The Historical Inaccuracies of Assassin’s Creed «

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The Historical Inaccuracies of Assassin’s Creed

Four reasons you might not want to cite the Assassin’s series in your next term paper.

By: Scott Sharkey November 9, 2011

Assassin’s Creed has a knack for weaving scientific and historical facts in and out of a fantastical tale of ancient conspiracies and hilarious ultra-violence. Meanwhile, for all the time we spend marveling at accurately presented old world architecture and associated historical factoids, we spend almost as much time twitching one eye at ludicrous oversights and inaccuracy. Sure, it’s a rollicking James Bond-esque tale where reality sometimes takes a back seat to spectacle and action. We’re prepared to accept stuff like ol’ Leo DaVinci’s prototype parachute actually accomplishing anything besides turning your assassin ass into piazza pizza, but sometimes the game goes beyond Hudson Hawk levels of crazy and takes our suspension of disbelief out behind the barn and shoots it in the back of the head with an unerringly accurate 16th century automatic handgun.

Unerringly Accurate 16th Century Automatic Handguns

 

So let’s start with those.

If in that particular century anyone ever shot a guy in the face with an off-hand pistol I’d be impressed, chiefly because functional handguns didn’t exist, but also because that’s really hard to do if you’ve ever tried. If he did it while stabbing someone else in the guts with a spring-loaded, wrist-mounted dagger, I (along with the other guy) would be blown right the hell away. Doing that on a pretty much hourly basis is just apeshit.

Then again, this entire scenario is awesome, so I’m prepared to cut it an awful lot of slack, even though we’re dipping into “historically accurate giant enemy crab” territory. There’s still no way to account for James Bond’s belt-buckle grappling hook or a bad guy with an orbital solar powered laser cannon (even now, much less in the 60s.) But if you think about the repercussions of this for half a second, you start wondering why every other guard Ezio loots has ammunition for his anachronistic handgun, long before the invention of cartridges, percussion caps, or even rifled barrels. I don’t care what kind of weird ideas the Templar conspiracy has, this is technology they could have used to have long since taken over the entire world, and they’ve been handing it out to their lowliest mooks on the streets of Rome. The fact that they’re still not the unquestioned masters of all humanity is right up there with the Hopi inventing the wheel and using it for toys, or the Chinese figuring out gunpowder and making fireworks with it. There’s precedence for this kind of oversight, but these guys are supposed to be scary because we’re supposed to believe they know what they’re doing.

Case in point: Explain why at the end of Assassin’s Creed II the evil head honcho tries to halt your escape attempt by unleashing several waves of rent-a-cops wielding billy clubs. These jerks have apparently had absurdly advanced handguns for almost half a millennium and apparently they all just left them at home that day. The Templar conspiracy is pretty ridiculously convoluted in places and maybe not just shooting Desmond’s ass is all part of their intricate plot, but you’d think at least one of the good guys would have wondered “Hey, why didn’t anyone try shooting us in the face?” The only possible conclusions are that the conspiracy is just dumb as hell, or the Scooby Doo protagonists are.

The Knights Templar

 

If you’re looking for a target of medieval conspiracy theories you could hardly do better than the Knights Templar. During the crusades they became a notable military power in their own right, were exempted from law and taxes by the pope himself, and eventually all but invented modern banking. Arguably the world’s first multinational corporation, the Knights Templar offered services and security to pilgrims and noblemen on their way to and from the holy land. If you didn’t want to worry about getting looted en route you could just deposit your valuables with the Knights franchise back home, then provide documentation and collect cash at your destination– pretty much the first use of cheques in history. This all had the should-have-been-unsurprising result of making the Templars extremely wealthy and powerful, with their impressive capital invested in businesses and property all over Christendom. Which is maybe ironic considering they started off as a charity, went by the title of “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ,” and used the image of two knights sharing a horse as an emblem. Individuals still took vows of poverty, but the group itself was swimming in enough cash to embarrass Scrooge McDuck. It’s easy enough to tie all that in with Assassin’s Creed’s ancient conspiracy of powerful bad guys hiding behind a false front.

Well, except for how it all turned out. For a while the Templars’ power and wealth was second only to the Church, which obviously made a lot of people in power very unhappy. Meanwhile, King Philip IV of France had borrowed an absolute crap-ton of money from the Order and blew it on a disastrous war with England. He didn’t want to pay his debts, and the Church was already less than thrilled with sharing the spotlight with the Templars, so the two began a campaign of rumor and defamation, accusing the Knights of everything from idolatry to literally kissing each other on the butt. This not being the modern day internet, calling someone a fag actually accomplished more than outing oneself as an ignorant twat. Torture has a way of getting confessions out of people, and with that excuse the Templars were burned at the stake and their considerable assets were seized by the Church. In the end they don’t really come off as a villainous and oppressive conspiracy so much as a group of charitable businessmen who made the mistake of being too successful and were rewarded with torture and death because some French asshole who owed them money called them a bunch of godless homos. In that context killing so many of them seems somehow less than heroic.

 

 

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