The History of Roses

May 9, 2016

Roses are one of the most popular flowers around the world. Over the centuries they have been a symbol of love but they also sometimes served as symbols in parts of royal coats of arms.

The first evidence of blossoming roses comes from a period 40-35 million years ago. The oldest known fossil was discovered in Colorado, USA. Fossils have also been found in Norway, Germany, Balkans, Alaska, Mexico, and some other locations.

Nonetheless, it is difficult to write the earliest history of roses. Written sources started to mention them a few thousand years ago, but it is known that roses were also cherished in Ancient Egypt – rose petals have been discovered in many tombs and paintings of roses were even discovered in the tomb of the pharaoh Thutmose IV, who was a ruler of the 18th dynasty.

A Legendary Flower

In ancient times, roses appeared in myths and were appreciated by rulers and used during great celebrations and parties. They had a special place in Greek mythology. According to ancient legend, roses were created by Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.

They grew from her tears and the blood of her lover – Adonis. Cleopatra VII, probably inspired by the mythical origins of roses, used their petals during public appearances. She wanted to be remembered as a goddess who smelled like roses.

In the times of Alexander the Great, roses were already very popular in Europe and Asia, but sources say that the Macedonian king increased their popularity in Egypt. In 1888, English archaeologist Sir William Flinders Petrie discovered a rose garland used as a funeral wreath during the 2nd century AD in Upper Egypt.

The legend about Aphrodite was adopted by the Romans, who used to call the goddess of love Venus. Romans made this flower a symbol of beauty and love. It was an attribute of Cupid as well. In Roman mythology, the son of Venus (Cupid) was stung by a bee when he was shooting arrows into a garden full of roses.

When Venus was walking in the garden, she pricked her foot on a thorn left by her son. It turned the roses red. During the domination of the Roman Empire, roses were also a symbol of vanity. Roman Emperors used to dump tons of rose petals on the guests of their dinners and orgies.

Apart from this, the newly married couples in Ancient Rome liked to be crowned with roses, which received the name Rosa gallica, which is a well-known rose even today. Rosa gallica is currently also called the French Rose, but it has been known since the 12th century BC, and it came to Europe from Persia. The descendant of this rose is the Rosa damascena.

Roses were mentioned in Confucian, Buddhist, and early Christian religious texts as well. Circa 500 BC, Confucius wrote about roses which grew in the Imperial Gardens. He also mentioned that the library of the Chinese emperor contained a few hundred books about roses. During the reign of the Han dynasty (about 207 BC – 220 AD), gardeners cultivated roses which were popular all over the country, including in agricultural lands.

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