Asterix and the Laurel Wreath: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 18 - Asterix and the Laurel Wreath

1.

The story: Laurel Wreath begins with a family having a huge argument over dinner. Like all arguments in France, it ends with one party vowing to cook the best meal their opponent has ever had - the ultimate humiliation. The chief of Asterix's village promises to season such a meal with Julius Caesar's famous laurel wreath and Asterix and Obelix are dispatched to acquire it. Asterix comes up with a plan to get into Caesar's Palace disguised as slaves, so they travel to the slave market.

Asterix parthian shot

Professor Ibrox explains:

"It's not a Latin joke, but I have to insist on pointing out the gag at the bottom left of the panel. See it? "At first glance, it's a simple pun on 'parting shot', in this case reworked to mean 'get rid of', but in fact 'Parthian shot' is a phrase in itself, somewhat fallen out of use.

Here's a quick lesson about the Parthians - while pretending to retreat, Parthian riders could turn on their horses and shoot arrows at their pursuers. It required extreme skill and they were justly famous, hence the 'Parthian shot'.

Hats off to the writers or translators for their knowledge of archaic classical phrases!"

 

2.

The story: His first few schemes having failed, Asterix allows himself to be captured and imprisoned inside Caesar's Palace (not the one in Vegas). There are some Latin phrases scratched on the walls of his cell.

Latin in Asterix cell veritas odium parit

Professor Ibrox explains:

"The first graffiti says 'Gloria Victis', meaning 'glory to the vanquished'. Even the prisoners in those days were cultured. When I was sent down the graffiti tended to be along the lines of 'Baz woz ere' and 'I did your mam.'

Veritas Odium Parit means 'truth gives birth to hate'. It's from a Roman comedy by Terence, so not to be taken too seriously. But one of these many proverbs in Latin that make you nod in agreement.

Truth certainly gave birth to hate in the case of my lawyer. He came to visit me in Klong Prem and said he'd withheld information so I'd be put away long enough for him to marry the girl I was dating, and that he had to get it off his chest because the guilt was killing him. Needless to say, as soon as I got out, [STORY REDACTED]

 

3.

The story: Having failed to find the laurel wreath in the palace, Asterix returns to his cell to try again the next night. His lawyer arrives, full of vim and vinegar.

Asterix Lawyer
delenda carthago said the great cato

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Delenda Carthago est is one of the most famous expressions in Latin. It was written by Cato; a real old codger of a Roman. Very traditional and conservative - a bit of a Churchill figure. Grammar: Delenda is a gerundive (something all students fear) in agreement with the feminine Carthago. With est the whole phrase has the idea of necessity. Literally it means 'Carthage is to be destroyed'. Ask a student to explain the difference between a gerund and gerundive and they are likely to cry. Laurel Wreath continues, brilliantly, with the prosecutor's opening statement:

asterix prosecutor prepares to speak
delenda carthago preempted
what the but I was going to

Professor Ibrox lols:

"Lol!"