Since antiquity, the rose has held a mystery, an ability to evoke a sense of passion, to somehow lure and conquer the beholder of its sublime beauty and fragrance. It was cultivated 5,000 years ago in the ancient gardens of western Asia and North Africa. Poetry has been written about the rose since the mythical rose gardens of Semiramis, Queen of Syria, and Midas, King of Phrygia.
According to Greek legend, Flora, the deity of flowers, was walking through the forest and found the body of a beautiful nymph. Sorrowful at the sight of the lovely creature dead, she decided to give her new life by turning her into a flower whose beauty surpassed all others. She called on Aphrodite to give beauty, brilliance, joy and charm; Zephyrus, the west wind, to blow away the clouds so that Apollo, the Sun, could cast warm rays upon it, and Dionysius, the god of wine to give nectar and fragrance. When the new flower was complete, Chloris placed a crown of dewdrops over her and named her the Rose, Queen of Flowers. Aphrodite presented the Rose to her son Eros, the deity of Love. The white rose became the symbol of charm and innocence and the red rose the symbol of love and desire.
Roses were already considered ancient when the Greek botanist Theophrastus wrote about "the hundred-petaled rose" in 270 B.C. The Egyptian rose, which was known for its many petals, was the one Cleopatra used to entice Mark Antony. Athenaeus, a writer of the times, records that Cleopatra covered the floors of her palace in fresh rose petals to a depth of half a meter. The sails of her royal barge were drenched in rose water. In her bedroom surrounding the bed itself, the floor was covered in a thick sultry layer of rose petals. Mark Antony fell to the seduction of the temptress; should we ask Cleopatra or the rose?