We’re forging ahead with more History Behind the Game, this time focusing on the characters depicted in the first Assassin’s Creed. I guess you could say we’re moving back instead of forging ahead.
The big appeal for me with the first Assassin’s Creed was the rich Crusades time frame Ubisoft managed to create. Interacting during the events of the Third Crusade with figured like Templar knights, Richard the Lion Hearted, and just seeing accurate representations of classic crusader cities like Acre and Jerusalem were not to be missed. It prided itself on historical accuracy with a mixture of fiction made this game one of my favorites. What’s really interesting is the targets in the game actually died in the same year the game is set in 1191, so that allowed Ubisoft to add in the assassination element. Very cool way to side step the character death issue and still maintain historical accuracy.
With the large amount of characters featured during the length of the game, it’s hard to tell who was a real person and who was modified for the sake of the game. Hopefully I can shed some light with this. I’m not touching on everyone as some people were indeed created just for the game so there’s no real world information on them. Plus, there are a ton, so I’ve picked only the most interesting.
The information you seek is below the break.
Character Name: Robert de Sable
In-Game Depiction: Trusted Lieutenant to King Richard and Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Robert de Sable appeared to be fiercely loyal to King Richard and the Crusade. His inner circle knew this to be untrue as he and his Templars planned to kill the King and take control of the Holy Land. They began increasing their ranks by convincing Christians and Muslims alike to defect to their cause, promising power in the “New World”. He was a master manipulator and schemed to obtain power for his secret cause in the Holy Land: obtaining the Apple of Eden and creating a New World.
Real Life: Robert during 1191 would actually be around 60 years old. In fact, records show that he died in the Holy Land in 1193 of old age. He worked closely with King Richard and even captured many towns along the seacoast of modern-day Israel. He successfully took back the city of Acre from the Saracens and fought closely with Garnier de Nablus in the Battle of Arsuf. Interestingly enough, Robert was a Templar for less than a year when he was made Grand Master of the Templar Order in 1191. In fact, when the previous leader died, de Sable wasn’t even a member of the order. Delayed elections that year allowed him to join up and gain enough recognition to be considered a candidate. He purchased the island of Cyprus from King Richard to establish a base of operations like the Hospitallers did with Malta, but after two years decided to sell it off to Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, at the time.
Character Name: Sibrand
In-Game Depiction: Sibrand could be found roaming the docks in Acre and was Altair’s seventh target. He was generally seen as a paranoid individual constantly thinking his position of power was under threat from conspirators and the like. He spoke quickly and would have a hard time keeping focus instead constantly scanning the area with his eyes for and signs of threats or danger. Sibrand would also threaten and accuse innocents of conspiracy and assassination attempts which can be seen during the game when he is publicly interrogating a scholar. His role was to use the ships he acquired in the port of Acre to form a blockade once the Templars took power in the Holy Land.
Real Life: Not much is known about him, but we do know Meister Sibrand was appointed to the position of Hochmeister (Grand Master) of the Teutonic Knights in 1190 where he held power until 1192. Little else is known outside of this which is most likely why he was picked as a target by Ubisoft Montreal for the game. The Knights did control the tolls of the ports in Acre so it’s perfectly reasonable to have expected Sibrand to be in this area.
Character Name: Garnier de Naplouse
In-Game Depiction: Originally from France, Garnier was exiled after being charged with the inhumane treatment of his patients after viewing them more as experiments for treatments than actual people. The elderly doctor landed in Acre and protected there because his family donated a large sum of money to the Templar cause. Now surrounded by loyal soldiers, he was free to continue his cruel experiments on the poor in Acre.
Real Life: Garnier de Nablus was the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller from 1190 to 1192. He is generally viewed by scholars as a courageous and brave individual who fought alongside Richard I, The Lion-Heart during the Battle of Arsuf. Garnier lead his Hospitaller forces against Saladin’s Muslim army, breaking ranks to relieve the pressure on the line. While he may have disobeyed Richard, Garnier’s troops managed to overwhelm the unprepared archers leading to the eventual retreat by Saladin’s army and Richard’s victory.
