Chapter 4. Asterix the Gladiator

Rene Goscinny

Albert Uderzo

English Translations: Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge


A Roman prefect has Cacofonix captured, as a present for Caesar. Asterix & Obelix travel to Rome to get him back. There they have to train as gladiators to get into the Circus and save him...
Early period. The drawing is a bit off, the Romans look different, and Asterix, Obelix, and Getafix are the only well-defined characters, Vitalstatistix looks strange. This story "features" Cacofonix. Obelix starts his helmet collecting habit here, and the pirates make their first appearance.

Table 4.1. Asterix the Gladiator - Annotations

Page, Panel Comment
Page 2, Panel 7-8 "Maybe it's because I'm a ... that I love" = Take off on a rousing cockney chorus "Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner that love London so..."
Page 2, Panel 8 The Geneva Convention (1864) places limits on what weapons can be used in warfare.
Page 3, Panel 8 "I'm only a bard..." = Allusion to the line "She is only a bird in a gilded cage" from the song "A bird in a Gilded Stage" by Harry Von Tilzer (aka. Harry Gumm) (1872-1946)
Page 5, Panel 8 A play on "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" - Mark Antony in Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' (Act 3, Scene 2, Line 78)
Page 7, Panel 5 Alea jacta est = the die is cast (Julius Caesar)
Page 10, Panel 4 The symbols are letters from the Phoenician alphabet. The letters are "taw", "yodh" and "res". They mean "mark", "arm" and "head" respectively.
Page 11, Panel 8 Vanitas vanitatum... = vanity of vanities, and everything is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2, Vulgate)
Page 14, Panel 7 Via Appia = Appian Way. Only problem is that Rome's nearest port, Portus Augusti, was linked to Rome by the Via Vitellia and Via Portuensis
Page 16, Panel 4 Apodyteria = Dressing / changing room; Sudatoria = Sweating Baths (sauna); Caldarium = Hot Room; Frigidarium = Cold Room;
Page 17, Panel 9 Ostiaria = Porter
Page 18, Panel 10 Cubiculum = small sleeping compartment; Triclinium = dining room with couch
Page 18, Panel 11 GLC = Greater London Council
Page 26, Panel 9 Giblet = various parts of a bird, such as the neck, heart gizzard
Page 30, Panel 9 "Album, in the province of Sternum" = Sternum is a breast bone / rib cage.
Page 31, Panel 4 Note the Egyptians walking in profile.
Page 33, Panel 1 "Roman in the Gloamin..." = "Roamin' in the Gloamin", a popular Scottish song by the entertainer Sir Harry Lauder
Page 33, Panel 6 "Love is a many splendid things..." = ????
Page 34, Panel 1 Canes calidi = hot dogs; Chiplotae = A small sausage; Persic = A reference to a brand of washing powder called Persil. Because of the resemblance to Persian, a Persian salesman is selling it.
Page 34, Panel 2 Panem et circenses = bread and circuses. A derogatory phrase coined by Juvenal (Satires x.80 60-130 AD) which can describe either government policies to pacify the citizenry, or the shallow, decadent desires of that same citizenry. He used it to describe the practice of Roman Emperors who gave unlimited free wheat to the poor and costly circus games as a means of pacifying the populace with food and entertainment. In fact, the system of free or heavily subsidized food distribution was limited to a minority of Roman Citizens holding a special token (tessera) entitling them to a monthly supply of grain and olive oil from the reign of Septimus Severus. The rations were probably too small to feed a family and the receivers were not necessarily poor or in need of free food. This does not change the fact that the food supply to a city the size of Rome was of primary concern to the emperors in order to avoid popular unrest.
Page 34, Panel 4 'Et tu brute' = 'Julius Caeser' by Shakespeare (Act 3, Schene 1, Line 77)
Page 35, Panel 1 "Drinka..." = A reference to "Drinka Pinta Milka Day". An advertisement slogan used in Britain some time ago.
Page 35, Panel 8 "Auld Lang Syne" - a poem by Robert Burns that has become one of the best known songs in English-speaking countries. Traditionally sung on New Year's Day.
Page 36, Panel 9 Plaudite cives = "Acta est fabula, plaudite cives" meaning "The story is over, applause, citizens!" Said by Cicero or Cato Sr. on his deathbed.
Page 37, Panel 7 Goodbye to the forum ???
Page 38, Panel 5 Ave Caesar! Morituri... = Hail Caesar! We who are about to die salute you!
Page 39, Panel 1 Mirmillo = a type of gladiator, usually paired with a Thracian

Table 4.2. Asterix the Gladiator - Names

Name (in order of appearance) Comment
Odius Asparagus Odious asparagus: odius=hateful, offensive or disagreeable. A caricature of Georges Fronval, leading specialist on Westerns.
Gracchus Armisurplus Army surplus
Picanmix Pick and mix
Ekonomikrisis Economy crisis or economic crisis
Caius Fatuous Fatuous: silly, foolish
Instantmix Instant mix
Insalubrius Insalubrious: not promoting health and welfare
Porpus Porpoise
Sendervictorius Send her victorious: a line from "God Save the Queen"
Appianglorius Happy and glorious: the next line of "God Save the Queen"
Brutus Historical: Marcus Junius Brutus, adopted son of Julius Caesar and one of the conspirators who murdered him