Who Were the Ancients?
This article attempts to search for an answer to the eternal question of who, or perhaps what, were the Ancients?
I am starting to gain an appetite for unanswered questions; feed me more. Here I am going to take a brief look at the few clues that build a more complete picture of the lost identity of the people of the Ancient Age, known only as the Ancients. I’ve been dying to write this for a long time now, so I am glad that I finally had the chance to gather my thoughts on the topic. Until now this has been speculated to no end with no end in sight either.
When a piece of fiction is translated from one language to another, anything that is lost in the process is either omitted by the accident of overlooking something unintentionally, or removed by design. When it’s deliberate it’s usually done in order to better speak in a language that the target audience can understand, which is both understandable and sometimes a shame, because of what we lose to avoid culture shocks compared to the original source material.
Sometimes it’s no joke when it seems like more was lost than gained in translation, especially when the source isn’t respected. That often gives us no choice but to calculate the size of what’s truly meant by measuring the shadow that it casts. I want to put a magnifying lens on a few things that we may not have kept an eye on in the first place by reading between the lines. This time not at the risk of seeming and sounding completely out of my mind, which is rare for me because I am always full of a million ideas for which I am grateful; it means that I can contribute a slightly more original perspective to a world that can only speak in pure facts if it hopes to be loud enough for everyone to hear.
Made by man?
Even though Azel herself basically says that humans created the dragons that were born in the fires of ancient wars (she even asks Edge why he finds this so hard to believe while they are exploring the sunken labs of Uru, the birth place of the drones), all references to the Ancients being indeed human in the original Japanese script may not have been present at all. The Saturn games clearly state that the Ancients were human, but the information contained in Panzer Dragoon Orta states that their identity was, and I quote: “lost with time”. The first thing that springs to mind is that the silence speaks volumes. To me, lost says more than found.
Let’s compare the introduction narrative of Panzer Dragoon with Panzer Dragoon Orta’s introduction to this post-apocalyptic world to show you what I mean when I say that a vital detail can very easily slip through our fingers without us even realising it:
Thousands of years have passed since a once thriving human civilization perished in the dust. Time goes by… Passing their existance in fear of the ever-present shadow of cyber-genetic warfare, the few remaining human beings struggle to regain the power that they have lost.
As you can see, this passage from Panzer Dragoon leaves little room for doubt that the Ancients were indeed human, nor does it allow much room for reinterpretation. You could stretch it a bit to include humanity as only a mere part of the ancient world. However, the introduction sequence in Panzer Dragoon Orta tells another story:
Thousands of years have passed since the fall of the ancient world. The world is a wasteland and the few remaining human tribes live in fear of bio-genetic terrors; artifacts born of the sciences of old, left behind as gruesome reminders of ancient perdition. Scattered across the land, the people strive only to survive in this age of fallen grace…
I’d wager that the newer intro is deliberately similar in order to correct the mistakes that have led us all in a different direction. While “remaining human tribes” and “age of fallen grace” imply that human beings have been reduced in number and fallen from a higher plateau themselves, this introduction is far more ambiguous with far less certainty by comparison.
The implication being that they are separate from these Ancients somehow. From how high did the age fall?
A human weapon?
When you also consider how some of the Ancient Age weapons were designed for human hands, the assumption then becomes that they were all human, but at the same time, divided into different factions of Ancients, or perhaps all that is meant here is that we don’t know what civilisation of people ruled the old world, which means we cannot regard the entirety of the human race as the root cause of the problem. Perhaps that was all that was ever meant by this.
What we do know for a fact from Skiad Ops Endow’s journal is that the builders of the Towers and the rest of the world were so divided on issue that making war became necessary to ensure that their plans came to fruition. To put simply, or in other words, the creators of the Towers had to defend the existence of something that the world may not have wanted to exist at all. Either way, the Ancients were so advanced that they could do almost anything with the technology they had available at their fingertips. Based on what we’ve seen thus far, there’s no telling what they could do, but the Ancients themselves are nowhere to be seen or found. Even the memory of the Ancients who brought an end to everything has withered into dust. The ambiguity seems almost deliberate as if someone, somewhere, wants us to ask the question of who or what was responsible for this legacy of fear.
Ancient weapons of war still linger.
When Orta meets Mobo, he tells her that the Fallen Ground was the site of what he called “an Elder war”. In light of that and the half mechanical half living weapon that chases her, not to mention the skeletal remains of the world around them, the only logical conclusion you can reach is that powerful ancient forces were once at war with each other for supremacy. At best we can assume that growing divisions between different factions of the same people were to blame, which eventually culminated in all sides resorting to a conflict of such far reaching scope that it sent ripples across the entire world to put an end to their differences. But at worst, we simply do not know whether the downfall of the ancient world was by accident or design. These few clues still aren’t enough to give us the whole picture unfortunately.
Do they tell the tale of creations turning against their own creators or did their tech simply become so powerful that the people of these ancient civilisations destroyed themselves, taking all their hard earned knowledge along with them? Nothing could be more ironic if you ask me. Maybe they had too much potential not merely for self-destruction for their own good. Maybe they threatened to remake the rules of this game by playing by their own.
