A brief history of the rose in Roman mythology

Rome was a city where rosewater bubbled through the fountains, awnings soaked in rose oil shielded VIPs in public amphitheatres from the baking sun, pillows and mattresses were stuffed with rose petals and where rose garlands were the ultimate Roman must-have status symbol. Rose petals were used to create in delicately-scented puddings, love potions and medicines and scattered on beds and banquets and Emperor Nero had silver pipes installed to spritz his guests with rosewater.Deep red rose

Since the Romans, roses have been intrinsically linked with romance and more lately Valentine’s Day (17th century) with tales of the rose being a symbol of Venus, the goddess of love. According to the mythology, the white rose first sprang forth during the birth of Venus the goddess of love.

And the second rose-scented tale of Venus involves her lover, Adonis, and the myth of how the rose turned red. One day, Adonis was out hunting boar and a jealous suitor sent the wild boar to harm him. At the last moment, Venus found out and rushed to warn him. As she hurried to her lover’s aid, she scratched herself on a rose bush, splashing specks of blood on their soft white petals, turning the blossoms red. 

Cupid (Latin Cupido meaning “passionate desire”) the Roman god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection, is frequently the symbol of St Valentines’ Day and is cited as the culprit behind the rose’s thorns. Cupid loved roses and one day, while leaning in to kiss his most beloved rose he was stung by a nectar gathering bee hiding inside the flower. Angered and annoyed, he retreated to the arms of his mother, Venus, relaying the tale of his dismay. 

Not wishing to see her cherished son distraught, Venus gifted Cupid with a magical quill of arrows to help him settle the score. Feeling vindicated, the winged Cupid returned to the garden, firing a flurry of arrows down at the rose bushes below. The thorns are seen as the places where his arrows missed their mark.

His tales of roses don’t end there. Cupid and Psyche’s story of love, jealousy and seduction explains the proliferation of roses across the empire. After a long tale of curses, revenge and intrigue, their tale ended happily. Cupid eventually rescued Psyche from a cursed sleep and and Jupiter was so delighted by the union that he asked his daughters to make everything glow with roses, scattering blossoms across the land. 

The stories of two of our muses Rhodanthe and Aurora are also entwined with the rose. AURORA, The Goddess of Dawn was a vision to behold, her chariot soared into the sky drawing the sun and painting the morning sky rose red. Her purple mantle billowed behind her and scattered rose petals in her wake. 

As mythology has it captivating beauty RHODANTHE was pursued by ardent suitors far and wide intoxicated by her allure. But her beauty was both a blessing and a burden. Unable to escape their advances she sought protection from her friend and goddess Diana who transformed her into a rose and the suitors into thorns.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” Shakespeare

The rose was woven into every facet of Roman life from bathing rituals to mourning, celebration, and seduction. Rose petals were scattered at banquets, woven into wreaths, crowns and garlands and celebrated during festivals dedicated to the rose.

Roman mythology inspired two of our favourite scents. To discover Aurora, Rhodanthe and our other scents celebrating the rose visit our Rose Edit.

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn

Should never crave the rose.”

Anne Bronte


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Rose sample set

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Electimuss roundel

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