The Mansions of the Gods (1971)

Le domaine des Dieux

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Scathing denunciation of luxury accommodation and of business economics. Ridicules everything from initial surveying to labour relations, marketing and PR.  Along with Obelix and Co., the most overtly satirical book in the range.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Squareonthehypotenus: architect.
  • Somniferus: centurian.
  • Flaturtha: slave-leader (somewhat unbelievably revealed as the Pirates’ African lookout).
  • Showbisinus: games MC.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • The “A Few of the Gauls” page has gone to make way for the spoof brochure. (Kessler).
  • As the building development entails clearing the Gaul’s forest, Dogmatix soon becomes very stressed indeed (p23).
  • Fishfight aftermath and fishfight in progress (pp11 and 33).
  • I don’t understand the “revelation” of page 28. Are the slaves being revealed as the pirates and, if so, how come a) they look totally different as slaves, b) A&O don’t recognise them and c) conversely they don’t recognise A&O and throw a wobbly when they show up?
  • Cacofonix again saves the day by way of his extraordinary talent. His crucial song this time is “On the First Day of Solstice” (p37).

Cleverness and Contemporaneity …

  • A fabulous Uderzo vista of the prospective residences (p1).
  • JC gives PR-style executive presentation (pp2-3).
  • Caesar speaks in third person throughout e.g. “Lackey: He’s great.JC: Who? Lackey: You. JC: Oh, him.(p3)”
  • The Gothic slaves insist on singing the German carol Silent Night (Stille Nacht) – fortissimo (p8).
  • The slaves and, later, the Roman legionaries form trade unions (pp17 and 38). “Slaves work better since they started paying them, and think of the saving on whips.”
  • Roman circus-goers are given a two-page promotional brochure/slab about the Mansions of the Gods replete with estate-agent jargon (pp25-26).
  • The education in the luxury apartments will be carried out by slaves who will report to a parent-slave association. Any wrongdoing can be addressed by whipping either the pupil or teacher (p25).
  • Showbisinus and his vestal-virgin hostess hold a raffle to pick the new estate’s first residents (p27).
  • Surely enough, once the Romans take residence The Village becomes a commercialised tourist trap. Soon everyone is either a fishmonger or a souvenir antique dealer – until the economy collapses (p32 onwards).
  • Cacofonix is duly awarded for his morale-depleting performance with a place at the feast (p44).

Those union demands in full…

Slaves:

  • Get paid.
  • Freed as soon as first block is completed.
  • Paid Holidays.
  • Gradual Phasing out of the whip.
  • Ban on chains.
  • Decent accommodation.
  • Night work counts as overtime.

Legionaries:

  • Evening passes to be extended by an hour.
  • Cookhouse call played on a lyre.
  • Housed accommodation instead of tents.

Non-PC World…

The multicultural slave contingent provides a de-facto stereotype summation of other Asterix books.

Good or What?

Great.

A real adult tale, this one, the satire is so intrinsic to the ingenious story that it becomes surely too sophisticated for children to understand. Whilst Roman Agent marked Goscinny as first rate humourists, this one marks Goscinny in particular as a satirist of the first order.