Chapter 14. Asterix in Spain

Rene Goscinny

Albert Uderzo

English Translations: Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge


When Caesar captures the troublesome son of a Spanish chieftain, he sends him to Gaul for safekeeping. Asterix & Obelix rescue him and help him return to his homeland ...

Historical Note.  The more appropriate title should be 'Asterix in Hispania' and 'Asterix in Spain', as Spain (España) is the modern name of the country. Back in Asterix's time Hispania was a bunch of independent kingdoms. The kingdom of Spain did not exist as such till the 15th century under the catholic kings who unified all the independent kingdoms into one. For the Romans, the Iberian peninsula was known as Hispania. In the original French this book is, indeed, 'Asterix en Hispanie' and not 'Asterix en Espangne'.

Table 14.1. Asterix in Spain - Annotations

Page, Panel Comment
Page 1, Panel 1 17th March, 45 BC = In his last victory, Julius Caesar defeats the Pompeian forces of Titus Labienus and Pompey the Younger in the Battle of Munda.
Page 1, Panel 2 Caesar's victory over the supporters of Pompey at Thapsus = The battle of Thapsus took place on February 6, 46 BC near Thapsus (modern Ras Dimas, Tunisia). The conservative republicans army, led by Marcus Porcius Cato, the younger and Quintus Caecillius Metellus Scipio clashed with the forces of Caesar, who eventually won the battle. With this victory, Caesar ended the resistance against his power in Africa and was one step closer to absolute power.

Battle of Munda: took place on March 17, 45 BC in the plains of Munda, southern Spain. This was the last battle of Julius Caesar's civil war against the conservative republicans. After this victory, and the death of Titus Labienus and Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey the Great's oldest son), Caesar was free to return to Rome and govern as dictator. Eventually, this lead to the end of the Roman Republic.

Page 1, Panel 3 Xth Legion = The Tenth Legion was, for most of its history, an elite and honored unit. Like America's 82nd and 101st airborne divisions, the Tenth enjoyed a world-wide reputation for skill in battle. The Tenth earned its stripes, from recruitment and training to victory as the legion that usually occupied the position of honor on Caesar's right flank. The Legion helped Caesar pacify Gaul, crossed the Rubicon and fought a civil war, endured the assassinations of Pompey and Caesar, cast its lot with Antony at Actium, and finally captured the Zealot fortress at Masada. The Romans, it seems, were very skilled and very ruthless, and the Tenth Legion represented the pinnacle of their military art.
Page 1, Panel 4 Iberians = Of or relating to ancient Iberia in Transcaucasia or its peoples, languages, or cultures. The ancient country of Transcaucasia is roughly equivalent to the eastern part of present-day Georgia. Iberia was allied to Rome and later ruled by a Persian dynasty. It became a Byzantine province in the sixth century AD; Spanish also uses the exclamation point and question mark at the end of a sentence as we do and at the beginning, upside down.
Page 2, Panel 2 "To rest on your laurels" = to stop trying so hard having already achieved so much.
Page 2, Panel 3 Veni, vidi, vici: I came, I saw, I conquered (Julius Caesar)
Page 4, Panel 7 Hombre: Slang. A man; a fellow. [Spanish, from Old Spanish omne, from Latin hom, homin-.]
Page 11, Panel 2 Beati pauperes spiritu = Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matt. 5:3, King James)
Page 13, Panel 2 Similar to "to see a man about a dog" which is Cockney for going to the toilet
Page 16, Panel 5 "I'm Dreaming of a White Solstice" = Pun on 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas'
Page 16, Panel 7 "Wonderful wonderful Durovernum" = A reference to the Danny Kaye song "Wonderful Copenhagen".

Durovernum: When Julius Caesar came on his second expedition in 54 BC the Roman VIIth Legion stormed the Celtic hillfort at Big bury. Canterbury became a permanent settlement and center of trade with the Celtic name of Durwhern. the Romans returned in AD 43, at the time of Emperor Claudius and gave the gave the name of Durovernum Cantiacorum to the present Canterbury. (Durovernum after the Celtic name of Durwhern and Cantiacorum meaning of the Cantiaci or Kentish people).

