Every day around Valentine’s Day, there is a massive backlash against the so-called “Hallmark Holiday.” That’s all well and good if all you want to do is piss and moan, but if you really want to put paid to Valentine’s Day, what you need is an alternative. That way, people who like Valentine’s Day can celebrate Valentine’s Day, and people who don’t will have an outlet for their towering rage.

May I suggest Valerian’s Day?

No one is quite sure at what time in the year 260AD the Roman emperor Valerian I’s army was annihilated by the Persians at the Battle of Edessa. So if we were to say that it happened to be on February 14, who’s to say otherwise? And what better antidote to the lovey-dovey, for those who wish for one, than blood and murder and death?

On Valerian’s Day, the Persians defeated Valerian I in battle, but that wasn’t the end of it. No, the emperor was forced to serve as a human footstool to the Persian king whenever the latter mounted his horse. When he had the audacity to propose buying his freedom with a random of treasure, the Persians had him killed by pouring molten gold down his gullet. Then, not satisfied, they skinned his body and stuffed the skin with straw and manure. It was only after a later Roman campaign ended in victory that the Persians consented to part with their taxidermy so the emperor could be cremated and buried.

The best part? Emperor Valerian I, along with his successors Gallienus, Valerian II, and Claudius II (it was a rough time for Rome in terms of reign length) were major instigators of the persecution that saw St. Valentine himself martyred in 269AD. That’s right: in addition to getting himself humiliated and killed with a brutality reminiscent of Mortal Kombat, Valerian I basically killed St. Valentine.

So, if you are one of those anti-Valentine grouches, a candy heart curmudgeon, or simply sick of the sickly-sweet…Valerian’s Day has you covered. Go forth and celebrate utter defeat, humiliation, rder, brutality, persecution, and killing St. Valentine. Exchange cards that look like they were made from the living skin of a 60-year-old man. Chug Goldschl├Ąger. Stuff yourself silly. Smell like manure. Persecute and oppress those who differ with you. And, most importantly, do it with the simpering and wheedling affect of someone who feels denied what they were entitled and greivously mistreated.

That’s the true spirit of Valerian’s Day, my friends.

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It might seem an odd thing that Maryann Steinman was the last heir to the long-dead city of Iram of the Pillars, but as is so often the case what seems odd at first appears less so on further examination.

Iram of the Pillars had been the key oasis that made travel across the vast Rub’ al Khali desert possible. But as more trade came and went, the water table had fallen and the spring collapsed in 190 AD, leaving the vast and unforgiving desert with no water to sustain travel. The royal family and all those who could do so fled north to Parthian Ctesiphon, for they had long been vassals of the king there. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Severus of Rome had sacked the city. The king of Iram and all his sons died in the defense of the city, with his daughter carried off to Rome in chains.

Purchased by a wealthy family, she was eventually emancipated and married into a powerful family of freedmen and Christian converts. They ran afoul of the later emperor Diocletian, who ordered the family wiped out in 305 AD. Only a single child survived the massacre, hidden by family friends and eventually smuggled to Gaul, where he raised a small family in an isolated village. In time, the village came to be part of France, but during the Great War it was totally razed; those that survived suffered terribly from dysentery and typhus. In the end, the entire town perished–save one man, Marcel Durand, who had left for Paris and later emigrated to New York City.

Before perishing in a typhoid outbreak, Durand managed to conceive a child, to the scandal of many, with one Gloria Feldman in the Bronx. Marrying George Steinman provided some stability for the child, who grew to father one child of his own before a heart attack felled him: Maryann.

A long path, yes, and one beset by the tragedies great and small which determine the fate of all peoples. But it led, inexorably, to Maryann.