The ancient Romans had many festivals, but did any of them celebrate friendship or love? Wikipedia mentions similarity to Lupercalia, but I consider love to be very different from fertility. I'm asking if there was a Roman festival (fully or partially) devoted to emotions between people; the ability to breed is irrelevant for this question. Connection to fertility is fine, as long as there is a pronounced focus on emotion, too.

If there was no such festival, do we know what the Romans would have called such a thing? What would be a good name? The best word I could think of is Amicalia.

The meaning of Valentine's day varies between countries. In the English speaking world it is mainly a day of erotic or romantic love, whereas in Finland it is a day of friendship. Any kind of "Roman Valentine's day" would make a good answer; it can be anything promoting warm feelings between individuals.

  • I realize this one has two questions in one, but I thought the two are closely related. If you disagree, I can divide it in two separate questions.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 14, 2017 at 21:35
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    I think you would be hard-pressed to find a Roman festival that celebrates erotic love without some connection to fertility...
    – brianpck
    Feb 14, 2017 at 21:57
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    @brianpck I feared that might be the case. The Romans were always so... practical?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 14, 2017 at 21:59
  • @JoonasIlmavirta I see it rather as a difference in cultural views on sex in particular. Valentine's Day, after all, is a Christian holiday, and Christianity has some weird views about sex. The Romans had no such hang-ups.
    – cmw
    Jul 23, 2022 at 14:01

1 Answer 1


In the festival of Lupercalia (15th Feb.) the deities Juno & Faunus were honoured. It was a fertility festival or a lover's holiday, looking forward to the return of Spring. In the C 5th, in an attempt to abolish the pagan festival, Pope Gelasius changed Lupercalia to St. Valentine's Day; and, the date to Feb. 14th., the emphasis continued to be on love. Valentine was a Christian martyr executed by Emperor, Claudius II, in C 3rd. In prison, Valentine continued to minister by witnessing to his guards. One of these had adopted a blind girl. The guard asked Valentine if God could help his daughter. V prayed and the girl's sight was restored. Immediately before his execution, V wrote a note to his jailer's daughter, signing: "From your Valentine". The first Valentine card!

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    Do you happen to have any sources to back this up, especially Lupercalia as a lover's holiday and the connection between Lupercalia and Valentine's day? Wikipedia argues strongly against such a connection. There seems to be conflicting information out there, so sources would be great.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 14, 2018 at 14:24
  • General knowledge accumulated; but, of course, open to debate/ myths & legends/ half-truths. Cynics would opine that Wiki could be viewed in the same light. (I've always found it useful).
    – tony
    Feb 14, 2018 at 16:48
  • Wikipedia is not that reliable either. It does have citations, but the very fact that it attacks an opinion is evidence that the opinion (you present) is also widely known. Both your answer and Wikipedia are useful. I don't know which one to trust, so my instinct is to distrust both. (Citing personal general knowledge as a source earns my upvote. Of course it's not the best scientific source, but it's honest. It's good to know what the sources are, no matter how fishy.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 14, 2018 at 17:07
  • I'll draw what comfort I can from this. As always, who knows, who can prove? It's plausible; it's a good yarn; but, the truth??
    – tony
    Feb 15, 2018 at 17:20
  • Robert Graves claimed that the spirit of Claudius wrote the books through him (Graves). That takes some believing! But, then, given the detail; the erudition; the powerful pro-Claudius narrative--who knows?
    – tony
    Feb 15, 2018 at 17:24

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