Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the United States and around the world on Sunday when lovers and sweethearts exchange gifts of jewelry, flowers, cards and chocolates. The day is also a Christian holiday that honors Saint Valentine, who is actually three Christian martyrs.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Still others insist that it was Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who was the true namesake of the holiday. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II outside Rome.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl—possibly his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and—most importantly—romantic figure.
The celebration may also have been created by the Church to counter the Pagan holiday, Lupercalia, an ancient pagan festival held each year in Rome on February 15, honoring the she-wolf who nurtured the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
The story of the first valentine is a thrilling story with a mad king, one of history’s most climatic battles, and poetry. It is a complex tale that involves two great kingdoms and all the machinations of a royal court. Part Shakespeare, part Game of Thrones, all history that deserves to be remembered.
TMC for ek hornbeck