Caesar's Commentaries track his campaign to capture all of Gaul

Asterix and Roman History: Caesar’s Commentaries

The reason we know so much about the Gallic War that led up to the Asterix books is that Julius Caesar wrote a running commentary on them.  It’s an invaluable resource for historians of ancient Rome.  It’s unique to have this much written detail on any war of that era, so the scholars love to analyze this one to pieces.  Parts of it are taught in military schools to this day.

Of course, some of it has to be taken with a grain of salt.  The guy who wrote it won the war. He had good reasons for writing what he did to help further his career.

These writings can be found in a book called “Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War.” It’s been translated many times. You can read it on-line free. It’s not like the author’s heirs are going to sue for copyright infringement or anything.

It’s not exactly easy reading.  I tried an audio book version of it and all the names lost me pretty quickly. It requires too much concentration.

Here are three direct references to Caesar’s Commentaries from the pages of “Asterix.”

1. The Missing Scroll

In Asterix and the Missing Scrolls, Caesar demands truth in his commentaries.

Asterix and the Missing Scroll” by Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad is based directly on these Commentaries.  Their angle is that Caesar wrote about Asterix’s village in his Commentaries, but his publisher convinced him not to include it in the final book. It was an embarrassment in his campaign, and would weaken Caesar’s attempts to get the Senate to pay for everything he wanted.  And, hey, who in Rome even cares about those illiterate Gauls anymore, anyway?

They banish the scroll to prevent it from leaking out.

One of his ghostwriters doesn’t like this and leaks the missing scroll to the press.

Ferri takes this part of actual Roman history and tweaks it to not only fit the Asterix mythology, but also to make a parallel to the modern tale of WikiLeaks.

It is, arguably, the best of the three Ferri/Conrad albums so far.

2. “No Commentary”

Caesar has no commentary on the Gauls
From “Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield”

When plotting a great triumph to rub it in the face of the Gauls that he won, he’s not happy that Vercingetorix’s iconic shield cannot be found.  When told of this loss, Caesar replies, “No commentary.”

Yup, that’s a reference to his published commentaries on the Gallic Wars, too.

3. The Third Person

Caesar talks about himself in the third person, much like he did in his commentaries.
“Asterix and the Mansions of the Gods”

Perhaps because Caesar was using his Commentaries as a political tool, he wanted to make it sound legitimate and almost journalistic.  To that end, he wrote them in the third person.

When you see the jokes about Caesar’s referring to himself in the third person in “The Mansions of the Gods,” (book or movie) now you know what that references.

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One Comment

  1. Back in Latin class when I was about 13-14, my latin teacher tried to do just this and get us into Julius Ceasar’s writings through Asterix. Sadly that wasn’t very efficient as I was never that good at it then, the method being a bit of a stretch, that matter being optional in our educational cursus, not mentioning raging hormones and all that jazz 🙂 Your attempt is a bit more successful now and I’m almost tempted to track down a french-language version of the book and read it. Well done you!