St. Valentine, patron saint of lovers
While Cupid or the ancient god Eros gives us the inspiration, St. Valentine supplied the name of our current holiday. There are a number of Valentine legends as to why his name is linked to lovers. One is that the Roman emperor Claudius II thought that single men made better soldiers and therefore forbade them to marry. St. Valentine is said to have secretly married many young lovers and therefore became their patron saint. Another story has Valentine, while being imprisoned for his Christian faith, falling in love with his jailer's daughter and sending her a love letter before his execution.
The roots of Valentine's Day most likely came from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which had been celebrated for eight hundred years on February 15th. The day was dedicated to the god Lupercus and young men would take a woman as a sexual companion for a year, by means of drawing her name in a lottery. Pope Gelasius changed this custom, which was unacceptable to the Catholic Church. He decreed that the lottery be changed so that both young men and women drew the names of saints to emulate for the coming year. Valentine instead of Lupercus became the patron of this feast. Despite this change in custom, Roman men continued to seek the affections of women on this date and sent notes of endearment to their sweethearts, including Valentine's name in their missives.
It would seem that the ancient god still lives, for today the spirit of love and desire resides as strongly as ever in the hearts of those struck by Cupid's arrows, be they young or old.