The real As­terix and Obe­lix

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

YOUR ar­ti­cle on page 20 of the Week­end Ar­gus, Oc­to­ber 31, en­ti­tled “Fa­mous comic book char­ac­ters 50 years old” refers.

As­terix and Obe­lix were of course liv­ing in what to­day is called France, then known as Gaul, be­ing part of the Celtic na­tion, which at one time stretched from the Black Sea to the UK, but never united as a na­tion.

This “na­tion” was di­vided into two groups namely the Bry­thonic Celts (Welsh, Cor­nish, Bre­ton and Gaul­ish) and the Gold­elic group (Ir­ish, Scot­tish and Manx Gaelic group).

Gov­ern­ments are now en­thu­si­as­tic about re­viv­ing the Celtic lan­guage and are en­cour­ag­ing everyday use of this lan­guage.

The most pro­gres­sive Celtic na­tion of those times was the Salassi Celts, who set­tled in north west Italy about 40km north of Turin. They were such skilled farm­ers that their plough­ing tech­nique, called “sovescio”, is still used to­day. They ex­ploited mines for var­i­ous min­er­als such as an­ti­mony au­rif­er­ous, ar­gen­tif­er­ous lead, gold, sil­ver and cop­per. By 206 BC they were al­ready minting gold coins – 60 years be­fore the Ro­mans.

When the Ro­mans first in­vaded Salassi Celt ter­ri­tory, they lost 10 000 men and the Ro­mans only de­feated them in 22 BC.

The Salas­sian Celts re­sisted to the last, frus­trat­ing the Ro­mans in true Astrix and Obe­lix style, by mak­ing the Ro­mans pay a toll­gate fee for us­ing their bridges (a world first at the time), chang­ing the cour­ses of rivers so that they flowed in re­verse, raid­ing Cae­sar Au­gus­tus’s trea­sury and dam­ag­ing Ro­man roads. The Ro­mans rounded up all 30 000 of th­ese Celts and sold them as slaves to farm­ers on con­di­tion that they not be re­leased be­fore four years had passed.

In 1864, a tomb­stone ded­i­cated by a Salas­sian fa­ther to his four sons who were en­slaved and then mur­dered was dis­cov­ered, and from this the Salas­sian al­pha­bet was de­ci­phered.

Once the Salas­sians were de­feated, Cae­sar Au­gus­tus or­dered 3 000 prae­to­ri­ans to build a new town call Au­gus­tus Prae­to­ria, (to­day called Aosta) and the large arch­way built by them, known as the “Porta Prae­to­ria”, a Ro­man the­atre and other ru­ins re­main.

The area where the Salas­sians op­er­ated is known as the “Canavese” from the Celitic “can” mean­ing mil­i­tary camp and “abo” mean­ing river.

The Salas­sians were in­deed As­terix and Obe­lix char­ac­ters, full of mis­chief and al­ways giv­ing the Ro­mans the run-around.

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