Assassin’s Creed and the Real Italia: Roma (Part 2)
Assassin’s Creed is a franchise well known for its gorgeous design, and the Italian Renaissance of Ezio Auditore’s world has been a hit with fans. How does it compare with real life, and how have the locations transformed in the transition to the game world?
Ezio Auditore’s free-running urges would be easily satisfied in modern-day Rome. A densely populated city like Rome has thousands of buildings, all with relatively flat rooftops, that Ezio would consider child’s play to navigate. Although with the inventions of CCTV, cars and helicopters, Ezio would probably find it a lot harder to escape law enforcement!
The entire Forum area in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is missing various ancient temples and structures from real life, such as the Temple of Venus and Rome, Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Virgins (where Rhea Silvia would have lived and worked), Temple of Romulus and the Hut of Romulus. But it does include some of the many locations, such as the Tempio di Saturno (dedicated to the Roman god Saturn), the large Basilica di Massenzio the Tempio di Antonino e Faustina.
In an interview with PSM3, Steve Masters (lead game designer for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood) said with regards to missing parts of Rome:
“…we look at the distance between roads and things like that to help the free-running system, and what we do is we’ll find if a road is too wide to make a jump, and we really want to be able to make that jump, we find period architecture features that would actually fit within the buildings themselves and we’ll extend, for instance, rooftop ledges. And if you look back at old paintings of the period you’ll find very similar features all over the place. So we take a little bit of liberty with the buildings that aren’t named, basically the houses and the shops and the general structure of Rome, but of course for the landmarks we keep them as is.”
The Forum faces directly across Rome’s most famous landmark – il Colosseo. The iconic Colosseum, famous for its infamous ancient gladiator contests, executions, dramas and animal fights is one of the locations of a Lair of Romulus in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
The Colosseum appears a little taller and a little less wide than the real landmark, and during Ezio Auditore’s visits to the ruined Colloseum the hypogeum (underground tunnels) in the centre of the arena is covered, although when Desmond Miles visits in modern day, nearly 500 years later – as it is in real life now – the hypogeum is uncovered, leaving the decayed walls of its tunnels exposed.
The Catacombe di Roma (Catacombs of Rome) are featured in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood as one of the many Lairs of Romulus, home to the Followers of Romulus and their shrines. As in the game, these are very expansive underground tunnels that are easy to get lost in, but in reality they are much narrower than in the game and it would be very difficult to climb around and free-run as Ezio does in Assassin’s Creed. Definitely not recommended for claustrophobics! The temperature within the catacombs is very cold in contrast to the hot climates of Italy on the surface.
The catacombs are ancient burial sites, and many hold incredible, well-preserved examples of early Christian art in fresco and sculpture, some of which date back to the 3rd Century. There are many large holes in the walls, which used to hold bodies. The larger holes were used to hold adult sized bodies; the many smaller holes held the bodies of children and the tiny holes held oil lamps for light to navigate through the dark catacombs. There are many amazing catacombs that one can visit in Rome, including the Catacombe di San Callisto, Catacombe di Priscilla, Catacombe di Santa Agnese, Catacombe di San Sebastiano and the Catacombe di Santa Domitilla.
The Pantheon, originally a temple to the Roman gods, has become a tomb for many important Roman figures (such as the painter Raphael and the former King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II) since the Renaissance. Today it is used as a church, and tourists are asked to be silent when they enter. As with most Italian churches, tourists are asked to cover their shoulders and knees when they visit (no shorts and tank tops). It looks just as beautiful today as it did in Ezio’s time. The Oculus – the window of light at the top of the Pantheon – is a sight to behold.
Next time: Final Entry – Piazza del Popolo, Vatican City and the Borgia.
Interview quotes source – PSM3