Asterix and the Banquet: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 5 - Asterix and the Banquet


The story - The new commander in town wants to attack the Gauls. He orders his men to get ready, but they gather outside the sick bay instead.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"I count three puns in two images. Intricate.

First, the pilum was the Roman javelin. We all know the phrase, 'a bitter pill to swallow'.

Second, the business with 'holding at bay' and bayleaf.

Finally, entering the lists means accepting a challenge - but the legionaries prefer the sick lists.

I wonder if Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge had a running battle to see who could come up with the most puns? And which of them won?"



The story - Chastened after his first scrap with the Gauls, the commander decides to build a fence around the Gaulish village and trap them inside.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"The first Roman says 'Exegi monumentum aere perennius'. It's probably the most famous quote in all of Latin, except Veni Vidi Vici. This was said by a poet called Horace who thought his poems were sweet as. It's about his poems, and it means 'I have raised a monument more permanent than bronze.' A bit full of himself, but with good reason. He'd be a kind of olden days Kanye West.

"Of course, the reader knows full well that this blockade won't hold the Gauls inside for longer than it takes Obelix to get peckish."



The story - A band of pirates sail towards the ship carrying the Gauls. Seeing Obelix on board, the pirate captain tries to turn the ship around.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"Ah, this is a good one. 'Victrix causa diis placuit sed victa Catoni' means 'The victorious cause pleased the gods, but the beaten cause pleased Cato.' It's from another of those epic poems - this time from a hippy Communist called Lucan. Cato was a famous Roman tree-hugger who lost to Julius Caesar but had the moral high ground. 

"You're supposed to say the quote if you've lost the battle but you've got right on your side, like Falkirk in the '97 final. So it's amusing for the pirate to feel hard done by; he's a pirate!"