The Real History of Assassin’s Creed: Mirage

Disclaimer: This article contain speculations based on historical facts from the era and not from leaks and rumors about the game.

During Ubisoft’s Saturday’s livestream presentation, Ubisoft Forward, it finally unveiled that the next game in the Assassin’s Creed franchise will be called Assassin’s Creed Mirage.

You will be playing as Basim Ibn Ishaq and will be set in Baghdad, twenty years before the events of AC: Valhalla. If you want to know more details about the game, you can check our coverage of it here.

“The developer of the game was revealing the details about the game and when they revealed the setting of the game, I was so excited about it that I completely forgot about the rest.”

In a way, you could say that the setting of the game overshadowed the rest of the details for me. They did talk about “going back to the roots” of the series with stealth and assassination, which is great but… did you all see that amazing city?!

After doing some research into Baghdad and its history, I found some things that ignited my excitement and passion. And today, I’d like to share my findings and spread my excitement.

Before going forward, it’s important to take note of two details about the game which were vital to my research. The year and the location.

We happen to know that AC: Mirage takes place in Baghdad in the year 861 AD.

So let’s look at that era in history and see what we can glean from it.

History

The Islamic Golden Age

One of the very first things that I found out was that the game takes place during the Islamic Golden Age. This was a period of time in the history of Islam where culture, economics, literature, and scientific discovery flourished. This period takes place during the 8th to the 14th century.

It is said that this period of time started during the reign of 5th Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid with the inauguration of “Bayt al-Ḥikmah” or the House of Wisdom (more on this later) in Baghdad, the largest city by then, which ended up being a hub for scholars and polymaths from various parts of the world with different backgrounds.

At this moment, I have a feeling that many would be curious about the phrase “Abbasid Caliph” in the previous sentence. A Caliphate or Khalīfah is an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islamic ruler with the title of Caliph (meaning successor).

There were multiple caliphates in the history of Islam and during the events of Mirage, we get to see the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate. Think of it as a dynasty, in a way.

Anarchy at Samarra

In every Assassin’s Creed game, the story takes place during a major event that takes place. French Revolution in AC Unity or American Revolution in AC III, Golden Age of Piracy in AC Black Flag to name a few.

From what I found, I speculate that Mirage would take place during “Anarchy at Samarra” which is period of instability in the history of Abbasid Caliphate from 861 to 870 AD. During that period, there was violent succession of 4 Caliphs (Al-Muntasir, Al-Musta’in, Al-Mu’tazz and Al-Muhtadi).

I think that we will get to meet one of the 4 Caliphs or even 4 of them during the events of the game.

During this 9 years, a civil war took place between the Caliph Al-Musta’in, Al-Mu’tazz over the control of the Abbasid Caliphate called “Fifth Fitna” or the Abbasid Civil War.

I speculate that we will have to play an active role during the civil war or the war will influence the story.

Samarra

During most of the Abbassid Caliphate, Baghdad ended up being the capital but for a certain period of time (836-892 AD), Samarra ended up being the capital and this also falls under the time were Mirage takes place.

Samarra is now a city in Iraq and about 125 kilometers north of Baghdad. I think that it is possible that Samarra is one of the cities in the game and personally, I would love to explore it.

After all, this is the only remaining Islamic capital that still has its original city plan, architecture and artistic relics.

Architecture

Let’s talk about one of my favorite aspects of Assassin’s Creed games; the architecture of its locations.

The Islamic architectural style takes its inspiration from Roman, Egyptian, Byzantine, and Persian/Sassanid styles.

Some of these styles are already seen in other previous AC games and you can check out my feature where I talk about different architectural styles that have been seen across the series here.

The Islamic style is actually very broad and it varied over time. This was mostly due to change of Caliphates. Each of the Caliphate had their own unique style and made changes from the previous styles.

In Mirage, you will be seeing the Abbasid style so let’s take a look at it.

Abbasids evolved distinctive styles of their own, particularly in decoration of their buildings. Decorations on arches, pendent vaults, muqarnas vault, and polychrome interlaced spandrels are among them. These have come to be identified as typical of “Islamic” architecture.

Interior of the muqarnas dome of Zumurrud Khatun Mausoleum

Among the decoration is what is known as “Arabesque”. It is a form of artistic decoration consisting of “surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils” or plain lines which are combined with other elements.

The Arabesque style is also used in the famous Assassin’s Creed logo in this game.

For construction, they favored mud brick and baked brick, which allowed for enormous architectural complexes (which will be talked about soon) to be built at relatively low cost, which is seen in Samarra.

Vaulted corridors around a courtyard in the al-Ukhaidir Palace

This architectural style was an important formative stage in wider Islamic architecture. The early caliphate’s great power and unity allowed architectural features and innovations, such as minarets and carved stucco motifs.

