Chapter 6. Asterix and Cleopatra

Rene Goscinny

Albert Uderzo

English Translations: Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge


When Cleopatra bets Caesar that she can build a palace in three months, Asterix, Obelix & Getafix travel to Egypt to help her architect. There they encounter opposition from both the Romans and a rival architect...
Billed as "The greatest story ever drawn. 14 litres of india ink, 30 brushes, 62 soft pencils, 1 hard pencil, 27 rubbers [erasers], 1984 sheets of paper, 16 typewriter ribbons, 2 typewriters, 366 pints of beer went into its creation!" (this is a takeoff on all the statistics given for the film Ben Hur or Cleopatra???). Uderzo really gets to show what he can do. The first example of how brilliant the books could be with foreign countries, and a great lead-in to The Big Fight.

The translators must have done their bit of drinking as well. For the Dutch and the Hungarian version, the list is mostly the same (instead of 1984 sheets of paper 38 kilos of paper was used). The Hungarian translation does not list soft pencils and the beer consumption is listed as only 67 litres which is 118 pints!

Sadly, these additional notes that appeared on the cover of the original Hodder-Dargaud edition have been removed in the Orion "re-edition".

Vitalstatistix takes final form here, and an early Fulliautomatix pounds Cacofonix. The pirates return, starting a tradition. Caesar finally remembers the three gauls. Obelix gets some magic potion! The story make great play of Cleopatra's nose. Blaise Pascal once said "If the nose of Cleopatra had been a little shorter, the whole face of the world would have changed."

Table 6.1. Asterix and Cleopatra - Annotations

Page, Panel Comment
Page 2, Panel 9 Is the game being played the dice game "421"???
Page 3, Panel 4 "My dear old Getafix, I hope I find you well" = Edifis says "Hello" to Getafix in Alexandrine. Alexandrine refers to verse of poetry of twelve syllables with an accent on the sixth and twelfth syllables and a break after the sixth syllable. The name Alexandrine comes from the old French poem Roman d'Alexandre written around 1180.
Page 3, Panel 8 The Great Library of Alexandria — the world's first state-funded scientific institute. Contained over 700,000 scrolls. Burned twice. The second time, destroyed utterly.
Page 7, Panel 2 Cleopatra bet Marc Antony that she could drink a certain amount of money. She dissolved two pearls in vinegar and drank it to win the bet.
Page 8, Panel 2 That's EDIFIS written on the front of the house with Greek letters
Page 11, Panel 1 Lentil = a bean
Page 22, Panel 6 The obelisk on the right was a present to Emperor Louis-Phillippe of France by Mohammed Ali, Viceroy of Egypt in 1831. It was set up in Paris in the Place de la Concorde on October 25, 1836. Hence the reference. The panel also shows a row of sphinxes.
Page 26, Panel 8 Egyptian inscriptions are renowned for having people in profile. Why ???
Page 29, Panel 2 Note people in profile again.
Page 29, Panel 7 "Tarzan" and "Peanuts".
Page 34, Panel 7 "We've got the stones, the men, and the druid too" = Take off on a popular music hall anthem from circa 1878 (During the British-Russian confrontation over Turkey) by G.W.Hunt which goes "We don't want to fight, yet by Jingo if we do, we've got the ships, we've got the men, and got the money too."
Page 36, Panel 4 Ita diis placuit = So the gods ordained (literally: so it pleased the gods)
Page 37, Panel 3 "I before E except after C" - Common English rule to spell words where 'I' and 'E' are next to each other. Exceptions to this rule include 'weird' and 'weight'
Page 37, Panel 9 On stage, actors in crowd scenes traditionally say 'Rhubarb' continually to simulate the noise made by a crowd. 'Watermelon', 'Peas' and 'Carrots' said to be other popular words used for this purpose.
Page 43, Panel 3 The Suez Canal, which was built around the end of the 19th century by the Suez Co., a French company. The Suez canal was opened in 1869.

Table 6.2. Asterix and Cleopatra - Names

Name (in order of appearance) Comment
Cleopatra Historical: 69-30 BC, queen of Egypt and mistress of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. There were many Cleopatras in History but, this is the famous one.
Edifis Edifice: large, imposing building
Nastiupset Nasty upset
Sethisbackup Set this back up, or set his back up (to annoy someone)
Artifis Artifice: a sly or artful trick
Exlibris Ex libris: "belonging to the library of"
Krukhut Crew cut: extremely short military haircut, or maybe "crooked"
Mintjulep Mint julep: cocktail made from bourbon, sugar, crushed ice and mint
Superfluous Superfluous: extra, not necessary
Operachorus Opera chorus