Like the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Setting? Try These Movies, Books, and More
If you’re interested in the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey setting of Ancient Greece, we have a few movies, books, podcasts, and more to check out.
If someone ever asks you to describe the Assassin’s Creed series, you can probably get away with telling them that the games are action RPGs wrapped up in a historical telenovela. Each game takes a new setting and inserts a playable character (or characters), then twists the real history to fit the title’s narrative. That’s pretty much par for the course of any historical fiction, and even if it isn’t historically accurate it does expose gamers to an era in history. From there, it’s up to them.
You can generally judge successful historical fiction by whether or not people are willing to put in a little extra effort and go looking for more. Whether that means more historical fiction or reading up on the real history is up to the individual, but it all starts with the first piece of fiction.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set in 431 BCE and it takes place in the Ancient Hellenistic world during the Peloponnesian War. In the real history, the war was fought by two “Leagues,” one led by the city-state of Athens, the other by Sparta. The real war lasted nearly 30 years, but the game uses that as a starting point to then expand the Assassin’s Creed mythology.
You play a mercenary backing either the Athenian or Spartan contingent. But whichever side you choose, however you decided to play, if you want to know more about the historical period we have a few suggestions.
Some of the entries below aren’t specific to the Peloponnesian War, but they all offer a piece of a bigger picture. We also tried to keep it focused on the people and events rather than the mythology. Greek gods and myths are abundant and there is no shortage of movies, books, and even other games., but stories focused on the people and places are the focus here.
So after playing the game if you find yourself screaming things like “This is Sparta!” and arguing about candles in caves, then you may enjoy the following properties.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: The Official Novelization, by Gordon Doherty
Due out on October 30, the novelization of the game focuses on the Kassandra, one of the two playable characters in the game. While the Odyssey is all about choice, the novel is laser-focused on the plot and goes deeper into the characters and events than players will experience. If you were engrossed by the game – especially the story – the novel will give it a twist and expand on it.
History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
If you really liked the setting of the game, like, really liked it, then you might want to go back to someone who was actually there. Thucydides is considered one of the first historians, and his work of the Peloponnesian War is required reading for fans of history. If you do jump into this text, be warned – there are many translations and some are better than others, and Thucydides was an Athenian general during the war. He is kind of impartial, but not really. Still, it’s an incredible -albeit dense – read.
The Iliad & Odyssey by Homer
Homer’s companion books are pretty much a given when you’re looking for an account of the Hellenistic period, although they are set several hundred years before the Peloponnesian War. These loosely connected stories are arguably the most famous pieces of fiction to come out of the era, with the first recounting the Trojan War (loosely), and the second following one of the war’s leaders, Odysseyus, on his cursed journey home. They both kind of bend the rules we set in the intro about keeping the entires firmly planted in reality and they do heavily feature the Greek pantheon of gods, but they are classics for a reason.
300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
If the movie adaptation of the same name isn’t your thing – or if it is – you may want to give Frank Miller’s original comic series 300 and its sequels a chance. The movies are actually fairly solid adaptations of the original source material, but there’s a little more depth in the comics. It also has a slightly different tone. If you hated the movie the comic probably won’t win you over, but if you viewed it indifferently to positively and you are interested in the era, check it out.
Assassin’s Creed by Various Artists
While they don’t yet touch on the Hellenistic era, there are several Assassin’s Creed comics that have been published over the years, including one that all fans of the games should seek out. After introducing the First Civilization plot and the coming threat of Juno, that particular storyline moved over to the Assassin’s Creed Uprising series, where it continued with original characters and plots. If you’ve stuck with the series through the years, this is where a major part of it is concluded. There are plenty of others story arcs as well, and for fans of the property, they are all must-reads.
