Asterix and the Goths: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 3 - Asterix and the Goths

The story - Two legionaries stumble across a couple of tied-up guys who fit the description of Asterix and Obelix. They believe that another legionary has caught the outlaw Gauls, tied them up and gone to get help. Instead of doing the right thing and waiting for their colleague to return, they decide to take the prisoners back to camp and claim the reward for themselves.

"Video meliora proboque deteriora sequor"

"Video meliora proboque deteriora sequor"

Professor Ibrox explains - 

"Well it isn't riotously funny, it's true.  At first glance, the second legionary is merely repeating what the first says (Dishonesty is the best policy), but in Latin: 'Video meliora proboque deteriora sequor'. So far, so banal.  The best translation I can give is: 'In seeking advantage I pursue things which are less than noble.' The style is extremely florid and highbrow. So there's a fun juxtaposition between his demeaning struggle with his burden and his noble method of speech.

"But then I thought, 'Hmm... Where have I heard that before?' And I remembered it's a quote from Ovid. He wrote all fifteen books of Metamorphoses entirely in hexameter, which is just showing off really. And the first legionary's quote is, as you know, paraphrasing Shakespeare. So two of our greatest poets in one frame of Asterix. Not bad.

"All in all, it's not going to have the kids rolling on the floor, but after a bit of thought it's a thoroughly rewarding gag and I'm glad you brought it to my attention."


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