THE countdown has begun to a celebration of York's past as a vital outpost of a multi-national empire, with the city's second annual Roman Festival.

The Eboracum Roman Festival 2004, backed by City of York Council, York Tourism Bureau and First Stop York, is a weekend extravaganza to be held on July 24 and 25.

Last year was the inaugural event, and this year organisers hope to build on the original formula with a whole host of activities planned throughout the weekend.

Proceedings will kick off on Saturday, July 24, with a "march of the legions" opening parade around the city, setting off from Bootham Bar at 11am.

Four Roman legions will form the backbone of the procession, with Legion XIIII and Legion XX from Chester, and Legion VII from Northumbria joining York's own Legion IX.

They will follow a route taking them through the city centre via Stonegate, Davygate and St Sampson's Square and on to Constantine's statue outside York Minster.

Among those joining the throng will be the York-based group of re-enactors, Comitatus, who will be playing the parts of musicians and the women and children of all the legions, in full costume.

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Janet Looker, will greet them and officially open the festival.

This year more groups are getting involved, organising activities at various venues, including York Minster, which is hosting a Roman encampment in Dean's Park.

The main events will be in the St Sampson's Square area, where authentically-costumed Roman soldiers will be on hand, carrying out a range of activities designed to give an insight into the Roman way of life.

Other events are being held in King's Square, Eboracum Legion Bathhouse, St Mary's Square and the Coppergate Centre, where there will be a junior army recruitment centre.

Exhibitions, talks and theatrical performances will also be held in the Hospitium, in the Museum Gardens.

Event organiser Keith Mulhearn said: "This year's event promises to be even bigger and better than last year and there will be a wide range of events laid on for all the family all weekend."

Further information about the festival can be found at

Updated: 08:30 Wednesday, July 07, 2004