THE Romans returned to Caerleon this weekend, with thousands of people marvelling at the battle skills which were hallmarks of their empire-building.

Ars Dimicandi draws actors from all over Italy and they travel to all parts of the former Roman Empire demonstrating gladiator-style fighting, different types of duels and battle re-enactments.

The group was formed by Dario Battaglia 20 years ago and he said: "The main things we show is different types of fights, armours and how a military person is different from a gladiator."

It was Mr Battaglia’s third time in Caerleon and the group were there as part of their European tour for the annual summer spectacular at the Caerleon Ampitheatre.

They were joined by members of Gloucester-based Ermine Street Guard, who were demonstrating preparation of food soldiers eat on the march, simple board games they played, working tools and different battle formations.

Cheryl Marren, 32, has been with the group since the age of seven and described herself as a "massive enthusiast", wearing period costume and shoes she made herself.

But, the people of Gwent weren't just restricted to a watching role. There was mosaic making and even a gladiator school, which allowed some lucky youngsters to don gear and be part of a Roman legion for a while.

The annual weekend programme is run with the town’s National Roman Legion Museum and manager Dai Price said the two-day event helps attract the highest percentage of visitors.

He said the live re-enactments capture the imagination of the public, who travel from far and wide.

Newport West AM Rosemary Butler said: "It’s fantastic seeing the guys charging around, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Many people don’t understand just how important the museum and ampitheatre are to Newport."