Togas, Laurels, Chariots and Some Roast Lambs' Testicles. Must Be a Saturnalia Celebration

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 12, 2008 | Go to article overview

Togas, Laurels, Chariots and Some Roast Lambs' Testicles. Must Be a Saturnalia Celebration


Byline: By Sally Williams Western Mail

A welsh town will be transported back into Roman times today as it aims to maximise its visitor appeal. Residents in Llanwrtyd Wells - the self-confessed "wacky capital of Wales" - will don togas and drape themselves in laurels for a Gladiator-style chariot race.

The event is to celebrate Saturnalia - an annual festival of Roman drinking, food and fun. Jokingly described as a cross between "a Roman orgy and a Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) weekend", it encourages visitors to live it up like a Roman among the Cambrian mountains, by sampling more than 50 real ales or wine.

Gordon Green, chairman of Green Events, said the chariot race, to be held this afternoon, will be the main spectacle, but - instead of stallions - mountain bikes will be used to pull the barrel drum-style chariots.

He said, "Saturnalia was a major festival for the Romans. It was traditionally held on December 25, which is probably why the Christians chose that date to celebrate Christmas.

"Its history goes back thousands of years but we resurrected it as a winter solace and it was a festival of great sporting events held across the whole of Italy. So far we have two pairs of fit cyclists, each pulling one person along in racing chariots. Julia Galvin will be dressed as Queen Boudicca and our 'gladiators' and the crowds will be wearing laurel hats and togas."

He said visitors can also enjoy a plethora of Roman food, including lumbuli assi ita fiunt - better known as small roast lambs' testicles.

He added, "I've tried them and they are actually very good. We use a recipe book compiled by the Roman Apicus, who made dishes featuring animals from countries the Romans had conquered throughout their empire.

"And visitors can burn them off by joining marked walks along our Roman roads near a Roman camp at Caerau near Beulah."

Lindsay Ketteringham, proprietor of the Neuadd Arms, said he would be offering other, more palatable, delicacies on his menu, including pernae cocturam, or honey-roast ham and pullus farsilis, otherwise known as stuffed chicken and ginger.

He added, "The Romans didn't have potatoes so we leave them out and have Mediterranean-style bread instead, plus braised leeks, parsnips cooked in wine, beetroot and grapes. The weather is usually dull at this time of the year and people like to have an excuse to have a party."

Llanwrtyd Wells, with 600 inhabitants, now organises 15 events a year to attract tourists into the town, attracting pounds 1. …

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