The celebration was held in mid-February, and the activities of the original festival… One of the most obvious and official celebrations which takes place in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is the Feast of Lupercal. This feast began in ancient times as both a religious celebration and a fertility rite.
The Lupercalia may be the longest-lasting of the Roman pagan festivals. Some modern Christian festivals, like Christmas and Easter, took on elements of earlier pagan religions, but they are not essentially Roman, pagan holidays. Lupercalia may have started at the time of the founding of Rome (traditionally 753 B.C.) or even before. It ended about 1200 years later, at the end of the 5th century A.D., at least in the West, although it continued in the East for another few centuries. There may be many reasons why Lupercalia lasted so long, but most important must have been its wide appeal.
Why Is Lupercalia Associated With Valentine’s Day?
If all you know about Lupercalia is that it was the background for Mark Antony to offer the crown to Caesar 3 times in Act I of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, you probably wouldn’t guess that Lupercalia was associated with Valentine’s Day. Other than Lupercalia, the big calendar event in Shakespeare’s tragedy is the Ides of March, March 15. Although scholars have argued that Shakespeare did not intend to portray Lupercalia as the day before the assassination, it sure sounds that way. Cicero points to the danger to the Republic that Caesar presented on this Lupercalia.
The first Valentine’s Day was in the year 496! Having a particular Valentine’s Day is a very old tradition, thought to have originated from a Roman festival. The Romans had a festival called Lupercalia in the middle of February – officially the start of their springtime.