Book 4 - Asterix the Gladiator
(There's another Ecclesiastes reference in this book - vanitatum et omnia vanitas - but we already taught you what it means in the Asterix the Gaul post.)
The story - Asterix and Obelix have become gladiators in order to rescue their bard, Cacofonix. The other gladiators hail Caesar in appropriately respectful Latin. The cheeky Gauls don't. Caesar is not amused.
Professor Ibrox explains:
"In AD52, Emperor I, Claudius replicated a famous naval battle. Criminals were forced to take part, knowing they would surely die. If you've seen Gladiator you know the kind of thing.
"The prisoners, knowing they were about to be slaughtered for the amusement of the general public, shouted to Claudius, 'Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant'. It means 'those who are about to die salute you'. Personally, I prefer 'morituri te salutamus' - i.e. WE who are about to die salute you. It's better, no?
"In the comic, the respect the gladiators show Caesar is in contrast to the blithe impertinance from Asterix and Obelix. Caesar seems upset, but he shouldn't have been surprised. They are French, after all."
The Internet Adds Its Voice
Sometimes there are things Professor Ibrox and I miss, and people write in to point them out. In this case, Anonymous pointed out that Asterix and Obelix know that they won't be dying in the upcoming fight, so they would hardly join in with the other gladiators. Chris added that Asterix's words and gesture are salutations, so he's copying the other gladiators to some extent. And bilbonotry suggests "the ending sentence of Caesar is also a joke : "Let the fighting begin... before I lose my temper", so the fighting calms Caesar down!"