The real Asterix and Obelix
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.