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History Of Roses

History of RosesFrom the earliest times, indeed throughout the history of civilization, people from around the world have held the rose close to their hearts. The earliest known gardening was the planting of roses along the most travelled routes of early nomadic humans. Earliest roses are known to have flourished 35 million-years ago and hips have been found in Europe and petrified rose wreaths have been unearthed from ancient Egyptian tombs.

Roses in Ancient Historic Period

  • The Romans outdid the Greeks when Nero, the hedonistic emperor, 1st century AD, dumped tons of rose petals on his dinner guests.
  • Cleopatra had her living quarters filled with the petals of roses so that when Marc Antony met her, he would long remember her for such opulence and be reminded of her every time he smelt a rose. Her scheme worked for him. Such is the power of roses.
  • Not only in Christian literature, also in ancient Confucian and Buddhist religious documents we find references to the rose.
  • The Romans cultivated this great beauty and named it Rosa Gallica. Newly married couples were often crowned with roses.
Roman high society women used petals much like currency believing that they could banish wrinkles if used in poultices. Rose petals were often dropped in wine because it was thought that the essence of rose would stave off drunkenness and victorious armies would return to be showered with rose petals from the civilians that crowded the balconies above the streets.

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Roses in Medieval Period

  • The first known paintings of a rose are actually frescoes. The earliest example was discovered in Crete around 1600 B.C.
  • The apothecary rose, R. Gallica Officinalis, first recorded in the 13th century, was the foundation of a large industry near the city of Provins, France. Turned into jellies, powders and oils, this rose was believed to cure a multitude of illnesses.
In ancient Mesopotamia, Sargon I, King of the Akkadians (2684-2630 B.C.) brought "vines, figs and rose trees" from a military expedition beyond the River Tigris.

War of Roses

The war started when the nobles of York rose against Henry VI of Lancaster who was a feeble ruler. Edward IV, of York, replaced Henry as king. Later, Henry again became king, but lost his crown once more to Edward after the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The Yorkists held power until Richard III lost his throne to the Lancastrian Henry Tudor. Henry Tudor married into the House of York. This personal union ended the conflict, and a new famous dynasty, the Tudors, emerged.

The War of the Roses was a civil war in England that lasted from 1455-1487. The House of York adopted a white rose (R. alba), the House of Lancaster decided to take a red rose (R. Gallica). The winner of this war, Tudor Henry VII, merged his Lancastrian rose with the red rose of his York bride and thus created the Tudor Rose, the Rose of England.

Roses in Modern Period

The era of modern roses was established with the introduction of the first hybrid tea rose, "La France" by the French breeder, Guillot in 1867 . This variety was considered unique for a number of important horticultural reasons-
1) Hybrid tea rose possessed the general habit of a hybrid perpetual rose.
2) The elegant shaped buds of hybrid tea rose.
3) Free flowering character of a tea rose.
By the late 20th century, more than 10,000 hybrid tea roses were bred with great success. Introduction of 'La France' heralded the era of modern roses.

The renewed interest in the garden rose came with the 19th century empress - Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. This ambitious woman's dream was to establish a rose garden in Malmaison containing a collection of all the roses of the world.

Some Legends on Roses

  • In Greek mythology, Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, is said to have created the rose which arose from her tears and the blood of her lover Adonis.
  • The Romans, turning Aphrodite into their goddess Venus, also adopted the rose: it became the symbol of love and beauty. Cupid, offering a rose when trying to bribe the God of Silence to hush Venus's amorous escapades, made the flower into a symbol for secrecy: Roman dining room ceilings were decorated with roses, reminding guests to keep secret what had been said during dinner. Sub Rosa, under the rose, up to this day means "confidentially".
  • The world's oldest living rose bush is thought to be 1000 years old. Today, it continues to bloom on the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.
  • In Ancient Greek mythology, when Venus´ son Cupid was stung by a bee he accidentally shot arrows into a rose garden. It was believed to be the sting of the arrows that caused the roses to grow thorns. When Venus walked through the garden and pricked her foot on a thorn, it was the droplets of her blood which turned the roses red.
  • Legend has it that during the Roman Empire there was an incredibly beautiful maiden named Rhodanthe. Her beauty drew many suitors who pursued her relentlessly. Exhausted by their pursuit, Rhodanthe was forced to take refuge in the temple of her friend Diana. Unfortunately, Diana was of a jealous nature and when the suitors broke down her temple gates to get near the beloved Rhodanthe, she became furious. Enraged, Diana turned Rhodanthe into a rose and her suitors into thorns.
  • In an Arabic legend, all roses were originally white until one night when the nightingale met a beautiful white rose and fell in love. At this stage nightingales were not known for their melodious song they merely croaked and chirped like any other bird. But now the nightingale's love was so intense that he was inspired to sing for the first time. Eventually his love was such that he pressed himself to the flower and the thorns pierced his heart, colouring the rose red forever.

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