The totally (un)historical origin of Valentine’s Day
Inspired by myths
As I sat in my cell, I pondered, “How did it come down to this?”
The answer, actually, was quite simple. It was all because of Claudius. But maybe it started when I was ordained as a Bishop. Or maybe my fate was sealed when the word began to spread?
Ah, no – it started with that lovely faithful couple. Let me explain.
When Emperor Claudius decreed last year (271 A.D.) that the soldiers in his army would no longer be allowed to marry, I could not believe my ears! Of course, his rationale was obvious – for him, a married soldier was ‘soft’ and would not be as fierce in battle. Now, I may be a bit of the sentimental type, but I held to the belief that it is a person’s right to marry.
One evening, as dusk was settling in the roads of Rome, the occasion presented itself to put my beliefs in action: a certain Marcus came knocking at my door. He and his beloved Priscila deeply desired to be married before his regiment was sent to a faraway border. His love seemed so earnest, and his eyes look so desperate – how could I refuse? Besides, I am a man of my convictions. The secret celebration took place the following evening, where they were united before God and men – hum, or should I say, before God and man¸ as I was the only witness…
One thing led to another, and soon I was marrying Marcus’ friends, Aurelio and Cassia. And then it was Fabius and Gaia, Claudius and Drusilla, Antony and Cleopatra…. hum no, that’s a different story. And before long, the inevitable occurred: Emperor Claudius caught word of my underground celebrations.
Oh, the wrath in his eyes when I was dragged before him! Surely this is a man who has never known love! When he ordered me to stop officiating and confirm my oath by burning incense to the emperor, and I solemnly refused, he threw me in jail to be executed the following month.
But little does he know, Claudius the Cruel, that by prohibiting me from uniting lovers, he made me find mine! Ah, I hear her footsteps. Here she comes now: the jailer’s daughter. She is the most beautiful maiden I have ever seen, with her long jet-black hair and eyes the colour of olives in summer! She has made my lonely cell burst with light, and my heart glows at the sound of her gentle laugh. After each long conversation we have, I recall that first couple I married and know that if I had to do it all over again – for the love of God, of my brethren, and my beloved – I would.
Tonight is February 13th, the eve of my execution. I did not know how to tell her all my love in this last encounter, so I wrote a letter for her to open tomorrow. I signed it, from your Valentine.