Roman Empire

When did Emperor Claudius II outlaw marriage?

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2013-06-28 12:06:28

There is a myth that Claudius Gothicus (or Claudius II, reigned

268-270) banned marriages which is connected to a legend about the

origin of Valentine's Day

It has been alleged that Claudius II banned marriages because

too many people were dogging the draft. Only single men had to join

the army. Valentinus, a Christian priest, was caught performing

secret marriages. He was sentenced to death and executed on 14th

February 269. While he was awaiting execution, young lovers sent

him massages about how love is better than war.

This story is highly unlikely. It would be very difficult to

forbid everybody from getting married and it does not make sense as

marriage had been seen as fundamental to society in every society

in history. Moreover, military service was voluntary and the poor

joined the army because it gave them a career and pay for 20 years

and a pension in the form of the grant of a plot of land to farm or

a considerable lump sum. There is no need to dodge military service

if it is voluntary and, in additions to this, there are economic

incentives in a military career. Furthermore, Claudius Gothicus

spent his very short reign fighting incursions into the Empire by

the Goths- hence the name Gothicus, which means winner against the

Goths. He would have been too busy with war to pursue the alleged


Valentine's Day was established later, in 469 by emperor

Gelasius. He established a holy day in honour of Valenitus to

replace the pagan fertility rites of the Lupercalia and of Juno

Fructifier which were very popular among the Romans

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