Chester (Deva Victrix) was one of the three permanent legionary fortresses of Roman Britain. Home to the 20th Legion, or Valeria Victrix, for around two centuries, it was founded in the early AD 70s. Inscriptions reveal that at least some of the primary buildings were built under the governor Agricola, celebrated by his son in law, the Roman historian Tacitus.
As one of the largest legionary fortresses in the Roman Empire, Deva Victrix is characterized by unique and anomalous buildings. Archaeologists still puzzle over whether these could have been built with rather a greater intended status in mind...
The site of Chester guarded the access across the river Dee into north Wales in a strategic position that separated the potentially troublesome people of north Wales from those of northern England. The city remained a military base for the entire period of Roman occupation of Britain. The Dee was navigable up to Chester, making the site the principal Roman port of the Irish sea coast. However, as the Dee silted up, it became eclipsed by the rise of the deep water port of Liverpool.
Outside the fortress a civilian settlement sprang up, and in around AD 100, an amphitheater was built as part of the original conception. This grew to be the most elaborate and largest amphitheater in the province, with a capacity of up to 7,000. Half of it is still standing, allowing us to view north and east entrances.