Page 16, Panel 8 "Rock-a-bye, Pepe, ..." = A pun on the traditional lullaby 'Rockaby, baby'
Page 17, Panel 8 Hispalis : Seville. The city was both a river port and bridge between the Atlantic Ocean and the hinterland of Andalusia. Also Seville was the crossroads between the North-East and West of the Iberian Peninsula. In the beginnings of the first millennium B.C. the area of Seville became the great market place of the Guadalquivir Valley. The original Seville was born where the river became no longer navigable for seagoing ships. Archaeological excavations confirm that the first permanent settlements date back to the 9th century.
Page 19. Panel 9 Salisbury Plain is Stonehenge
Page 24. Panel 8 Chicken in the basket = popular dish
Page 24. Panel 9 Vaccaeians = a tribe in NE Spain
Page 26, Panel 7 Pompaelo / Pamplona: A city of northern Spain east-southeast of Bilbao, an ancient Basque city located on a hill overlooking the Arga River that permitted it to dominate the surrounding valley, caused it to be populated from very remote times. Historians believe that this primitive nucleus could have been used as a stopover by the Celts, and there is no question that in the winter of 74-75 B.C., the area served as a camp for the Roman general Pompeyo. He is considered to be the founder of "Pompaelo" (Pamplona). It was captured by the Visigoths, Franks, and Moors and became the capital of the kingdom of Navarre (824-1512). The annual running of the bulls during the feast of San Fermin was celebrated in Ernest Hemingway's 'The Sun Also Rises' (1926).
Page 28, Panel 4 Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
Page 29, Panel 2 Replete: stuffed, gorged
Page 34, Panel 5 ??? Thermopylae Pass = Site of famous battle between the Greek Alliance and the Persians circa 480 BCE; Milk of Magnesia = Magnesium hydroxide; Cos Lettuce = A type of lettuce; Salamis = A type of sausage.
Page 35, Panel 3 Cauca / Coca: The village of Coca is located at the North-West of the province of Segovia, 48 Km from the city of Segovia, in the region known as Tierra de Pinares (Pine tree land). It is 140 Km away from Madrid, and 60 Km from Valladolid. Excavations started in a place known as Los Azafranales (Saffron fields) at the watershed of the Voltoya and Eresma rivers mapped the population sequence (Celtiberian, Roman and Late Antiquity) thanks to the evidence obtained: Visigothic slate pieces, terra sigilata vases, Celtiberian cups, bowls, jugs, a dolium ans some decorated vases that belong to the Rauda type.
Page 35, Panel 4 Segovia: A city of central Spain north-northwest of Madrid. An important Roman town, it was held sporadically by the Moors from 714 to 1079. The Roman aqueduct of Segovia, probably built c. A.D. 50, is remarkably well preserved.
Page 35, Panel 5 Helmantica / Salamanca: A city of west-central Spain west-northwest of Madrid. Conquered by Hannibal in 220 B.C., it was captured by Moors in the 8th century A.D. and held by them until the late 11th century.
Page 35, Panel 6 Corduba / Cordoba: Córdoba flourished as a major Roman settlement from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD and subsequently was captured first by the Visigoths (572) and then by the Moors (711). In 756, Abd-ar-Rahman I, a member of the Umayyad family, made Córdoba the capital of Moorish Spain, and for the next 250 years the city was one of the world's great commercial and intellectual centers. In 929 Abd-ar-Rahman III established the caliphate of Córdoba. The city declined after the early 11th century as Muslim rule in Spain disintegrated, but it remained a center of literature and scholarship. In 1236 the city was captured and became part of Spain. It was captured by France during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815).
Page 37, Panel 1 Vandalusia: Andaluca was settled in the 5th century BC by the Carthaginians and was later conquered by the Roman Empire. In the 5th century AD the country was overrun by the Vandals, from whom the region took the name Vandalusia (later corrupted into Andaluca). The Vandals were succeeded by the Visigoths, who ruled until the Arab invasion of 711, after which Andaluca became the center of civilization for the Saracens and Moors. From 1516 the history of Andaluca merges with that of the united kingdom of Spain.

The resemblance of the hoods to those used by the Ku Klux Klan (a historical white-supremacist group in the US) is conincidental. The hoods here depicted predate the Klan considerably. These hoods are traditionally used in Spain during Christian processions; people who want to make a penance carry the Saints statues litter, or walk bare-foot. They wear hoods so as not to be recognized (to avoid gossips), and they are pointy so that all man appear to have the same size, to further prevent onlookers to try and recognize them.

Page 37, Panel 5 Amontillado el amoroso = Amontillado = fine wine, Amoronos = Loving. Hence - Loving fine wine.
Page 40, Panel 4 Panem et circenses = bread and circuses (Juvenal,Satires x.80 60-130AD)
Page 40, Panel 8 The person conducting the circus music is a caricature of the composer and conductor Gerard Calvi.
Page 41, Panel 4 Aurochs = Extinct European Ox
Page 44, Panel 5 "A fish, a fish, my kingdom for a fish" = a parody of "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" (Richard III, Shakespeare)

Table 14.2. Asterix in Spain - Names

Name (in order of appearance) Comment
Huevos Y Bacon Eggs and bacon
Spurius Brontosaurus Spurious: irrelevant, trivial; Brontosaurus: large dinosaur, now called Apatosaurus
Raucus Hallelujachorus Raucous: loud; Hallelujah chorus: chorus found often in church hymns which consists of the word hallelujah repeated. More likely - The world famous "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's oratorio "Messiah" (1742)
Pericles Historical. An Athenian general and statesman
Nodepositon el Sodasiphon No deposit on soda bottle
Oloroso el Fiasco Oloroso: smelly; fiasco: total disaster
Obsequius Obsequious: fawning, overly submissive
Begonia Begonia: a type of flower