“Let none of you be mistaken, the Romans are still here, at certain times of the year you will see us marching once more through our fortress.
“Remember who and what I am. I am a sword that sings in the dark. I am the sound of a legion marching to war. I am the axe that thuds into your scull. I am accuser, judge and executioner. I am Imperator. I am a living God. I am Caesar. I am Rome”
These are the words of the Emperor Domitian as Chester returns to Roman rule for one night only with soldiers from the Deva Victrix 20th Legion celebrating the Roman Saturnalia festival on Thursday 15 December.
The Saturnalia parade will start at 7pm with the soldiers marching through temporary ‘gates’ under the Eastgate Clock. Torches will be lit and the Emperor Domitian will make his proclamation before releasing the Lord of Misrule.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing said: “We hand the city back to the Roman’s for the final festive parade. It’s fitting for our Roman City to let Chester Roman Tours share their festival.
“Adding to the spectacle, the Winter Watch Parade will be sharing the stage, joining with the Roman’s in Town Hall Square to process around the city centre with City Watch Men, Angels, Devils, Fire Skeletons, Dragons and Cooks with their Victorian Christmas Dinner.
“I would like to take this opportunity to wish a Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year to all our residents and the many visitors who have enjoyed this year’s Christmas events and activities.”
Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn. Saturnalia was originally celebrated in Ancient Rome for only a day on December 17 but it was so popular it extended to a week, from the 17 to 23 December, despite Augustus’ efforts to reduce it to three days, and Caligula’s, to five.
Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of roles, with slaves and masters switching places. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolised the freed slave. A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly, Lord of Misrule