Love conquers all, even Claudius the Cruel.
Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is presumed to be the result of the reign of Emperor Claudius II of Rome, also known as Claudius the Cruel. His nickname is derived from his tendency toward building enormous armies and sending them into bloody battles. Claudius the Cruel decided that marriage and families were standing in the way of the indestructible army he desired. Single men would make better soldiers, he reasoned, with no annoying ties of love to wives and children to create hesitation from marching onto a field of almost-certain death. Therefore, during this time, which was the third century, marriage was declared illegal in Rome.
So how does this terrible tale link to our present Valentine’s Day, constructed of heart-shaped candies, roses and candle-lit dinners?
Accounts of this legend vary, and are intertwined with vaguely factual religious and political issues. St. Valentine is a mysterious figure who is believed to have been a Roman priest during this time. And due to his fierce belief in love and the right to marry, not to mention his rumored distaste for Emperor Claudius II, he allegedly began marrying people on the down-low. After being caught, he did some hard time in a Roman prison. During this time, he wrote and received notes of gratitude and love, thus spawning today’s traditional valentine. It has been claimed that he was beheaded on Feb. 14, 269 A.D.
His martyrdom was not all in vain, however. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Valentine’s Day began gaining popularity and a sense of romanticism, which was fueled in part by writings from the likes of Shakespeare and Chaucer. It was common to exchange trinkets or handmade notes of affection on Feb. 14. After the advent of the printing press, the doilies and cutout hearts eventually gave way to printed greeting cards. Today, Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, Christmas being number one. According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion valentine cards are sent each year, 85 percent of which are purchased by women.
This holiday represents such a beautiful irony. A tyrant attempts to outlaw love in the name of war, and in the end creates a day set aside solely for romance, amour and affection.
By Lindsy Nelson