Asterix and the Secret Weapon: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 29 - Asterix and the Secret Weapon


The story. Cacofonix is upset that a woman has usurped him from his teaching job in the village. He decides to flounce. Curiously, the other villagers beg him to stay.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"The basic translation is right there in the yellow box. Qualis artifex pereo means 'what an artist dies in me'. Nero thought himself quite the musician and his last words lament his death, not for his own sake, but for the world's. So goes the traditional explanation.

"There is some controversy over the phrase. The yellow box suggests it was not said by Nero. Most sources agree that Nero did say it, but that they weren't his final words as is commonly thought.

"There's also a lot of speculation about what exactly Nero meant (if it was Nero). One story goes that Nero knew he would be murdered and was digging himself a grave so he'd get a good death instead of whatever his enemies had planned for him. While he was on his hands and knees scrabbling at the dirt, dragging some dirty marble into place as a headstone, he wailed Qualis artifex pereo - essentially saying 'even Elvis died better than this!'

"The digging his own grave story leads some people (e.g. the scholar Ted Chaplin, who owes me twenty Euro and hides in toilets every time we're at the same conference) to suggest that 'artifex' doesn't mean artist, but artisan - a worker. In other words, 'I'm the Emperor of the Mediterranean and the greatest singer of the age! Why am I being entombed in this shitty box like a commoner?'

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2. The story. While Obelix has to go to class for remedial maths, Asterix has fun beating up some Romans. As ever, one of them has a wry comment to make.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Gloria victis means ' Glory to the vanquished'. You see, the French won so few victories in their history that they had to start celebrating defeats. After a particularly hard drubbing at the hands of Bismarck's Prussians, a sculptor called Antonin Mercie made a statue called Gloria victis. Its use here, to celebrate a French victory over the greatest land army of all time, is pure wish fulfillment. One can imagine Uderzo in a pit of Lego making a space shuttle piloted by S'agenouiller Brasfort."

3. The story. Caesar has sent a secret weapon to destroy the Gauls once and for all. The ship carrying him is intercepted by the pirates, who, to no-one's surprise, come off second best.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Are we going to talk about how pathetic this secret weapon is? No? Okay. Well it's boat-load of female soldiers (because the French don't hit their women. Huh! Tell it to SOS Femmes.) Anyway, their elegant swan-styled boat smashes through the pirate ship leaving them for dead. As always Pegleg has something to say about it.

"Desinit in piscem mulier formosa superne can be translated as 'So that which is a beautiful woman on top ends in a black and ugly fish'. You might guess it's a reference to mermaids. That woman who's smiling at you might look sexy, but underneath she's a monster and she'll ruin your life.

"Which reminds me - it's time to see what my ex-wife is up to on instagram. One of these days she'll slip up and post a picture with her new address. Then we'll see how much she's hashtag loving life."