Asterix in Belgium: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 24 - Asterix in Belgium

1.

The story: Vitalstatistix, chief of the village, hears of the ferocity and bravery of the Belgians, and sets off to investigate (with Asterix and Obelix in tow). They befriend Belgians, rough up Romans, then depart for dinner. Vitalstatistix suggests the view is somewhat boring.

our-hills-are-called-oppidums

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Strictly speaking, Oppidum is the Latin for town. You see, Rome and Rome alone was allowed to be called a city. The rest - even Glasgow - had to make do with being oppida.

"Vitalstatistix is surprised to find the Belgian countryside is as flat as a squashed waffle. The Belgian jokes that towns are their only topography. If you're on the run from the police, rural Belgium is not an easy place to hide. Believe me.

"By the way, wouldn't that be a great name for a movie? Rome Alone. You could have that wee lad in it. He'd make traps from stale spaghetti, use a Sofia Loren mannequin as a booby trap, and escape in a mini."

2.

The story: To decide which nation are the braver, the Gauls and Belgians are beating up whatever Romans they can lay their hands on. The pirates are enjoying the show from the apparent safety of their ship. The old pirate has a warning for his captain.

Non licet omnibus adire corinthum
not everyone can go to Corinth

Professor Ibrox explains:

"The old pirate says, 'Non licet omnibus adire corinthum,' meaning 'Not everyone can go to Corinth'. Corinth was an expensive party town in those days. Imagine you'd been told you had to waft a big leaf over your sweaty boss while he banged some slave girl. You'd probably sigh and tell yourself that not everyone can go to Corinth ('Somebody's got to do it').

"The old pirate has long resigned himself to his fate - he'll never dine with kings or carouse with courtesans. But that doesn't mean he has to sail the coast of Belgium perilously close to a warzone. And he's quite right - soon after that conversation, their ship is sunk by a stray rock.

"Corinth must have been a fun place. It had the most famous prostitute in the world, one of 1000 who worked in the Temple of Aphrodite. For an old reprobate like the pirate, it must have been the object of many a dream. Bit like me and the Diamond Dolls on Mitchell Street."

3.

The story: Asterix and Obelix go to ask Julius Caesar to adjudicate on a contest between the Gauls and Belgians. Caesar commands a legionary to show them into his tent.

moriturus te saluto

Professor Ibrox explains:

"I know, I know, we had this one before, in Asterix and the Big Fight, and Asterix the Gladiator. This one is slightly different because he says 'moriturus te saluto' instead of 'morituri'.

"There's just something that tickles me about this guy saying 'I who am about to die salute you.' The sense of scale is all wrong - it should be said by a dozen sweaty musclemen who are about to hack bits of each other off with swords and tridents (and that one loser who brings a net). Not said by a single legionary whose only job is to go outside and whistle at a couple of Frenchmen. 

"He was right to be paranoid, though - in the next scene Obelix beats him up for no reason.

"We've all been there, I'm sure. The last time I whistled at two foreigners, I woke up concussion and with four broken ribs, and found I'd been selected as the UKIP candidate for Stranraer."

4.

Bits and bobs: Asterix in Belgium features an 'alea jacta est' which you can read about in Asterix and Cleopatra. There's also a funny Hergé crossover that blew my mind when I was a kid. Tintin characters! In an Asterix book! Are they allowed?!

Tintin crossover in Asterix Belgium