Asterix the Gladiator – Book 4
Asterix the Gladiator is the fourth volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). It was first serialized in the magazine Pilote, issues 126–168, in 1962.
While stopping at the Roman Camp of Compendium, Prefect ‘Odius Asparagus’ wants one of the indomitable Gauls as a present for Julius Caesar. Because none of the others can be captured, Centurion Gracchus Armisurplus decides on Cacofonix the bard. Soldiers sent by the centurion, although driven away by Cacofonix’s singing at first, counteract this by stuffing parsley in their ears and capture him easily. A young boy from the village raises the alarm to Asterix and Obelix, and the Gauls attack Compendium; but learn that the prefect has already left in his galley with Cacofonix.
Asterix and Obelix therefore board a ship with Ekonomikrisis the Phoenician merchant, who agrees to take them to Rome after they save him from the pirates. In Rome, after Cacofonix has subjected the slaves in the prefect’s galley to his bad singing, the prefect presents him to Julius Caesar; but when Caius Fatuous, the gladiators’ trainer, declares Cacofonix unfit to serve as a gladiator, Caesar decides to throw the bard to the lions. Upon arrival in Rome, Asterix and Obelix befriend Instantmix (a Gaulish cook working in Rome) and visit the public baths. There, Caius Fatuous decides they would be perfect candidates for the gladiators’ fights in the Circus Maximus, and he arranges to have them captured. That night, Asterix and Obelix visit Instantmix in his insula, where he identifies the location of Cacofonix. The next morning, the Gauls’ first attempt at rescuing the bard fails when they raid the Circus prison and discover that Cacofonix has been transferred to a lower basement. Caius Fatuous has his men try to ambush them in groups of three, but Asterix and Obelix defeat them with ease, and apparently without taking notice.
Caius Fatuous then offers a reward of 10,000 sestertii to any citizen who captures Asterix and Obelix; but the two of them volunteer as gladiators to infiltrate the following Games, and Fatuous places them in training under his assistant Insalubrius. Soon, the Gauls demoralize Insalubrius and irritate Caius Fatuous by having the other gladiators play guessing-games instead of training. Later, when Fatuous plans the Games to Julius Caesar, the Gauls go on a stroll, with Caius Fatuous (reluctantly) as their guide. On the eve before the games, Asterix and Obelix visit Cacofonix in his cell and inform him of their intentions to free him and the gladiators.
The next day, during the chariot races, Asterix and Obelix substitute themselves for an inebriated contestant, and win the race. As Cacofonix is put into the arena to be killed by the lions, he sings to the Romans, and thus frightens the lions into retreat; whereupon Caesar orders the gladiators’ competition to begin. When Asterix, Obelix, and the gladiators introduce Caesar to their guessing-game, and Caesar insists on a martial contest, Asterix challenges a cohort of Caesar’s own guard, and the two Gauls win easily. Seeing that the audience are amused, Caesar releases the three Gauls and grants them Fatuous as a prisoner. Soon afterwards, the four men meet back up with Ekonomikrisis, and Asterix surprises him and his men by having Caius Fatuous row the ship back to the Gaulish Village alone. After a brief journey (plus a second run in with the pirates, which sinks their ship), the Gauls arrive home and Ekonomikrisis keeps his promise to return Caius Fatuous to Rome. The villagers then celebrate the return of their heroes with a banquet, only with Cacofonix having to sit it out bound and gagged after offering to sing a song to celebrate his triumphant return.
This book is noteworthy in the Asterix series as the first in which Obelix says his famous catchphrase “These Romans are crazy!”
Next book in the series : Asterix and the Banquet