Fun Flower Facts

How Roses Have Been Used Throughout History

July 7, 2016

From as far back as history can date, roses have been one of the finest flowers nature has offered – did you know that the rose species is approximately 35 million years old? It is said that garden cultivation of roses began about 5,000 years ago, and although the world’s oldest living rose bush is only about 1,000 years old (which is seemingly short considering how long roses have been around for), roses have been used since ancient times to symbolize events, milestones, feelings and so much more. Here are a few of the most notable examples:

Single red rose on white wooden floor

  • The Romans once used roses for medicinal purposes, perfume, and even confetti at various celebrations.
  • Cleopatra once had her living quarters filled with rose petals in an effort to have Marc Antony think of her every time he smelt a rose. In this same scenario, she also wanted Marc Antony to remember her for her magnificence and luxuriousness.
  • Also in the Ancient Historic Period, people often dropped rose petals into wine to a) delay drunkenness, and b) result in victorious armies being showered with rose petals by civilians upon their return home.
  • Around the renaissance period, the number of petals on a rose were used to symbolize things such as rebirth (eight petals, to be exact).
  • In the fifteenth century, roses were used to symbolize the different groups fighting to control England – the white rose symbolized York and the red rose symbolized Lancaster. As such, the conflict eventually became known as the War of the Roses.
  • In the seventeenth century, roses became so popular that royalty started to view roses or rose water as legal tender.
  • Most recently, in 1986 the rose was named the national flower for the United States. It is also the state flower for North Dakota, Georgia, Oklahoma, New York and Iowa.

Famous Legends About Roses

Along with the above examples, you can bet that there are also a ton of legends floating around that somehow involve a rose. Three of our favorite legends are:

  1. According to Greek mythology, the rose was created by the tears of Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love), and the blood of Adonis, Aphrodite’s lover.
  2. Also according to Greek Mythology, Cupid was faulted with shooting arrows into a rose garden after being stung by a bee. It is because of this, legend says, that roses have grown thorns.
  3. In the story of Rhodanthe and Diana, two figures from the Roman Empire, Diana is said to have turned Rhodanthe into a rose after Rhodanthe’s suitors broke into Diana’s temple.