GLADIATORS, soldiers and emperors have been lined up to bring York's history to life this summer.

Preparations for the third Roman Festival are well under way, with organisers anticipating the best turnout yet in the event's history.

This year, organisers hope to build a replica Praetorian Gate at the site of the main entrance to York's original Roman Fortress, which was in St Helen's Square.

Roman soldier re-enactors will march around the city, before a changing of the guard ceremony in St Helen's Square and at the sites of the two other main gates, at Bootham and the end of Petergate.

There will be about 150 re-enactors stationed throughout the city, at sites such as the Museum Gardens and the Coppergate Centre, and other events will include the crowning of Constantine outside York Minster.

The 2005 event, between August 5 and 7, is part of York's new branding as the City of Festivals, which was launched with the Jorvik Viking Festival last week.

There will be gladiator competitions, chariot racing, wrestling, a Romans versus Barbarians battle, Roman talks, a Spirit Of The Lost Legion ghost event, music and dancing and a living history camp at Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate.

Festival secretary Nick Eggleton said the event would be bigger and better than ever before.

"We'll launch on the Friday with lots of kids events such as making helmets, shields and togas, before an evening tour of York. The proper launch will be on Saturday when the re-enactors arrive. There will be lots of soldiers, gladiators, people singing and dancing, before a parade through York to the statue of Constantine and a march to St Sampson's Square.

"On Sunday there will be a changing of the guard and then there will be wrestlers, a chariot race and lots of kids' activities in St Sampson's Square. It's going to be fun, educational and entertaining."

Mr Eggleton said he hoped tour operators from other cities would visit York during the festival. "This year will be bigger and better than ever before.

"It's been professionally organised and marketed and it will be a fantastic event," he said.

Meanwhile, organisers of the Chinese New Year Festival are celebrating the success of this year's event, which received an award from the Millennium Commission and the Arts Council's Urban Cultural programme.

At the same time thousands of people have been enjoying this year's extended Jorvik Viking Festival in the city.

Updated: 11:09 Thursday, February 17, 2005