How did Vercingetorix unite Gaul?
Asterix the Gaul
Where is the village of the indomitable Gauls?
"We are in the year 50 BC. All of Gaul is occupied by the Romans. All of Gaul? No! A village populated by indomitable Gauls does not cease to offer resistance to the invader." Every Asterix band begins with these words.
But where is the so often cited village actually? Asterix and his friends call their homeland "Aremorica". This area on the west coast of France, which the Romans conquered in 56 BC, corresponds roughly to today's Brittany. There, near the small seaside resort of Carnac, there are around 3,000 menhirs in rows that stretch for miles and come from prehistoric times.
However, if you believe the Asterix book "The Son of Asterix", Obelix is personally responsible for the rows of stones. Because in order to get milk for Asterix's foundling, Obelix supplies the farmer Appendix with menhirs, which he sets up on his field.
In the harsh and warlike times of the Celts, the slender Asterix would probably hardly have what it takes to be a resistance fighter and hero. In fact, the draftsman Albert Uderzo initially created a completely different Asterix, "a Vercingetorix, a real Celt with broad shoulders," as he later said in an interview.
Vercingetorix was a legendary Celtic leader who fought against the Romans around 50 BC for the independence of the Gallic peoples. But copywriter René Goscinny didn't want another hero figure, of whom there were already so many on the comic market. He wanted a title character who was superior to the Romans because of their cunning.
Since Uderzo did not want to say goodbye to his idea of the strong Celt, he put a great, broad friend at Asterix's side: Obelix.
Historical wisdom in comic form
Of course, reading Asterix cannot replace history lessons, but there are allusions to historical events and personalities in every volume.
For example, older Gauls like to point out again and again that they would have fought bravely near Gergovia, but it is better not to mention the town of Alesia in their presence.
"Alesia? I don't know Alesia! I don't know where Alesia is! Nobody knows where Alesia is," burst out Chief Majestix in "Asterix and the Arvernerschild".
Because while the Gauls were still able to defeat the Roman troops at Gergovia in 52 BC, they were defeated a little later in the decisive battle at Alesia under Vercingetorix's leadership. The conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar could no longer be stopped.
The Asterix comics are also otherwise peppered with historical sayings and allusions. Brutus, one of the Caesar murderers, is shown with a knife and Caesar preferably addresses him as "You too, my son Brutus". The Roman general is said to have called out this sentence when he saw that Brutus was one of his murderers.
In "Obelix on a cruise" the fugitive slave Spartacus meets the Gauls. In fact, there was the so-called Spartacus uprising, in which an army of slaves rose up against the Romans. The real Spartacus never got as far as northern Gaul, but died in a battle in southern Italy in 71 BC.
When the Celts become Teutons: Siggi and Barbarras
If it had been up to the German publisher Rolf Kauka, not much would have remained of the many historical cross-references.
The inventor of "Fix und Foxi" had acquired the publishing rights for Asterix in Germany. The Celts Asterix and Obelix became the Teutons Siggi and Barbarras, who from then on had to represent Cauca's reactionary views.
The Gaulish village became the Bonnhalla fortress, which was no longer in Brittany, but on the Rhine, and the wise druid Miraculix was now called "Konradin" based on Chancellor Adenauer. The proud Gaul leader Vercingetorix even became Kaiser Wilhelm.
Kauka went particularly far in the volume "Asterix and the Goths", which he called "Siggi and the Ostrogoths". Enemy agents from the "Ostrogoth zone" invade westwards by crossing the "green curtain".
The Ostrogoths have significant names such as Hullberick (after GDR politician Walter Ulbricht), Genossrick or Volksbetrieberick. Their texts were also printed in red so that the last one could understand the references to their socialist sentiments.
After four volumes, however, the French right-holders had enough of Kaucasus propaganda comics and terminated the contract. From 1968 Asterix appeared in Germany as a Celtic Gaul and had great success with it.
Great success of a little Gaul
The Asterix books have meanwhile sold over 300 million copies worldwide. The little Gaul's adventures have been translated into more than 100 languages and dialects, so that Asterix can now also be read in Kölsch, Franconian or Low German.
The story and puns of the more recent volumes did not come close to the early Asterix works - but this does not prevent fans from buying more than a million copies for each new publication in German-speaking countries alone.
The Gaul has also made it to the cinema screen several times. From 1999 onwards, animated films were joined by real-life films in which stars such as Gérard Depardieu and Laetitia Casta played.
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