Video thumbnail, Saturnalia Parade in Chester
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Roman soldiers met their match in Chester last night during the city's annual Saturnalia parade.

Brandishing swords, centurions from the Deva Vitrix legion, confronted the city women's choir A Handbag of Harmonies on Eastgate Street, waving jingle bells and glittering handbags.

In a stand off, the toga-clad men shouted what sounded like a barbaric Yo! Saturnalia.

The singers responded, in harmony, with their own sung version, accompanied by musical director Matt Baker.

Emperor Domitian, aka Nicholas Fry, then proclaimed that he was the leader of all the citizens of Deva before letting free the Lord of Misrule.

The red imp then flirted mercilessly with the choir before the soldiers continued their march around the city with torches.

 

Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn.

The festival was originally celebrated in Ancient Rome for only a day on December 17 but it was so popular it was extended to a week, from December 17-23.

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 symbolized the freed slave. A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly translated as Lord of Misrule.

The poet Catullus describes Saturnalia as the best of days - a time of celebration, visits to friends, and gift-giving, particularly of wax candles (cerei), and earthenware figurines (sigillaria).