The Mansions of the Gods: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 17: The Mansions of the Gods

1.

The story: This is one of only two Asterix books without the hero's name in the title. In it, Caesar plots to cut down the forest surrounding Asterix's village and build an apartment complex named The Mansions of the Gods. He sends an architect, Squaronthehypotenus, to carry out the deed. Even after encountering the Gauls, he decides to press ahead.

Mansions of the Gods 1
Beati Pauperes Spiritu

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Beati pauperes spiritu means 'blessed are the poor in spirit'. It's from the Sermon on the Mount. The architect says that the gods seem to favour those with the least to recommend them. He's thinking of the Gauls, but it could equally be applied to Celtic fans, or nightclub bouncers."

 

2.

The story: The architect has had great success in cutting down the forest, unaware that the Gauls are using magic potion to immediately regrow the felled trees. He wakes the centurion to announce the good news. The centurion has more experience of dealing with the Gauls, and is not easily excited.

Mansions of the Gods Somniferus
Gnothe Seauton
All Greek to me Asterix

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched - Gnothe seauton. It means 'know thyself' and should really be written gnothi seauton as it is the aorist second person imperative, as I'm sure you knew. It doesn't make sense, but perhaps that's the intention. Probably it's just a setup for the 'it's Greek to me' line. Instead of Know Thyself they should have written 'Know the Gauls'. That would be more logical, but isn't a famous Greek phrase. My head is not a happy place to be right now. Still, at least the bouncer came off worse."

3.

The story: The Gauls have changed strategy and have decided to let the Romans build the Mansions of the Gods. The Romans publish a promotional brochure to drum up interest in the flats.

Mansions of the Gods brochure
the Gauliseum Asterix

Professor Ibrox explains:

"I made Andrew include this one because it's one of my all-time favourite Asterix gags. Basically, the brochure shows how great life will be when the Mansions of the Gods are finished. One of the things they plan to build is not a Colosseum but a Gauliseum - a great pun. You could go there to watch the Gaulacticos play football or listen to the Spice Gauls."

4.

The story: For a laugh, the Gauls have sent Cacofonix to sing in the Mansions, which is the equivalent of sending Serge Gainsbourg. Predictably, the occupants panic and start preparing to leave.

Quousque tandem

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Quousque tandem? Brilliant joke! (Especially as it is written one after the other, the very definition of 'tandem'...) Quo usque tandem is the first bit of the first line of Cicero's oration against Catiline. Catiline was one of the chief conspirators during Cicero's consulship, and Cicero had the pleasure of prosecuting him, but his speeches against him are florid and overly rhetorical. The whole line means 'When will you stop testing our patience?' You could say Quo usque tandem? in many situations - for example, to the man in the next cell who keeps singing Je t'aime... moi non plus, complete with moaning. Shut up, you drunk old dirty old man or you'll get some of what I gave that Celtic-loving bouncer!"

 

(Professor Ibrox's well-reported tussle with a security guard ended with the judge ordering both men to shake hands - they later bonded over a few beers and a mutual loathing of Eton-educated politicians pretending to be in touch with the common man.)