4. Asterix the Gladiator
French title: Astérix gladiateur
Originally published: 1964

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translations of this book
Asterix Annotations
Review at Alea Iacta Est
Gladiator Prefect Odius Asparagus (Caligula Alavacomgetepus) honoured centurion Gracchus Armisurplus (Gracchus Nenjetépus) with a visit. Because the prefect goes with permission to Rome, he likes to give Caesar a Gaulish present. They kidnap Cacofonix (Assurancetourix) and bring him to Rome as present. Caesar who does not know what to do with this Gaulish bard, decides to send Cacofonix to Circus Maximus as snack for the lions.


Asterix and Obelix, who also arrived in Rome, take service as gladiators in the circus. This seems to be the only way to rescue their Bard. Demotivated fellow-gladiators, who rather play innocent games, and a Gaulish Bard with a terrible voice is driving Caesar to madness. What about the audience? They love it. And therefore Caesar gives the Gauls back their freedom.
Banquet Pirates Guests
Although the task of A&O is to get Cacophonix back from Rome, where he was taken to 'perform' in the Circus, he is not present at the final banquet 'victim of a technical hitch' (quoting the explanation from the story). First appearence. A&O catch a Phoenician ship to Rome, using their thumbs. They meet the pirates and enter their ship, while the Phoenician 'partners' are negociating their contracts. Similar skirmish on their way back. George Fronval appears in the story. We meet the pirates for the first time, charicatures of their cousins from the comic Barbe Rouge, and guests to stay!
Allusions and Details
(page 5)
George Fronval, French journalist and writer,
as Prefect of Gaul
Official site: Odius Asparagus (Caligula Alavacomgetepus)
(page 10)
image Two soldiers playing chequers? This might be a reference to a famous vase by Exekias (⇒Wikipedia), that depicts Achilles and Ajax on display in the Vatican.
(page 10)
Note the legionary trying to escape from the ranks on the last row. In front, two persons arguing. This is a result of the accident in a previous picture.
(page 13)
Not many women in this story. This lovely lady is one of the rare examples.
(page 14)
Obviously the book itself explains this 'ancient Gaulish sign indicating a wish to be taken aboard'. The Phoenician merchant with his 'partners' reappears in later stories. If I am not mistaken both in Jeux Olympiques (Olympic Games) and in Odyssee (Black gold).
(page 15)
First appearence of our good friends the pirates, modelled after the series Barbe Rouge, or Redbeard (⇒Wikipedia).
(page 18)
Nice impression of a Roman road. The stepstones are real: the pedestrians can cross the street without getting stuck in the sewage, the carriages can pass.
(page 21)
Not the last time we will see such a splosh. Also in the Chieftain's Shield Obelix will dive into a pool.
(page 24)
At first inspection this looks like a misprint. On second thought I realized this man is still shaking.
(page 31)
Actually this is quite realistic. One man armed with a net and a trident, the retiarius (⇒Wikipedia), fighting a secutorus (⇒Wikipedia), armed with short sword and oblong shield. In the picture they practise, with wooden armory.
(page 35)
Lots of tourists in Rome. An English person with a travel guide, an Egyptian family depicted in the specific Egyptian way en profil.
(page 36)
A fish on the back of someone. To quote the internet: The April 1 tradition in France includes poisson d'avril (literally "April fish"), attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed. (⇒Wikipedia)
(page 38)
Such a scene reminds me of the Tour de France, where a sports event is drowned in commerce. Before the cyclists arrive there has been a long procession of advertisments. Actually that is part of the fun.
(page 39)
'Drinka jara wina day' In English this seems to refer to an advertisement 'Drinka Pinta Milka Day'. I wonder, what is the French equivalent to these bottles?
(page 40)
I love the way Uderzo draws horses. Such an expression with a few lines. By the way, teams coloured red, white and blue, are also part of Asterix and the Cauldron.