Asterix and the Laurel Wreath (1971)

Les lauriers de César

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Basically “Asterix in Rome”. Becomes an astutely-observed examination of middle-class family life.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Homeopathix: Impedimenta’s Gallo-Roman brother.
  • Tapioca: his wife.
  • Kumakros: one of Caesar’s kitchen slaves.
  • Typhus: luxury slave merchant.
  • Osseus Humerous: Roman citizen.
  • Fibula, Tibia, Metatarsus: his family.
  • Goldendelicius: slave major-domo.
  • Locus Classicus: one of Caesar’s secretaries.
  • Titus Nisiprius: defence lawyer.
  • Habeuscorpus: cutthroat chief.

Continuity, lack-thereof; and other gaffes…

  • First book of phase Kessler dubs “Characteristix and Sophistix”. The character-drawing shows yet more subtlety and the themes of the books (rather than just details) are increasingly topical.
  • The greater narrative complexity of these later books is illustrated by an ellipsis: In Asterix the Gladiator A&O spend six pages en-route to Rome; here they just show up there.

Cleverness and Contemporaneity…

  • Another fine Uderzo vista of Rome opens the book (p1).
  • Ancient Rome includes charity flag-sellers and multilingual tour-guides (p1).
  • Goscinny incorporates a flashback-sequence into the narrative (pp 2-7).
  • Homeopathix’s maid uses contemporary wine-tasting terminology and the anachronistic Roman calendar (p3).
  • Homeopathix’s menu includes ‘Beaver’s tails in Strawberry Sauce’ and ‘Cow’s Hoof Mould’ (p5).
  • The House of Typhus carries the banner ‘By Appointment to Julius Caesar’ (p10).
  • Typhus accept A&O on ‘Sale or Return’. After they cause the inevitable ruckus he recommends they get sold in a supermarket or department store (pp11-12).
  • The British slave on Typhus’s display demands that A&O do not undersell themselves because that would devalue the whole stock. “Britons never, never, never shall be cut price slaves” he says (p13).
  • Asterix inadvertently creates a hangover cure (p19) which in the long term encourages Romans to drink more and eventually causes the decline of the Roman Empire (p44).
  • Titus Nisiprius accepts that his defence case will be a charade (p29).
  • Comedy-reversal sequence: Asterix acts for his own prosecution (pp31-32).
  • Obelix isn’t afraid of being thrown to the lions – but he does get stage fright (p33).
  • Uderzo uses pointilism to evoke twilight (p43). (Kessler).

British Ghastly Gastronomy…

Humerus refers to the abominable cooking of Autodidax, his British slave (p15).

Asterix’s hangover cure in full…

Jam, black peppercorns, salt, kidneys, carbolic soap, an unplucked chicken, honey, red peppers, black pudding, eggs and pomegranate seeds.

Obelix has a tender side…

Obelix causes the mission-impossible by drinking one cup too many cups of 55BC vintage. The nonplussed Asterix continually reminds Obelix of the fact by recalling his slurred words of ‘Zigactly’ and ‘Ferpect’ (pp 6 and 7).

Good or what?

Very good.

A personal favourite, this story is high on both satire and comedy. Goscinny fair tears into luxury merchandising, middle-class family life and lawcourts – whilst Vitalstatistix’s brush-in with his in-laws has to be the funniest sequence in all Asterix.