Asterix and the Roman Agent (1970)

La Zizanie

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

In part an exploration of the military distrust of civil servants, as Caesar attempts to use psychological warfare where brute force has failed. However the single-minded military soon come to misinterpret “psychological warfare” as “hitting people with clubs”.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Tortuous Convolvulus: titular character.
  • Aberdeenangus and Giantortus: Roman navymen.
  • Felix Platypus: Roman Centurian.
  • Magnumopus: dense legionary.
  • Homunculus: diminutive legionary.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • Convolvulus is the personification of social disruption. Kessler cites him as the only symbolic character in Asterix.
  • First scenes of Caesar bickering with Senate (p1).
  • Another prescient Brutus reference – “One of these days I’ll…” (p2).
  • First all-woman fishfight (p11).
  • Getriatrix’s nubile wife makes her maiden appearance (p11).
  • Unsubtle shield gags a-plenty (p11 and onwards).
  • Dogmatix first exhibits his bottom-biting proclivities (p31).
  • Self reference – and one with a lit-crit flavour. Just who is the most important man in the village? the actual chief Vitalstatistix or the narrative hero Asterix?
  • Impedimenta is right – when they were fool enough to write the story indeed they didn’t call it “The Adventures of Vitalstatistix the Gaul.” (p11).
  • First indication that Vitalstatistix was offered place in senate – presumably offered to Gaulish chiefs as a bribe for their compliance after Alesia (p15).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • The acrimonious arguments instigated by Convolvulus are presented in green-shaded speech bubbles.
  • Impedimenta pulls rank by going to front of fish queue (p11).
  • Vitalstatistix, typically, gets the same birthday presents from the same people every year and has to feign gratitude (p8).
  • At the abortive first feast Cacofonix imagines a reversed situation where he is eating alone and everyone else is tied up (p17).
  • Convolvulus has his work cut out because the soldiers are too over-literal/plain dense to understand the subtleties of his stratagem. Witness their unique interpretation of “Psychological Warfare” (p28 etc).
  • Magnumopus is afraid his club has gone obsolete when it doesn’t floor Obelix (p36).
  • Cacofonix takes is afforded a compromise position at the feast: he is tied up at the tables (p44).

Selected fermented discontent…

  • Guard 1: I’ll teach you to go round saying I’m the Centurian’s pet.Guard 2: Is that so? And who was it told him I came back from the camp I over the VIII last night?(p3)
  • Senator: Oh yes, that’s right! When it’s not Brutus’s idea, Brutus is jealous!Brutus: Jealous? Maybe I AM jealous, but I didn’t betray Caesar! I was never in the pay of Pompey.Senator: Me in Pompey’s pay? HE may have been, not to mention any names, and him, and him, but I never betrayed J.C.! (p4.)

 

  • Lookout: Pirate Ship to port.Convolvulus: Did you hear that captain?Captain: No! No-one’s to listen to him! He’s been sent to Coventrium! He dared to say that while we were at sea our wives were all out at orgies!
  • Lookout: If that’s the way the land lies I shan’t say another word!!! Huh! They’re the sort of people who’d say I only got into the navy because my wife is a close friend of Julius Caesar’s second cousin twice removed! (p5.)
  • Captain: I said to port!Seaman: Stop shoving your oar in, captain – we all know the sort of pull you used to get your job! (p40.)

Obelix has a tender side…

  • Because nothing is ever explained to him (p27). “No-one ever explains anything to me – they just keep me around because I’m ornamental.”
  • A&O; lean on each other’s soldiers and weep buckets (p14).

Classic Pegleg…

Auri sacra fames = cursed craving for gold! (Virgil, Aeneid iii.6)

Redbeard’s retort…

“As for you, you distinguished classical scholar, you’re beginning to get on my…”

Good or What?

Really excellent. The funniest and cleverest Asterix book.