Since ancient times dating back to records from Mesopotamia, the “cradle of civilization,” the rose has been a treasured companion and central to our most enduring myths.
Wall paintings and objects depicting roses have been found in Egyptian tombs (5th century B.C.E.). Cleopatra had a passion for roses. To seduce Mark Antony, she had the palace floors carpeted with rose petals, her fountains filled with rose water, and her bedchamber strewn two feet deep with red rose petals.
The early Greeks and later, the Romans also linked the rose to love, beauty, purity and passion. The rose was created by Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, according to the ancient Greeks. White roses sprung from the sea foam which surrounded her as she rose out of the sea.
In another explanation of the origin of the rose, it was said that the Greek Goddess Chloris (the Roman Flora) turned a beautiful dead nymph who She loved, into a flower. Then, Aphrodite added beauty and the three Graces added brilliance, joy, and charm. Dionysus donated fragrant nectar, while Zephyrus, Chloris’ husband and the God of the west wind, blew away the clouds so Apollo could shower the flower in sunlight. It was then given to Eros, the God of love, and named the “Queen of Flowers,” the first rose.
Other tales explain that the Goddess Cybele created the rose in an act of revenge upon Venus (Aphrodite), to rival Her beauty. Another legend says that the rose was born from a smile of Eros. And in yet another, it evidently fell from the hair of Aurora as she combed her tresses.
The myth of Eros and Psyche features roses, as well as our dear Graces. After long tribulations winning the heart of Eros, and even persuading the angry Aphrodite to forgive her, Psyche finally wed her beloved. Symbolic of the crowning triumph of the event, what could be more glorious than for Zeus’ daughters, the Horae (seasons) and the Graces, to make everything “glow with roses,” scattering the blossoms about the land?
I’ll have more magical lore about the Queen of Flowers tomorrow!