Asterix and Cleopatra (1965)

Astérix et Cléopâtre


Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Satire on traditionalist versus modernist architectural dialogue (as represented by the characters Edifis and Artifis); also a commentary on labour relations as the slave shortage in Egypt results in the hiring of contracted labourers to serve as builders and galley slaves.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Edifis – an honest traditional architect.
  • Artifis – an unscrupulous modernist architect.
  • Krukhut – a shorn-headed henchman.
  • The Nastiupset – an Egyptian galley.
  • Mintjulep – Egyptian spy working for Julius Caesar.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • Cleopatra introduced (she will return in Asterix and Son).
  • Egyptian language’s first representation as hieroglyphs within speech-bubbles with a footnoted translation. Sometimes the pictures actually relate to what is being said. (The character Ptenisnet in Asterix the Legionary will continue this trait).
  • Dogmatix named (p4) and made crucial to the plot (p21).
  • The first time the Pirates decide to scupper their own ship rather than get bashed (p6).
  • Vitalstatistix first displays his temperamental side (he dislikes Obelix’s new sideline of genuine obelisks). (p44.)

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • The translation from Egyptian to Gaulish is explained by way of film-dubbing techniques (p2).
  • Exlibris has qualified as a scribe by taking a correspondence course (p8).
  • Cleo’s paraphernalia owes more to Hollywood than historical verisimilitude (p 10 and on). (Kessler)
  • Egyptian portraiture which does not conform to the profile norm is dismissed as ‘modern art’ (p26).
  • There is a reference to the future contruction of the Suez Canal by a French company (p43).
  • The first of Uderzo’s magnificent vistas of an Ancient city portray’s Alexandria (p7).
  • When Obelix attempts to speak Egyptian, his poor pronunciation is shown by means of hieroglyphs like a child’s drawing (p15).
  • The Sphinx carries souvenir shops (p17).
  • Obelix is credited with the Sphinx’s lack of nasal capacity (p17).
  • An Alexandrian road exhibits a ‘School’ roadsign and carries a crocodile of schoolchildren (p29).
  • Artifis is seen reading the ‘Daily Nile’ Tabloid, complete with a Charlie Brown cartoon entitled ‘Pnuts’ (p29).
  • Several references to Cleopatra’s ‘pretty nose’ – which is drawn as no such thing – who’s significance escapes me.

Non-PC World…

Egyptians portrayed as basin-cutted loincloth-sporting weaklings.

Obelix has a tender side…

Does not like his table-manners to be criticised in public (p27).

Classic Pegleg…

Alea Jacta Est = The die is cast (Julius Caesar)

Redbeard’s Retort…

“One more classical remark from you and I’ll make you eat your wooden leg!”

Good or What?

Very good indeed.

Far more than Asterix and the Goths, this story illustrates Goscinny and Uderzo’s genius at appraising a foreign culture by way of such hyperbolic stereotype that the whole process becomes a comment on the popular perception of that culture. The first of the really effective ‘Asterix abroad’ books.