Roman rule returns to Chester (for one night only)

9 December 2021

The final festive parade takes Chester back to its Roman occupation in 47/48 AD as the city returns to Roman rule for one night only with the Roman Legion soldiers marching through the city with flaming torches. 

Lighting their torches and marching through the city centre, Chester’s Deva Victrix 20th Legion take back control of their city as Chester Roman Tours celebrates Saturnalia on Thursday 16 December. The parade leaves the Grosvenor Museum at 6.30pm after arriving in Eastgate Street the Emperor Domitian will address his subjects. 

“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” 

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “For a Roman city it’s only fitting that our Roman soldiers provide the final Christmas Parade. There is also a second chance to see the Winter Watch parade when it joins forces with the Roman Saturnalia parade, meeting at the Christmas Market in Town Hall Square. Thanks to Chester’s  Roman Tours for sharing their festive parade and to the many performers and volunteers who have entertained us over the past two months.”

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. 

Following the release of Chester’s Lord of Misrule at the Christmas Market in Town Hall Square, the Winter Watch Parade shares the stage for a final march through the city. 

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