THE UK’s largest Roman Weekend This is Deva will launch the 2012 MBNA Chestival calendar and will see 400 Romans and their families make Chester their home – transporting visitors back to a time when the city was known as ‘Deva Victrix’.

Running over the weekend of June 2-3, the city will come alive with ancient events and activities including gladiator fights in the amphitheatre, a Roman archaeological dig in the park, a full scale Roman village, complete with shops and houses, will spring up in Grosvenor Park as well as a jaw-dropping military march through the streets of the city.

Set in two areas, the amphitheatre and Grosvenor Park, the former will host the gruesome gladiator fights. Shows will take place daily at 4pm.

Romans and countrymen can cheer for their favourite gladiator character as they did back in Roman times and wave a flag in their colour.

Also in the amphitheatre will be the Kids Army Finale. Sign up by 11.30am and up to 40 children aged 5-10 years will have the opportunity to dress up in Roman costume to run through a Roman army drill and fight a battle against the Celts.

Grosvenor Park will be the largest arena and will house the Roman village, military encampment, Roman dig and traders. The village is even larger this year and will span 630ft long.

In a Jubilee street party with a difference, visitors can smell the Roman pots cooking, hear the clanging of metal work and walk among the hustle and bustle of busy Roman life as it was nearly 2,000 years ago.

New for this year will be the author’s area set within the Roman village. Best-selling historical fiction writers will be attending this year’s festival so that history fans can ask them questions about their books. Included in the line up will be Ben Kane, who is currently in the top 10, Ruth Dowie, Manda Scott and Anthony Richies.

Also new for this year will be a Roman dig. Visitors can see the dig live and will have the opportunity to speak to the archaeologists as they pick out Roman artefacts found in the ground.

Running both days at midday will be the daily massed legion parade through the city. Hundreds of legionnaires will make their way through the city and the streets will come alive with musicians, dancers and ancient entertainers.

Paul Harston, Roman Weekend producer, said: “Each year the festival gets bigger and bigger and this year news has spread to Europe – we are delighted to welcome Romans from as far as Germany and the Czech Republic.

“This year there will be so much to see and do – see even more terrifying gladiator flights, lose yourself in our Roman village and be simply wowed by our military march.

“This is without doubt one of the most exciting family events the city has ever seen.”

Tracy Lynn, Chester Festivals Director, said: “What better way to launch MBNA Chestival than with the Roman weekend. Quite simply, it’s an event that is dramatic, entertaining and magnificent on the grandest of scales. The whole weekend is free for all to enjoy and so is perfect for families who are looking for an attraction with a difference that won’t break the bank.”

The Roman village in Grosvenor Park will be open from 9am–5pm on both days and the Amphitheatre will start its performances at 11am daily. All performances are free of charge.

For information on dates and bookings visit from Friday, April 6.