Intro to Asterix and Obelix

Historical Background

The Greeks were great navigators in the Mediterranean Sea. They founded some French cities as Greek colonies, such as Marseille and Nice.

After the Greeks, the Romans dominated the Mediterranean basin. They conquered all the territories around the Mediterranean up to the Danube, the Rhine and to Northern England (see illustrations of Roman Conquest and Hadrianís Wall). At the time of the Roman conquest (first century B.C.), the territory that is not "France", was called "Gallia" in Latin, "Gaul" in colloquial French. [Thatís the etymology of the expression "Gallic humor", which is unsophisticated and easily somewhat gross.]

Asterix and Obelix are fictional characters busy fighting the invading Roman soldiers. The movie gives an idea of what life in the country and life in a Roman camp were like shortly before the birth of Christ.

"The year is 50 BC, and a Gaulish village in the west of France is still holding out against the Roman conqueror. Thanks to the druid's magic potion, the little group of dauntless Gauls succeeds - among other things - in irritating Caesar and his proud legions to the utmost degree! Their only fear is that the sky may fall on their heads."

The Roman Empire around 100 BC
The Roman Empire around 14 AD
The Roman Empire around 116 AD
The Northern Limit of the Roman Empire, Hadrian's Wall


Literary Background

French children learn a lot about history in school, but they have read about the conquering Roman armies and the construction of Roman roads, Roman bridges and Roman aqueducts before they start school. Most French-speaking children have read the 30+ comic strip albums about Asterix and Obelix. The books, written by Renť Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo have been translated into about 80 languages and 30 additional dialects.

Background of the Movie

Between 1967 and 1998 at least four movies have been made based on the comic books, three of them cartoons and one with real actors. For people who are familiar with this very first of the comic strips, there is nothing new in the story line, but the movie features a well-known actor making fun of himself and some finny special effects in the fights with the Romans. The Italian actor Roberto Benign (of "Life is Beautiful" fame) plays a farcical Roman character. "Asterix and Obelix vs. Cesar" was made one year after "Life is Beautiful".



Website designed and maintained by Barbara Vigano, Prof. emeritus of French, Mt. San Antonio College