The Reason We Love Valentine And His Day
The year was 278 AD, and the great Roman Empire was about halfway into its famous fall, with a nutcase named Claudius II as the emperor. Ol' Claudius liked to fight anywhere with anyone, and he quickly embroiled the empire in a series of unpopular and grisly, bloody wars. These were still broad ax, spear, and shield days, and every battle was hand-to-hand, so yeah, a lot of bone, gristle, fat, innards, and bloody entrails were a feature of even the smallish skirmishes.
Over a period of time, Claudius the Cruel, the nickname he'd earned because he was simply an overall jackass, noticed fewer and fewer men were joining his armies. After all, who wants to leave the comforts of home to go on an extended bloody camping trip with Claudius the Cruel?
Marriage is Outlawed
The Emperor determined that, since men didn't want to leave their wives and children to go stumping with him, he'd ban all marriages and engagements in Rome. Claudius tried to outlaw love. If no men were married, he reasoned, they'd all be fit to be tied and snortin' and bellerin' and faunchin' for a fight.
But there was a Catholic Priest who knew that Love was valid and a path forward to a peaceful citizenry, and he knew that Love, above all, was worth all risks. His name was Valentine, and he secretly began to perform marriage ceremonies for young couples in face-up defiance of the unjust decree.
Claudius Finds Out About Valentine
We all know it's hard to keep a secret, and word eventually got back to Claudius the Cruel that some backwoods priest was marrying people in secret.
He had Valentine dragged into court in chains, and the Prefect of Rome ordered Valentine beaten to death with clubs before having his head cut off.
The day of the beating and beheading was February 14, 278. For his efforts, the church made him a Saint.
The Legend Begins
The exact origins of Valentine's Day are lost to history. The fact that, in that same time period, there were at least three priests running around named Valentine (it was a popular name in those days, like Smith or Jones now) helps cloud the origins.
However, two things are believed to be accurate: a priest named Valentine who believed in marriage defied a Roman emperor by marrying couples, and he paid for it with his life.
As Valentine waited in prison to be beaten to death, the jailer's daughter befriended him. On his last night on earth, he left her a farewell note and signed it From Your Valentine.
And there you have it! Now, go eat some chocolate.