Character Name: William of Montferrat
In-Game Depiction: Placed in charge of Acre by King Richard, William was a man who believed in the phrase “might makes right”. Unlike his real life counterpart, this William was arrogant, ill-tempered and would constantly berate the men under his command. He’s also significantly younger here than he would have been in reality. He seemed at odds with the King as evidenced by the heated public argument and how enraged he was after their meeting in the game. You could also make the case that he was planning to assassinate the King or at least, take his crown.
Real Life: Also known as “William the Old” to differentiate him from his oldest son, William of Montferrat is remembered as a generous, good-humored, and respected military leader. He complimented his men and kept them in high regard as well. Taking part in the Second Crusade, he also fought alongside history’s greatest historical figures such as Barbarossa, and Baldwin V. He fought with the Crusaders in the Battle of Hattin in 1187 and even got himself captured by Saladin. By the time Assassin’s Creed takes place, William is well into his 60s. William lived a full life and died of old age in his 60s, probably near the town of Tyre in 1191.
Fun fact about William: Ubisoft was actually preparing to use his son Conrad in his place but after doing a bit of research found that he wasn’t actually killed in 1191. So to maintain historical accuracy, William was inserted. Conrad would eventually be killed by assassin’s in Tyre but at a later date.
Character Name: Majd Addin
In-Game Depiction: Located in the poor district of Jerusalem, Majd Addin was a fear mongerer and the area’s executioner. If you went against his views, you probably wouldn’t be alive much longer. He used deception, and fear to retain power and silence any who would oppose him. Interestingly enough, his views clashed directly with that of Saladin, who preached tolerance of all races. He was in the middle of a public execution, spouting lies about the accused as Altair attacked from the shadows.
Real Life: Well, here’s the first mostly fictional character. In arabic, Majd Addin means “glory of the faith”. If you use that to pinpoint a real person, you’ll come across someone named Baha Addin which translated to “splendor of the faith”. Baha was actually good friends with Saladin, writing a biography of the Saracen leader through the eyes of the muslim people. He was also a scholar and jurist, witnessed the seige at Acre and also the Battle of Arsuf. Saladin eventually made him a prominent judge and administrative official, so as you can see, Majd Addin could be loosely based on him.
Character Name: Al Mualim
In-Game Depiction: Grand Master of the Syrian sect of Assassin’s, Al-Mualim also held a dark secret as he is also a secret member of the Templars. Al Mualim also acted a sort of mentor to Altair, disappointed at his failure to kill de Sable and bring back the Piece of Eden. He strips Altair of his rank, status, and equipment, but allows him to get all of it back by executing nine targets. While wise, Al Mualim also appeared to have a sense of mystery surrounding him. He never spoke of himself too personally and usually stuck to the task at hand. He seemed to spend the majority of his time in the Masyaf Fortress library where he studied many things as he had a great understanding of many subjects. He was successful in making the Assassin’s Order a secret but feared society.
Real Life: While not based on anyone specifically, similarities do exist between the Al Mualim character and the real leader of the Syrian Assassins, Rashid ad-Din Sinan, meaning “Elder of the Mountain”. interestingly enough, Sinan was constantly at war with the muslim sultan, Saladin, as he constantly eluded assassination attempts and even laid siege at their stronghold in Masyaf. His last notable act as leader of the assassin’s was ordering the assassination of Conrad of Montferrat, who we know to be William’s son.
Badass Story Alert: In 1176 during the siege of Masyaf, Saladin awoke in his tent during the night to see a cloaked figure leaving. He immediately noticed that his lamps were taken, replaced by hot stones in the shape of an assassin symbol. Within the symbol was a poisoned dagger with a note affixed to it stating that if he did not withdraw his forces, he would be killed. Unsettled, Saladin immediately ordered his troops to broker an agreement with Sinan believing it was him who did this. Realizing he could not subdue the Assassins, Saladin looked to work with them and deprive the Crusaders of doing the same.