Roses have been mentioned on countless occasions in art, literature, and poetry that the flower has become forever linked with romance. But is that the only reason why, after centuries, rose bouquets remain romance’s strongest romantic symbol?

The red rose in ancient history

Based on evidence in the form of fossils, the rose has been around for more than 35 million years. Its links to romance were formed almost immediately when humans began creating art and culture. Here we look at how that link was formed, both from a western and eastern point of view.

The Greek version

In Western culture, the story behind the meaning of the red rose began in Greek mythology and a belief that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love was the one who created it. The story goes that her tears, along with the blood of her lover Adonis, gave life to the flower.

A different interpretation of the Greek myth says that Cupid shot his arrow accidentally into a rose garden after a bee sting, which gave thorns to the flowers.  When Aphrodite later walked in the garden, she stepped on a thorn and bled. The colour of her blood changed the colour of the roses.

The Roman version

Not wanting to be left out, Roman mythology defined its own idea of why roses are considered to be romantic. In their story, Venus replaced Aphrodite. Reportedly, wealthy Romans placed rose bouquets in bedchambers to offer a pleasant-smelling and soft surface for sexual encounters. The bouquets were meant to symbolise beauty and love, two qualities that were attributed to the goddess.

After Cupid offered the God of Silence a rose to say nothing about Venus’ affairs, it was also later perceived as a symbol of secrecy. The ceilings of dining rooms even featured rose decorations to encourage guests to remain silent about the dinner conversations.

The Christian version

The red rose is the Virgin Mary’s symbol in Christianity. In the third century AD, it was a belief held by Saint Ambrose that there were thornless roses all over the Garden of Eden and that the thorns only appeared only after the fall and were a symbol of the Original Sin.

The link between the Virgin Mary and the rose gained traction in the 12th century when we saw a rise in prominence of Gothic cathedrals, and large stained-glass windows, also called rose windows, were positioned above the church entrance. The link was strengthened in the 13th century after Saint Dominic invented the rosary, prayers to the Virgin Mary.

Roses in Eastern culture

Growing roses is a tradition that we can be thankful to Eastern culture for. Garden cultivation of roses goes all the way back to China some 5,000 years ago. Many cultural legends and beliefs in the East, however, also link the rose with romance.

Beliefs in the Hindu religion dating back hundreds of years ago assert that the goddess of fortune and prosperity, Goddess Lakshmi, was created from small rose petals. Her husband Lord Vishnu loved his wife intensely, which created the romantic notion of roses.