenry, which in turn momentously laid the groundwork for democracy in Athens in 594 BC.
And lastly, since Acropolis remains a prominent feature of this ancient city for over 5,000 years, we have also included the visual reconstruction of this renowned citadel – concocted by the resourceful team over at Altair4 Multimedia.
Athens Reconstruction Video Source: IGN (YouTube)
Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft Quebec