The Roman Soldier and the Conveyor Belt Miracle
'The bone went through there. I was pointing one way, my leg the other. I heard it snap. They were talking about taking it off, but this bone specialist came long and felt a pulse in my little toe and told them he could save it.'
Gaius Lucius Cadaras (not his real name) was explaining to me how he came to be a Roman soldier. 'I'm a hygienist. My job is to go in to a place, with my team, and clean it out. So I was in this place, with my lance, and it got trapped under the conveyor belt with one leg here, and the other here, and the conveyor belt still going, and, like I say, I heard the snap.'
'Anyway, after that, it was just the four walls of my living room for month after month, until, one day, I saw an advert in the paper for Roman soldiers...'
Gaius named himself after a real Roman soldier. He passes his stone every time he goes into the Museum, and Gauis (II) has researched his history. The original Gaius came from south west Spain and joined the Roman army aged 14. He died in Chester aged 28, and Gaius II believes that by taking his name he is paying homage to him.
'One day I'll meet him,' he says. 'One day, when it's my turn...'
I first encountered Gaius II as one of the bearers of my friend Mike's coffin. All the bearers were dressed in the gear they wear when they march, in formation, around Chester: sandals, short toga, armour, I can't really remember the details, my mind was elsewhere, but I was aware of them there. It could have been blackly comic, but in fact it was the opposite - very dignified.
Becoming a Roman soldier, for Gaius, has been a spiritual experience. He has adopted the faith, at least in part. On December 18th is the feast of Saturn - a pagan festival which predates Christianity. On that day, according to Gaius, the slaves were free, and to celebrate Gaius and the other soldiers are going to march with lanterns through the streets before feasting and dancing at the Groves.
On other days, he and the other Roman soldiers have visited Roman temples and Gaius has baptised himself in an underground font. Once, he recalls, seven of them were visiting a temple on a pilgrimage together and as they walked through a field seven bullocks made way for them and bowed their heads, while overhead an out-of-season flock of Canada Geese called out as they flew.
'They shouldn't have been there, then,' says Gaius, 'Canadian Geese are winter birds and this was August - it was all a sign.' Then, later, when they came out of the temple, there was a double rainbow, and they knew they'd been blessed.
'Everyone was healed,' Gaius said. 'there were several friends that we knew that were ill just then, and they all pulled through, not at once, but within the week.'
Gaius Lucius Cadarus (II) is well-built, almost burly. There are tattoos over both arms, and the role of Roman soldier suits him. Since becoming a soldier he has researched Roman history and seems to be hungry for information about the period. His life has clearly been transformed and enriched by an incident that, for a few hours, had looked like it was about to destroy it. I spent a fascinating half hour talking to him.