Perhaps the “rulers of the ancient times” (as the Seekers call the ones they attribute to the creation of the Towers) didn’t want to share, or perhaps they saw themselves as the enemy as a whole race and therefore became the victim of their own plans for control. Needless to say, that would be something the word insane doesn’t even begin to describe. Perhaps they became the enemy by accident in their attempt to save the world from themselves, or perhaps they were something else entirely so far above the world in their minds that all they could do was look down. The whole world would have become beneath them by then. In an age of such efficiency, it wasn’t efficient to be quite human anymore anyway. Based on what we have seen thus far from drones, it’s clear that free will wasn’t exactly desirable in their creations either; it was only a matter of time before one turned on their creators to remind them that even creations are no puppet and have minds of their own.
The Silver Shrine overlooks the world.
There is a method to the Ancients’ madness. I think the answer may lie in Sega’s own Skies of Arcadia where we meet the Silver civilisation, a small society of extremely advanced immortal humans who wiped out the world to put an end to war once and for all with literal rains of fire. Their technology looks very similar to the ancient ruins we see in Panzer Dragoon in how it appears to be built out of ageless, timeless metals with power veins running through it. They were only one group among many Ancients seen in Arcadia, but they were the most advanced and the only ones who survived. Is this the missing piece of the puzzle?
Perhaps the Ancients simply wanted the world for themselves so that they could start their civilisation again. We only found out recently from Abadd that his masters planned to return. One can only imagine that the people of the Ancient Age were better in more ways than merely knowledge. Not only was their identity lost, but it seems that we’ve also become lost along with it ourselves in our search for a trail of clues to lead us to the source of this mystery. As you can see, the mystery continues to go unsolved.
When the Empire claims to be restoring civilisation to its former glory after becoming a shadow of its former self, are those claims merely a lie invented to justify inheriting technology that so unfailingly empowers it? Like any myth, perhaps there is some truth to it. Are they the descendants of the old rulers themselves or is all of humanity the orphans of the old world? Distinctions are far too apparent to ignore; some people of the ancient world were clearly elevated above, or separated from others with the “Ancients” or “the rulers of the ancient times” being the most elevated above them all. It doesn’t help that we have never actually seen one. It raises the question: what happened to them?
Azel mentioned that dragons weren’t easily tamed by ordinary men, suggesting that taming dragons was not only possible, but that she had seen that possibility set in motion with her own eyes. Was she giving us a clue or was that never actually said in the aforementioned translation? I felt like separating this point to make a point; I felt the need to further emphasize how this can lead you to the answers and potentially mislead you at the same time. It’s better to base possible answers on solid facts rather than the thin air of none at all.
There is another possibility that is altogether less solid, and dare I say, less sane: what if what Azel really meant to say was that humans did indeed create dragons, but that the Ancients were something else entirely - something so far above humankind even at its peak that the Ancients themselves could only be described in terms of gods? Could it be that mere words alone simply failed to express who or what they were? We always assumed that dragons were called the messengers of the gods because they were the messengers of the ancient people who created them, but what if they were the messengers of something that even their human creators, in their own limited way, saw as godly? The absence of the Ancients was so deliberate that it has to make you wonder who the puppetmasters pulling all the strings from behind the scenes really were. This is especially true when you consider all the autonomous technology built to function without them even present. It’s filling food for thought to say the least.
I believe that the Ancients were all the people of the Ancient Age, and that the rulers were somehow elevated above the rest of humankind. They did not have to answer anyone which made them above the law. If the Imperial bloodline claims to have descended from those very same rulers, then anyone directly related to it could easily claim that they have the right to rule. But people only have power when no one has the power to stop them. The Ancients knew that better than anyone.
A gate to the stars.
In Stargate the people of Earth stumble over a gateway from the distant past that serves as a bridge to other worlds by opening up a worm hole. The Ancients of that story suffered a similar fate as the ones in Panzer Dragoon by being far, far too creative for their own good, helping to create and thus speed up their own demise. I have a bright idea: let’s copy them and repeat every single one of their mistakes. It’s not like we have anything better to do anyway. I get the strangest feeling that no one is learning from the lessons of history, because it’s more convenient for us to forget.
Knowing what these ancient humans of both stories knew may not have been healthy for them anyway. Being ignorant may have actually been a step up in their evolution, as ironic as that sounds, mainly because knowing less helped them ensure their own survival more. Ignorance is bliss for a reason after all. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope that distant travellers don’t start stepping through an ancient circular device that creates wormholes to other galaxies to discover that we are living on one of many worlds that the Ancients made their home.
It seems as if the world of Panzer Dragoon was caged in a prison of its own making that could not imprison the people’s free spirited nature for long. In the end, I think that the Ancients were hibernating, and that someone shut down their hibernation chambers after invading Sestren to put the final nail in their coffin and thereby finally bring this chapter of history to an end. But that’s just how I see things from where I am standing. No doubt not everyone will agree on this heated topic, but no matter how you look at it, the inheritors of the world were always standing on the shoulders of giants. Truer words have never been spoken, don’t you think?