By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB
This is the first article in a series about the Asterix comic books, written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo, which have also been translated into Latin. I first read the Asterix books when I was ten years old, and the collection was instrumental in helping me develop a taste for classics, with its many allusions to classical culture and education.
I recently purchased the complete collection in the original language to help me improve my French, and this week I finally bought the Latin edition of the first book, “Asterix Gallus”. I’m certain it will be a great addition to my Latin studies.
About the Authors
Asterix was created by Goscinny and Uderzo in 1959 and is considered the most successful European cartoon in history. The authors were life-long friends who worked together for many years. Apart from Asterix, they also created lesser-known characters like the Indian Oumpa-Pah, the corsaire Jean Pistolet, and the French boy Little Nicolas. Goscinny died in 1978, but Uderzo continued to create Asterix comics until 2012, when he handed the baton to other talented artists.
Asterix Gallus: A Modern Latin Masterpiece
Asterix Gallus is the Latin title of the first book in the series. It narrates the adventures of Gaulish warriors who, thanks to a magic potion, were never defeated by the Romans. One day, however, the potion-brewing (but otherwise defenseless) druid Panoramix is kidnapped by the Romans and its up to Asterix to use all his wits to rescue him.
I learned quite a bit of new vocabulary from this book, the characters using many words which rarely appear in Cicero or Vergil. Interestingly, against all conventional rules, the translators took quite a few liberties, which actually made the story even funnier! For example, on page 13 of the French original, Obelix simply says “Those Romans are crazy” (one of his favorite phrases), but in the Latin translation we read “Errare romanum est” (“To err is roman”), a pun on the famous saying “Errare humanum est” (“To err is human”). Then on page 28 Asterix says in the original simply “I must be brave”, but the translators write “Audaces fortuna juvat” (“Fortune helps the bold”) instead, a well-known sentence from Vergil’s Aeneid. I’m fairly sure Goscinny would have forgiven the translators these little additions!
The translators also inserted some funny notes. On page 27, a sleeping character is accompanied by the words: “Conversione non opus est, quod plurimi homines simillime sternunt” (“It is not necessary to translate this since most men snore the same way”). A little further on, on page 34, after Asterix and the druid Panoramix enrage a centurion, the translators include the note: “Tum Panoramix C. Bono remedium contra nervos infirmos commendavit” (“Then Panoramix prescribed Caius Bonus a medicine for his nerves”).
I hope that more Latin teachers will make use of this excellent translation of Asterix the Gaul in their classrooms. Asterix is truly a magic potion for Latin students!
Latin Language Teacher Resources
Click on the links below to browse our Latin teaching downloads. These include Latin Visual Vocab Sheets, Latin Preposition Diagrams, Ablative and Dative Use Lists, and Declension and Conjugation Charts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.
Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.