In the 3rd century, the Roman Empire was being invaded by Goths. At the same time, the Plague of Cyprian, probably smallpox, broke out killing at its height 5,000 people a day. So many died that the Roman army was depleted of soldiers. Needing more soldiers to fight the invading Goths, and believing that men fought better if they were not married, Emperor Claudius II banned traditional marriage in the military. Also, to quell internal rivalries over the previous Emperor Gallienus being assassinated, Claudius had the Senate deify him with the Roman gods to be worshiped. Those who refused worship of the Roman gods were considered "unpatriotic" enemies of the state and killed, as in Emperor Decian's persecution which targeted Christians with legislation forcing them to deny their consciences or die.
During the first three centuries of Christianity, there were ten major persecutions in which the government threw Christians to the lions, boiled them alive, had their tongues cut out, and worse. Christian writings, scriptures and historical records were destroyed. Because so many records were destroyed, details of Saint Valentine's life are scant. What little is know was passed down and finally printed in the year 1260 in Legenda Sanctorum by Jacobus de Voragine, and in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493.
Saint Valentine was either a priest in Rome or a bishop in Terni, central Italy. He risked the Emperor's wrath by standing up for traditional marriage, secretly marrying soldiers to their young brides.
When Emperor Claudius demanded that Christians deny their consciences and worship pagan idols, Saint Valentine refused.
Saint Valentine was arrested, dragged before the Prefect of Rome, and condemned him to die.
While awaiting execution, his jailer, Asterius, asked Saint Valentine to pray for his blind daughter. When she miraculously regained her sight, the jailer converted and was baptized, along with many others.