Don't add the "Saracens"

“Saracen” was a generic name that medieval Europeans gave to all Arab-speakers (and sometimes all Muslims) regardless of their background. While it could make sense in the early centuries of Islam, when a huge empire was dominated by the same tribes from Arabia, things quickly got more complicated and diverse, local cultures developping from the fusion of conquering Arabs with the autochtons. Therefore, AoE II “Saracens” was mostly an umbrella-civilisation compressing many different cultures ranging from Mesopotamia to the Iberian peninsula.

Imagine that Franks, Britons, Teutons, Spaniards, Italians, etc. were all packed into one single civilisation named “Europeans”, “Latins” or even better “Ifranji” (the name medieval Arabs gave to Western Europeans) on the pretext that they shared a same civilisation, state roots (mainly Roman & Germanic), religion (Catholicism), scholarly language (Latin) and were considered the same by foreigners.
It would have been a shame, right?
Well, that is precisely what was done to medieval Arab-speakers with that nonsensic “Saracens” civ. Not only was it unfair by comparison to other world areas better represented, but it also deprivated the game from the diversity of the medieval world, both in terms of gameplay and visuals.

IMO, Arab-speaking world should be split into:

  • Andalusians (Arabs from Spain)
  • Egyptians (Fatimids, Mamluks…)
  • Syrians/Levantines (Ayyubids, etc.)
  • Iraqis (Abbasids, etc.)
  • Beduins (who could well represent those early Arabs/“Saracens”)
  • Yemenis (this latter is debatable)

Here I am not including non-Arab-speakers found within that world such as Kurds, Armenians or the different Berber and Turkish people but they could (and should) have their own civilisations of course. Also I didn’t include Arabs from North Africa because they were not that important and could well be portrayed by Andalusians (cities such as Tlemcen, Tunis, etc.) and Beduins (conquering Arabs, Banu Hilal, etc.).
Note how I avoided any dynastic or state name (“Abbasids”, “Cordoba Califate”, etc.) - which often make little sense culturally-wise - so as to stay within the AoE spirit, in which civilisations are named with ethnonyms or demonyms. On that point developpers often fail when it comes to civilisations outside of Europe (AoE IV “Delhi Sultanate” is good example of this issue - I would rename it Hindustanis).

Finally, don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that all the aforementioned civilisations should be included in the game. But better to make a few precise civilisations and let gaps between them (which could eventually be filled with add-ons or mods) rather than making a terrible unfair umbrella-civilisation like “Saracens” was.

By the way, same goes for “Turks” and “Slavs” civilisations.


While I absolutely agree with you on this I don’t think it will happen for AoE4. What we have seen so far suggest they aim to name Civs after political institutions or historical states rather rather than ethnonyms/demonyms. Not what I would have preferred but it is what it is. Going by screenshots we even seem to get a political flag in our UI based on chosen Civ ( The English one is what I saw )

As an Andalusian, I have to clarify that they are not the arabs from Spain. They are the inhabitants of the autonomous community of Andalusia (‘Andalucía’ in Spanish), in Spain.
The people from Al- Andalus you’re refering to were called Andalusi (‘Andalusí, Andalusíes’ in spanish).


In campaign I hope they remain the closest possible representing nations and historical characters. Even if the only difference between the civs is a shield cosmetic (with the same tech tree).
I don’t mind a bit o historical inaccuracy in multiplayer if it means improved gameplay.

I can agree with the umbrella civs.
But I do not really like / not really sure about the way you suggest to present the arabic world in the game for a number of reasons.
For example, having a civ named “Iraqis”, I assume you imply that they will just represent a small and specific ethnic group, the mesopotamian arabs. Regardless of which political power was above them, is that right?
Because having Iraqis to represent the Abbasid Caliphate as a whole under that name wouldn’t make sense.
That being said we should keep in mind the limited amount of civs that this game is going to feature and think what the best way to represent the major powers of this era would be.

