Roman Tours

Sin, dex!’ It is a familiar sound in the streets of Chester. The Roman Centurion with his crocodile of miniature legionaries: the best school trip, and one they'll always remember.

This year Chester Roman Tours, second only to Chester Zoo in popularity, is celebrating their 25th anniversary with two new tours using digital screens and VR technology.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of talking to some of the soldiers as they were painting their shields for the new season at the amphitheatre, and hadn't realised how much the guides become the Roman soldiers they are re-enacting. Each one has an authentic name derived from the first-century tombstones displayed in the Grosvenor Museum.

There was Gaius Lucius the second son of a farmer from modern-day Turkey, Gnaeus Vitellus Sunicus was from Belgium, while Titanius Felix was from Germania and died in battle aged 45. His wife paid for his tombstone.

Each uniform sets them back a thousand pounds, and once they’ve joined they’re committed to spending weekends away, learning how to sing Roman marching songs and how to fight the Roman way with a shield.

"Sometimes when I walk in my gear up Bridge Street all this modern stuff just falls away,” Cadra the legionary told me. “People think I’m having them on, but I’m not. I can see it all as it was: their barracks, the baths, the columns of the headquarters…”

What the Romans left still shapes this city. The streets. The open spaces. The walls. The gates and towers. And tomorrow at noon and 3pm their tour will be one of the many daily tours taking part in the festival. It seems a good place to start.