Asterix the Legionary: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 10 - Asterix the Legionary


The story - Asterix and Obelix have joined the Roman Legion in order to find a hot girl's hot boyfriend (Tragicomix) and bring him home. They pop into legion HQ to ask a clerk where Tragicomix has been sent.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"The clerk says, 'With a 'T' as in Timeo danaos et dona ferentes?' Come on, you know this one! No? It was in The Rock. It means, I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts, but most people say Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. See? You knew it. Virgil wrote it about the Trojan horse, which was obviously a Greek horse full of Greeks not a Trojan horse full of Trojans.

"Laocoon in Virgil's Aeneid 2 is the dude who says those words, and then he chucks a spear against the wooden horse which gets stuck and vibrates, and the sound echoes inside, almost giving the game away. Laocoon is later strangled by giant snakes that appear from the sea.

"Virgil was pretty demented.

"The reference in the Asterix strip is funny because it's just so long. Bureaucrats often find ways to make processes as agonising and long as possible. Don't even ask me about the time I tried to have Sean Connery forcibly repatriated."



The story - Julius Caesar and Pompey are engaged in civil war. Caesar's top spy, H2SO4 has to give a password to enter the camp.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"The spy says 'dignus est intrare,' meaning 'he is worthy to enter.' Neat password, I guess. But it is strange because he refers to himself in the third person. Dignus sum would be better.

"The weird grammar makes me think it must be a reference to mad French clown Molière - it appears in one of his mental and unfunny stories. I guess that's the French for you, self-referentially and self-reverentially keeping their culture alive against all odds, because no-one else will do it for them. So in answer to the question 'why is this funny?' the answer is: 'It's not.' It's too French to be funny.

"There's also a pun buried deep here - the spy's codename is H2SO4, but his real name is Vitriolix. As you know, H2SO4 is sulphuric acid, which used to be called vitriol. Or maybe it's not a pun, just a very bad password."

Note about H2S04 - in the French version he's called Acidcloridrix, so either the translators changed it for a good reason or they just suck at science. And in the Finnish version he's Vetysuperoksidix, which is H2O2. Weird!