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The First Valentine was 2,000 years ago

Posted on: 02/13/2018 00:00

(by Chris Sharp) As we may be very busy today observing Valentine’s Day and often trying to decide who our Valentine is, we may be overlooking that the first Valentine was dedicated to humanity in general.  This was about 2,000 years ago, when a Roman patrician named Valentine who had been converted to Christianity from the Apostle Paul was about to be  fed to the lions for his faith.  This legendary Valentine determined that his last on earth would be a message of love to a woman he had never met– the blind daughter of Roman guard who admired Valentine and confided to him the despair of his blind daughter.  Valentine just before he was called to his death wrote a message to this woman on a card and handed it to the guard, signing it, “Your Valentine.”

I have re-enacted this story act for my latest holiday Amazon book that I have written – “Who’s Who in the Bible.”  Here it is today from my book.

Few Romans understood they were playing with a terrible fire.  No less than Aristotle had warned them in his writings that they must never present bloodshed on a live stage, even if the action was entirely pretense. Everything that spoke of violence must be reduced to off-stage references and noises and words, but no on-stage blood.  Again and again, the Romans had adhered to this basic Greek rule of bloodless theater as they seasonally staged the plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.

But as the Roman Empire grew mightier and less vulnerable to consequences, there were more murmurings that Rome had become too great to be constricted by even a man like Aristotle or any Greek tradition.  The Roman audiences began to stir restlessly out of their seating to the off stage noises and screams of the play Agamemnon.

Everyone became noisier especially at that moment when the king on his return from Troy was stabbed to death in his bathtub by his own wife.

Finally at one Festival of Bacchus in Rome a theater director tried something more daring than before.  He played out the regicide of Agamemnon on Center Stage, before a cheering and yelling audience of Roman citizens.  The Roman theater public could never get their fill of blood on stage after that day.

The Romans soon got tired by dyed red water, and gathered some real blood from executed prisoners to put into Agamemnon’s tub.  The emperor Caligula saw how this real blood would pre-occupy the audiences and decided that staging bloody games in vast arenas might put a tighter control on his vast population of Roman citizens.  So he staged huge games that lasted all day with death meted out to increasing victims in every event.  Caligula even created small armies that were forced to fight against each other in his entertainment arenas.

But the fact of the bloody staging of Agamemnon’s assassination presented day after day finally helped inspire Rome’s Praetorian Guards to assassinate Caligula himself.

All the new escalation of a blood culture in Rome neither stopped or even slowed it – more vulnerable groups of Romans were eventually eaten b it. Under the reign of Caligula’s successor Claudius, the rapidly-growing Christian population been led by a man known as Paul the Apostle, and now many of them were selected to be beaten and eaten by lions in full view of huge audiences under the listings of live theater. 

The Roman audience particularly loved this spectacle of human beings with strange, incomprehensible beliefs being reduced to food for lions. With the world plunder from occupying armies giving Roman citizens all that they needed to eat and live, there were decreasing reasons for most of them to work, and the citizens began to spend all day just watching people being killed either by animals or other people.

Read more here: A Sharp View: The First Valentine was 2,000 years ago


 


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