Asterix the Gladiator

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Asterix the Gladiator
(Astérix gladiateur)
Date 1969
Series Asterix
Creative team
Writers René Goscinny
Artists Albert Uderzo
Original publication
Date(s) of publication
1964
Language French
Chronology
Preceded by Asterix and the Goths
Followed by Asterix and the Banquet

Asterix the Gladiator is the fourth volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). It was first serialized in the magazine Pilote, issues 126–168, in 1962.

Plot summary[edit]

While stopping at the Roman Camp of Compendium, Prefect Odius Asparagus wants one of the indomitable Gauls as a present for Julius Caesar before his return to Rome (stating that it is an original idea of his). Despite knowing that the Gauls are indomitable, Centurion Gracchus Armisurplus decides Cacofonix (being the less harmful of the lot) would be the perfect candidate. Some men sent by the centurion, after being driven away by Cacofonix's singing at first, manage to counter the bard's bad singing by stuffing parsley in their ears and capture him in the woods as easy as pie. However, a young boy from the village has seen everything and raises the alarm to Asterix and Obelix. Soon afterwards, the Gauls attack Compendium as revenge for the kidnapping, but the prefect has already left in his galley with Cacofonix.

With no time to lose, Asterix and Obelix decide to go a rescue mission and board a ship with Ekonomikrisis the Phoenician merchant. At sea, they manage to repulse an attack from the pirates (whom they meet for the first time). In Rome, after Cacofonix has subjected the slaves in the prefect's galley to his bad singing, the prefect presents him to Julius Caeser, but when Caius Fatuous, the gladiator trainer, declares Cacofonix unfit to serve as a gladiator, Caesar decides to throw the bard to the lions instead. Upon arrival in Rome, Asterix and Obelix meet up with Instantmix (a Gaulish cook working in Rome, who slips them his address in one of the boars) and visit the baths (where Obelix empties out a pool of water while jumping into it and Asterix assaults a masseur for giving him a massage). Caius Fatuous, who goes to the baths regularly, spots them and decides they would be perfect candidates for the gladiator fights in the Circus Maximus, so he arranges to have them captured.

That night, Asterix and Obelix visit Instantmix in his insula (where Obelix smashes down doors and they are later attacked by two of Caius Fatuous' men). Instantmix understands why Asterix and Obelix are in Rome and warns them to be careful, but the two Gauls are still insistent on rescuing Cacofonix. The next morning, after spending the night in a hotel near the Circus, the Gauls' first attempt at rescuing the bard backfires when they raid the Circus prison and discover that Cacofonix has been transferred to a lower basement (as his singing drove the guards and other prisoners insane). At this point, Caius Fatuous learns about the Gauls' intentions and has his men try to ambush them in groups of three, but Asterix and Obelix (without knowing it) beat up the men plus a Roman patrol that intended to arrest the Gauls for disturbing the peace.

Caius Fatuous then resorts to offering a reward of 10,000 sestertii to any citizen who captures Asterix and Obelix, just as the pair decide to become gladiators. After being ambushed by the public (whom they beat up as well), the Gauls corner Caius Fatuous in the baths and (before the frightened gladiator trainer can confess his actions) announce they're willing to be his new gladiators. Overjoyed at this, Caius Fatuous takes them to his home where they have pasties for lunch and then takes them to the gladiators' quarters. Once there, Asterix and Obelix beat up Insalubrius (Caius Fatuous' assistant) and irritate Caius Fatuous by having the other gladiators play silly games (one of which involves answering questions without saying "black," "white," "yes," or "no"). Later, just as Caius Fatuous is presenting the posters for the upcoming Circus Games to Julius Caeser, the Gauls break out and go on a stroll, with Caius Fatuous (reluctantly) as their guide. On the eve before the games, as the other gladiators don't want to fight, Asterix promises them they won't have to fight, and later, he and Obelix (convincing one of the guards to help them) visit Cacofonix in his cell and inform him of their intentions to free him and the gladiators.

The next day, the Circus Maximus is packed, with Julius Caeser and Brutus in attendance. During the chariot races, Asterix and Obelix immediately fill in for a contestant who drank too much wine before coming and manage to win the race (with Obelix (literally) knocking away the competition). As Cacofonix is put out into the arena to be killed by the lions, he is so thrilled at singing in front of such a vast audience that he does so, sending the frightened lions running for their cages and two legionaries who have to take him away. Because of Cacofonix's actions, the games move on to the gladiator fights, where Asterix, Obelix, and the gladiators introduce Caeser to their new game, which only enrages Caeser's temper. Keeping his promise to the gladiators, Asterix insists to Caeser that he and Obelix fight Caeser's crack legionaries instead, which Caeser grants. As expected, the two Gauls beat up the whole cohort with ease (plus Cacofonix, who somehow escaped his captors and intended to sing a song of battle courage). The public likes the event and seeing that the people are pleased, Caeser decides to grant the Gauls what they wish. Asterix requests that Caeser free the three Gauls and the Gladiators (which Caeser accepts) and, as an added measure, the Gauls be allowed to borrow Caius Fatuous for the journey home and send him back on return. Caeser, having been dropping hints to Caius Fatuous about delivering punishment to him during the games, is only too happy to allow the Gauls to borrow Caius Fatuous, much to the latter's dismay.

Soon afterwards, the four men meet back up with Ekonomikrisis and Asterix surprises him and his men by having Caius Fatuous row the whole ship back to the Gaulish Village all by himself (as punishment for living off other people's muscles). Only when Cacofonix threatens to sing does the former gladiator trainer live up to his punishment. After a brief journey (plus a second run in with the pirates, which sinks their ship), the Gauls arrive home and Ekonomikrisis keeps his promise to return Caius Fatuous to Rome. The villagers then celebrate the return of their heroes with a banquet, only with Cacofonix having to sit it out bound and gagged after offering to sing a song to celebrate his triumphant return.

This book is noteworthy in the Asterix series as the first in which Obelix says his famous catchphrase "These Romans are crazy!"

An audiobook of Asterix the Gladiator adapted by Anthea Bell and narrated by Willie Rushton was released on EMI Records Listen for Pleasure label in 1988.

Characters[edit]

  • Geriatrix (unnamed) - Obelix asks him to run his menhir delivery service while he is away. His feisty personality was not shown at this time, neither was the fact he is married.
  • Ekonomikrisis - Provides transport to and from Rome
  • Brutus - Featuring an amusingly ironic exchange with Julius Caesar at the circus.
  • The Pirates - parodying French comic "Barbe-Rouge" which was also serialized in Pilote at the time.
  • Obelix' helmet game - for the first time he collects helmets from the Romans he bashes, trying to outdo Asterix (who never has much interest in it).
  • This is one of the only banquets that is held in the day.
  • A noticeable mistake can be seen, when the Decurion who captured Cacofonix was first seen, he was wearing Bronze Armour. Later, he is seen wearing Steel Armour.

Film adaptation[edit]

This story was blended with Asterix the Legionary for the animated movie Asterix Versus Caesar.