The Romans celebrated a holiday on February 14th to honor Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses as well as goddess of marriage. In one ritual, women would submit their names to a common box and men would each draw one out. These two would be a couple for the duration of the festival (and at times for the entire following year). Both rituals were designed to promote not only fertility, but also life generally.
On February 15, Romans celebrated Luperaclia, honoring Faunus, god of fertility. Men would go to a grotto dedicated to Lupercal, the wolf god, located at the foot of Palatine Hill and where Romans believed that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf. The men would sacrifice a goat, don its skin, and run around, hitting women with small whips, an act which was supposed to ensure fertility.
According to one story, Roman emperor Claudius II imposed a ban on marriages because too many young men were dodging the draft by getting married (only single men had to enter the army). A Christian priest named Valentinus was caught performing secret marriages and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution, young lovers visited him with notes about how much better love is than war — the first “valentines.” The execution occurred in 269 CE on February 14th.