Three by Kieron Gillen & Ryan Kelly, Jordie Bellaire
While certainly not as famous as Frank Miller’s 300, Three takes the Spartan narrative and puts it on its head. Focusing on three slaves chased by Spartan masters, the story is well researched – albeit still heavily fictionalized. If you like 300, then Three should be the next comic on your list.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
We’ve made no secret of our love for Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series, and there’s no reason not to continue it here. While Carlin hasn’t specifically tackled the Peloponnesian War, he has done historical podcasts set adjacent to it. One of the closest in time is his incredible series on the Punic Wars, “Punic Nightmares.” Those wars pitted the pre-empire Romans against Carthage and they took place around 150 years later Athens and Sparta fought it out, but the world, the technology, the tactics, and the general lives of the people weren’t all that different. It’s not exactly the same, but you won’t be disappointed.
History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides Podcast
If you aren’t interested in reading Thucydides’s dense and often very dated historical retelling (see the entry of the same name above in the book section), you can listen to it instead. For this series, the original book has been broken into multiple podcasts. Each of the eight books that create Thucydides’s narrative are broken into multiple parts, making it easy to jump in and out.
NPR Podcast – The Peloponnesian War
If you’re looking for something a little more bite-sized than the other two podcasts, give the NPR podcast on the Peloponnesian War a try. It’s a very broad overview – the war lasted nearly three decades and the podcast is just 42 minutes – but it’s not a bad place to start if you ‘re just looking for a little more info.
Movies & TV Shows
In the years since its release, Zack Snyder’s film 300 has been copied and satirized mercilessly. But if you’re looking for a story that features the Spartans and a lot of action, this is certainly the most famous recent film that checks both boxes. It isn’t for everyone and the history is laughably dramatized, but if you’re coming off of playing a game like Assassin’s Creed where your body count is probably reaching Biblical levels, this might be exactly what you’re looking for.
The Odyssey (Mini-Series)
Back when network TVs were still doing event mini-series, one of NBC’s most popular was The Odyssey, which was loosely – very loosely – based on Homer’s book. The 1997 series emphasizes the fantastic side of Odysseus’s journey, with Greek gods and monsters around every turn. It won’t exactly scratch the itch created by Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but it is an entertaining and heavily romanticized look at life in the Hellenistic period
Reign: The Conqueror
If you are looking for something that very loosely touches on the Hellenistic era while offering something completely unique, then Reign: The Conqueror is very much in that vein. Mixing the Korean-Japanese anime style made popular by shows like Aeon Flux with the story of Alexander the Great, Reign touches on some of the real history of the Macedonian conqueror, but in an original way. It only lasted 13 episodes, but it’s worth tracking down for the novelty alone.
While the Hellenistic period is often synonymous with the Athenians, the Spartans have been somewhat relegated to the realm of legend. They are depicted as the ultimate soldiers, but their culture was more than that. The 2004 PBS documentary The Spartans goes into detail about their society and history, including their role in the Peloponnesian War. If you really want to know more about the era and the story, this documentary series is an excellent place to start.
Troy (Director’s Cut)
If you ask 10 people that saw director Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy in the theater, the majority of them will probably tell you that they didn’t like it. But if you ask a different 10 people that saw the Director’s Cut, you will probably get a very different answer. The theatrical version is the barebones of a movie, while the Director’s Cut is the complete story as it was meant to be seen. Characters have motivations that were cut from the original, and it all makes for an epic of the time. It focuses more on the drama than the history, but if you’re interested in the era in a very broad sense (it focuses on the Trojan War, which was probably about 500-600 hundred years before the Peloponnesian War), you should give it a try.
Troy: Fall of a City
Where the movie Troy is a more interested in the Hollywood-ized romantic nature of the fall of the city of Troy, the recent TV series Troy: Fall of a City, is much closer to the real history. It’s only eight episodes (and probably won’t get more due to the extreme costs and low ratings for the BBC, who produced it), but the story is a relatively solid look at life during the Hellenistic period. The Trojan War is thought to have taken place hundreds of years before the Peloponnesian War, but the similarities hold true.