“Abbasid Caliphate” sounds a perfect name for a civ to me. It’s not too general (i.e “Arabs”, "Islamic Caliphate) nor too specific “Iraqis” and already encompasses the cultural differences that Abbasids brought with their rule to the Caliphate.


Well, that is a pity. I doubt any of my suggestion will be considered by the devs anyway. I am rather sharing my “ideal AoE” design.

“Andalusi/Andalusis” would indeed be a more appropriate name as it directly comes from Arabic and doesn’t generate a confusion with present-day Andalusians. Unfortunately, it isn’t used outside of Spanish (and Arabic - plural Al-Andalusiyyun). People from Al-Andalus are normally referred to as “Andalusians” in English, just like they are referred to as “Andalous” in French (which also refers to present-day Andalusians).

I must say you have many points there. Still, and although Abbasids are one of the few dynasties which could be seen as a specific culture given its longevity, I am unsure about adding a civ whose name is dynastic as it’s a major break from the traditional AoE way (ethnonyms/demonyms).
Also, Abbasids disappeared in the 13th century - Iraqis didn’t - while the game ends at some point in the 16th century.
Anyway compromises have to be made with these Arab civilisations (actually the only ones I’m sure about are the Andalusians and Beduins). IMO this debate shows how tricky adapting a historical entity into the AoE format can be, especially when it comes to those imperial civilisations which were usually dominated by a foreign dynasty and/or military elite (a system very different from the European “nation-states”).
There is only one point I disagree with you: if Abbasids were to be added to the game, I wish they would under the name Abbasids and not “Abbasid Caliphate”, just to stay closer to the AoE spirit.

There was never such a thing as “Arabs from Spain”.
Arabs have always been outsiders, and they made sure of it themselves.

Are these really arabic peoples or places arabs took over?

Andalusians were Iberian Christians and Muslims with a minority from middle-east and north Africa.

Iberians were not Arabs, and most locals could not convert, since the Moors forcefully stopped it, so they would not lose control of the state to the native Iberians.

Andalusian had Muslim literature on roman. After Reconquista, most of mudéjar was roman speaking.

they are adding Abbasid


Regarding Andalusi identity:
The Muslim conquest of most of Spain took place in the early 8th century and was lead by Arab and Berber forces who then settled there, becoming the elite. While they could be seen as outsiders up to the 9th century (although they already mixed with the locals), things changed when most of the local population adopted Arab culture and converted to Islam, somewhere between the 9th and the 10th century. A proper culture and nation, definitely Arab, were born: Andalusians/Andalusi. Of course this doesn’t concern the northern kingdoms which remained Christian and lead the Reconquista later.
Identity has often little to do with genetics. French are Latin despite having little Roman blood.

Never happened, otherwise they would have never been expelled.
The truth is taht the Moors purposefully set themselves apart from their Iberian subjects, and refuse to convert them, because that would grat them rights that the Moorish elites did not want the locals to have.

Under muslim law, any non-muslim could have his property, family or even labour confiscated by a Muslim, and the word of a Muslim in court, was worth more than a non-Muslim.

The extra taxes that non-Muslims paid, plus the fact that they could be enslaved at will, was too big a factor in Moorish governance, and created so much wealth for them, taht they did everything in their power to stop the native Iberians from converting, and permanently locked them in second-class status.
This is the very reason why the Reconquista was eventually successful, the locals were just never allowed a say in political, legal, military or social matters.

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Man, I’ve been studying Al-Andalus and medieval Spain for more than a decade now, and I’m sorry to say you that your claims are downright delusional. I don’t even know where you got such wrong informations.
Indeed among the Arab elite, many didn’t want the locals to convert so as to benefit from taxes, etc. but it didn’t prevent the majority of the population from turning Muslim by the 10th century under the Umayyad califate (in Egypt it happened a century later).
In her book about the Nasrid kingdom, Rachel Arié tells us that Aragonese diplomats sent to Granada wrote in a letter that “out of 300,000 Granadines, there are barely 4 real Moors”. Meaning that the population was mostly Iberian genetically, and not Arab-Berber.

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