Time for a new Asterix review. We’re up to Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield. The story starts out with a narration of the defeat of Vercingetorix, the mighty chieftain who united Gaul but ultimately succumbed to the Roman forces. In the comic’s next scene, the chieftain’s shield is shown lying forgotten at the place where Vercingetorix dropped his arms in front of Caesar. A legionary absconded with the icon, loses it to a legionary in a game of chance, who in turn loses it to centurion, who in turn trades it for some Gaulish wine in a pub. This is the prelude.
Vercingetorix is an actual historical figure. He was a member of the Arverni tribe which occupied the southeastern portion of Gaul. The Arverni tribe was powerful and was able to successfully repulse the Romans on several occasions. There was significant drama in the community as part of the nobility of the tribe preferred to avoid conflict with the Romans and subject themselves to Caesar, and those that opposed the territory grab from Rome.
Vercingetorix’s father was king of the region and ruled from the ancient fortified city of Gergovia (you’ll see that location pop up on various occasions in the Asterix books). Celtillus, the father, was put to death for his ambitions to take over all of the Gaulish tribes. The Avernian nobles apparently feared that the king’s motives would create a greater risk of motivating the Romans to attack. Vercingetorix assumed the leadership role, but was expelled from Gergovia. He did next what his father was unable to do by rallying the other tribes to take on Caesar. They attacked Gergovia and defeated the Romans in 52 BC, successfully warding off a Roman siege. However, the victory was short lived. That same year, Caesar engaged Vercingetorix in Alesia, an ancient Gaulic city that no longer exists and is actually lost to history because experts are not able to agree on its precise location. There have been recent discoveries that lead many to believe they’ve found the ancient battlefield because of buried fortifications that look like those Caesar described. Here’s an image at the supposed location. Apparently, Asterix is now a time traveller.
The defeat of the Gauls at Alesia was historically significant on a broad scale. It positioned Caesar to consolidate his power in Rome, created a wealth of resources for the Roman empire, and eventually created what became in essence modern day France.
There is a recurring joke in the Asterix books that even in ancient time, the Gauls have no idea where Alesia is. This Gaulish pride plays into the antics of the hold-outs in our favorite little Armorican village.
… or take me to a list of other Asterix reviews.
… or how about the cover gallery?