Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s virtual version of Ancient Greece is odd. Which I mean as a compliment. I’ve been terrifically impressed by how Ubisoft have managed to straddle both a representation of the ‘real’ Ancient Greece and to seamlessly include within that a variety of Mythological elements. The two, after all, go hand in hand, with many mythological moments – such as the sacking of Troy – being near indistinguishable from unbelievable events that really happened, I’m looking at you the Battle of Thermopylae.
Through playing the game I’ve learnt a great deal about how weird, bizarre and shocking the mythology of Ancient Greece is, and with this week seeing another batch of DLC released for the game, I thought I’d share the cream of the crop with you, dear reader.
An Unexpected Beginning
Aphrodite, goddess of love, pleasure and fornication. She was, without doubt, the most beautiful of all the gods perched atop Mount Olympus. Her gorgeous looks have inspired artists for thousands of years to attempt to capture her astonishing appearance through painting, sculpture and soft-core sex films. So, how did such a divine being come to exist? Perhaps magical flower petals were sprinkled into a babbling brook and Aphrodite arose from the watery depths, glistening and gleaming like a female shaped disco ball? Not quite…
Before the gods, before the Titans, there were a brother and sister that ruled existence: Uranus and Gaea. Despite being related, the two primordial beings were also lovers and had many children. This wasn’t a problem until some of their progeny – the Cyclops and the almost impossible to pronounce Hecatoncheires – ended up being a little too ugly for Uranus’ tastes. He decided the only sensible course of action was to stick them back where they came from, so back into Gaea they went. This did not impress Mother Earth one bit, leading her to enlist the help of her son Cronus to gain revenge on her brother husband.
Luring Uranus to her bed, Gaea had instructed Cronus to hide in the corner of her abode with a razor sharp sickle in his grasp. As Uranus started to get a little excited his son leapt from the shadows and hacked off the engorged gonads of his father. With a wind-up and a throw, Cronus flung Uranus’ meat and two veg far into the distance. The one-eyed trouser trout arched gracefully into the horizon before splashing down into a far away sea. From the purple helmeted warrior of love poured blood and semen that formed into a figure, and that figure was Aphrodite. And that is how the most beautiful creature in all of existence was created.
A Real Hero?
Disney lied to me. For a long time I believed that Herakles – or Hercules as the Romans would come to name him – had to pass twelve labours in order to prove his worth and godhood. That, it turns out, is not the case. He actually had to complete the labours in order to seek recompense for accidentally-on-purpose murdering his wife and children. Just imagine the opening credits of Disney’s Hercules consisting of the chiselled pec-laden hunk hacking through his nearest and dearest. It definitely wouldn’t have received that U rating.
Oh, and he also committed genocide by killing all of the Centaurs.
Tastes Like Chicken
The gods were not perfect. The only rational way that the Greeks could explain the good things, bad things and insane things that seemingly happened at random to people, was that the gods could be both kind, cruel and crazy. The gods could help people, such as bestowing magical weapons upon them to defeat hideous monsters, or they could hinder people by being really, really mean to them for little or no reason at all.
Erysichthon was a rich, greedy man who didn’t worship the gods. He was the King of Thessaly and was, by all accounts, a bit of a plonker. Erysichthon had instructed his men to fell all of the trees in a sacred grove and to build him a splendid new feat-hall. His men did so, up until they refused to chop down a huge oak, as it was filled with every prayer that had ever been made to the god Demeter. Foolishly the king decided to follow the wisdom of ”if you want something done properly, do it yourself” and hacked down the tree with a protesting peasant’s axe.
Demeter decided this foolish mortal needed to be punished. The ancient Greeks were all about the semi-reasonable allocation of punishment for a crime. For example. if a man murdered a stranger with a knife, then both man and knife would be punished as they were both equally responsible. So what reasonable punishment was dished out on Erysichthon?
Being the goddess of grain, agriculture, harvest, growth, and nourishment, Demeter planted Limos, a spirit of unstoppable hunger, inside Erysichthon’s stomach. This gave the king an appetite so strong that it could never be sated, whenever he ate he wanted to eat more. He ate and he ate and he ate until all of his vast wealth had been squandered on honey, olives and vegan sausage rolls from Greggs. His lack of funds led to him selling his own child into slavery. His daughter had been given the power to shape-shift by her former lover Poseidon – long story – so she could free herself from her bonds, but every time she did so her father sold her into slavery once more.
After a while, his daughter grew rather tired of the endless loop of entrapment and escape so disappeared from the story. This left her father with only one way in which to feed his eternal appetite – he started to eat his own flesh. The mythological records of how he went about this are a little vague but I would imagine he started on the bits non-vital to his continued living . Perhaps he sautéed a big toe with a sprinkle of spring vegatables? Either way, eventually he quite literally ate himself to death. What a way to go!
There you have it. What weird and yet strangely wonderful stories, and it is for the gaining of this knowledge that I love Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Despite its awkward combat, creepy ‘romance’ and epic battles that are more like a fight round the back of a kebab shop on a Saturday night, it’s fed my own insatiable hunger for more wonderful takes on ancient mythology and history.