David Sarkies's Reviews > Asterix and Cleopatra

Asterix and Cleopatra by René Goscinny
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Mar 06, 14

bookshelves: comedy

Asterix comes to save Egytian nationalism
22 July 2012
This album was somewhat more entertaining that the last one that I read though I am not really sure why. While Ceaser has always been portrayed as the villain in the Asterix albums, we begin to see more of his scheming and manipulative nature in this one. Cleopatra and Ceaser are having an argument as to whether Egypt is in decline or not, and Cleopatra decides to make a bet with him to build a palace for Ceaser in three months, however the only architect that she has is really bad, so he visits Amorica to see his old friend Getafix and as a result Asterix, Obelix, Dogmatix, and Getafix all go on a trip to Egypt to help Cleopatra win the bet.
One thing that you cannot say about Asterix comics is that they are historically accurate: they are not. While there are a number of jokes that relate to the period in which it is set (and the more you understand the ancient world the more the jokes make sense) they are not attempting to accurately recreate the period. Though I will discuss this more below, one thing that was difficult in those days was travelling long distances, and the voyage from Rome to Alexandria was not an easy one.
Egypt was not strictly the Egypt of the Pharoahs anymore, and had not been since the Assyrian invasion. In fact since the Egyptians lost the battle of Carcamesh to the Assyrians the once great Pharonic empire was in decline. Things changed when Alexander marched into the country and established the city of Alexandria and Egypt once again rose out of the ashes, but this time as a hybrid Greek-Egyptian culture. This new country was ruled by the Ptolemies for about two hundred years until this particular period. Cleopatra was the last of the Ptolemies to sit on an Egyptian throne, and with her death, Egypt became another province of Rome.
At this particular period Ceaser was in Egypt simply because Pompey had been murdered after he fled there at the end of the civil war. Ceaser travelled to Egypt not so much to bring Pompey's body home, but to seek out his murderers and punish them accordingly. However while he was there Ceaser decided that he would leave a Roman garrison in Egypt and thus incorporating it into Rome as a protectorate. This lead to a brief skirmish between Ceaser's and Cleopatra's troops which resulted in the burning down of the Great Library (it was subsequently rebuilt and restocked and remained so until it was ultimately destroyed when the Muslims invaded).
The other thing that I wanted to comment on with this album is the impossibility of being able to complete the task at hand. Even without having to travel to Amorica to pick up Asterix and Obelix, it would have been impossible to build a temple in three months. In fact, having to travel to Amorica and back again would probably have taken three months (if they were lucky). Travel back then was very slow, and sea travel was incredibly unpredictable. However, as mentioned above, Asterix is not about realism but rather about using the ancient world to satirise modernism, and in many ways the setting and the stories have a nature of their own.
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