Chester returns to Roman rule for one night only as soldiers from the Deva Victrix 20th Legion celebrate the Roman Saturnalia festival on Thursday, December 17.
The Saturnalia parade will start at 7pm in Eastgate Street where torches will be lit and the emperor makes his proclamation before releasing the Lord of Misrule.
Cabinet member for culture, leisure and wellbeing Louise Gittins said: “This is the tenth year Chester’s Roman Tours has brought their Saturnalia Parade to the streets of Chester. It’s fitting for our Roman City to let the 20th Legion share their festival.
“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.”
Adding to the spectacle, Chester’s Winter Watch Parade will be sharing the stage this year. They will join with the Romans in Town Hall Square and proceed around the city centre with city watch men, angels, devils, fire skeletons, dragons and cooks with their Victorian Christmas dinner.
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 December 17 to 23, despite Augustus’s 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.