Madīnat as-Salām

If there is one thing that players will be in awe or will not believe when playing Mirage would be how Baghdad is designed.

During that time Baghdad was designed as a “round city” and was built by the 2nd Abbasid Caliph, al-Manṣūr as the capital and the official residence of the Abbasid court.

During that time the official name of the city was called the City of Peace or Madīnat as-Salām.

At the center of the city is the caliphal Palace of the Golden Gate and adjacent to it is the Great Mosque of al-Mansu (the Friday mosque of Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate.).

The city had four gates: Bab al-Kufa (“gate of Kufa”), Bab al-Sham (“gate of al-Sham or Damascus”), Bab al-Khorasan (“gate of Khorasan”), and Bab al-Basra (“gate of Basra”). Khuld Palace, one of the principal caliphal palaces is located near the Bab al-Khorasan.

Great Mosque of Samarra

Earlier, I mentioned that I personally want to see Samarra in the game and its all because of a mosque in the city called Great Mosque of Samarra

The mosque was commissioned by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil and time of construction, it was the world’s largest mosque.

One of recognizable features of the mosque is its minaret called Malwiya Tower. Minarets is a tower typically built into or adjacent to mosques which are used to project the Muslim call to prayer (adhan).

The minaret is designed as a spiraling cone 52 meters (171 ft) high and 33 meters (108 ft.) wide with a spiral ramp. The design of the minaret has also inspired some of the architectural works seen today.

I am really looking forward to seeing how Ubisoft is going to portray the architectural style in the game and definitely want to climb this minaret if I can!

Art and Literature

Bayt al-Hikma a.k.a House of Wisdom

Grand Library of Baghdad is both a public academy and intellectual center in Baghdad.

When the Abbasid dynasty replaced the Umayyad as the ruling dynasty of the Islamic Empire, Caliph al-Mansur (r. 754–775 AD) built Baghdad and made it his capital instead of Damascus. He did this because the location and cosmopolitan population made the perfect location for a stable commercial and intellectual center.

The Abbasid dynasty adopted many practices from the Sassanian Empire and one of them was the translation of foreign works to into Arabic. For this purpose, the Caliph founded a palace library and provided economic and political support to the workers working there.

Foreign works such as Greek, Chinese, Sanskrit, Persian, and Syriac was translated to Arabic and this ended up being a movement called “Graeco-Arabic translation movement”. This gained more momentum during the reign of caliph Harun al-Rashid, who was also interested in scholarship.

Al-Rashid built a library which was a direct predecessor to the House of Wisdom called, Khizanat Kutub al-Hikma (Arabic for “Storehouse of the Books of Wisdom” or also known as Library of Wisdom). This library included manuscripts and books collected by his father and grandfather about various subjects in the arts and the sciences.

Scholars at an Abbasid library. Maqamat of al-Hariri Illustration by Yahyá al-Wasiti, 1237

Al-Rashid son, Al-Ma’mun also played a huge role in all this. During his reign, the collection ended up being too vast, which prompted him built extensions to the original building turning it into a large academy named Bayt al-Hikma (the House of Wisdom). From then on, the library had different branches of knowledge.

Later, he added numerous other study centers to allow more scholars to pursue their research, and an observatory in 829 AD.

The House of Wisdom ended up being more than just an academic center. Its experts served several functions in Baghdad as scholars usually doubled as engineers and architects in major construction projects, kept accurate official calendars, and were public servants. They were also frequently medics and consultants.

Some of the famous scholars includes Al-Kindi, who was commissioned the translation of Aristotle, and Hunyan ibn Ishaq, who translated Hippocrates.

I speculate that this library and the scholars will play a huge role in the story of Mirage.

One Thousand and One Nights

Many cultures around the world have stories, epic or novel, which greatly influence literary works that comes after it for many years such as Mahābhārata from India, Journey to the West from China.

One of the best known works of fiction from the Islamic World, “One Thousand and One Nights” (Alf Laylah wa-Laylah) was compiled during the Abbasid era.

It is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic. Some of the characters from this are now cultural icons: Aladdin (Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp), Ali Baba (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) and Sinbad (The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor).

I speculate that one of the stories from the fiction will be setting for a story expansion or we would end up meeting one of the characters as a side quest.

As I was about to finish this article, I got to know that one of my speculation ended up being true. Ubisoft has made a quest called “The Forty Thieves” as part of a pre-order bonus. We are going to meet Ali Baba!

These are some of the most interesting bits of historical information that I found relating to the era of the game takes place.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list and there is a possibility that I would have missed some details so feel free to drop any other interesting historical facts or stories you know in the comments.

I am really looking forward to AC: Mirage and by sharing this information, I hope I was able to share this excitement and joy with you.

Assassin’s Creed: Mirage is slated for release in 2023.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s