Roses are truly one of the most magnificent of the flowers, and perhaps one of those that is the most widely touted, especially around certain prominent holidays as signs of affection (which varies as much as the colors…as some roses are assigned to romance, other colors to friendship etc). It is perhaps not suprising then that the rose is quite often offered to Aphrodite, the lady of love in all of its many forms, that their heavy musky scent would delight her. Of course here we are thinking of the fat blossoms of the hierloom roses and other such varieties that possess their rich intoxicating scent, and elegant shell-like buds (not to mention their thick forms). Whether or not the roses that were cultivated in ancient Hellas had these distinct characteristics, it is known that the rose is sacred to Aphrodite,quite specifically the red rose which became red in myth when Aphrodite cut her feet on it as she raced to the aid of dying Adonis. Of course it then seems almost ironic that the red rose, associated with such a tragic romantic myth, is the variety that is most keenly given by spouses and lovers.
However, from images of roses perserved on coins it is unlikely that the ancient rose was anything like the roses most people offer her today(as most modern cultivated roses that we enjoy are hyrbids that have been grown over time..a number of which originated in Asia). In fact they bear more in common, in appearance, to wild roses with their smaller blossoms and far more subtle scent. Though it is evident that there is evidence of instruction of cultivation of roses (or rather Rhodon) since the 4th century BCE, and that Sappho (according to the Encylopedia Brittanica) praised the rose as the queen among flowers.
Now what is also interesting is that at Delphi, along the road before you get anywhere really near the temple, I saw a marker with what appeared to be two wild roses, one set above the other. I personally consider this wild rose to be symbolic of Apollon Agyieus, lord of the road, and perhaps bearing some association with Aphrodite as we have Apollon (a god who, other than Zeus, has been represented on coins with labyrinths) instructed Theseus to follow Aphrodite….and her statue consequently being dedicated to Apollon at Delos. Historical use of the rose for ailments can also bear some association to the god, though clearly the rose is foremost a symbol of Aphrodite. Though typically I offer cultivated roses to Aphrodite, and the five petaled wild rose to Apollon.
Further information on the rose, for some interesting reading, can be found here: http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/herbs/rose-hips.php
Now rosemary (the name which refers to it as dew of the sea) is an interesting plant too, and another one that seems to have had some associations with certain goddess,such as Aphrodite, but according to the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, was also plausibly considered a stand in for laurel by Romans…its roman name having some commonality with the roman name of laurel. And as an richly scented evergreen plant that has a history of being grown to deter evil, aid memory, and bring good health, and for application for purification and use in healing, perhaps that is not so surprising. The greek physician of Nero, one Pedanius Dioscorides, described rosemary as having a warming effect. This speaks very strongly to me of Apollon’s influence, and even the throwing of the rosemary into graves at burial doesn’t contradict as Apollon is a god of cemetaries. Aside from Apollon, it can also be closely connected to the mother of the muses he leads, Mnemosyne, for its influence over the memory. However, it does seem though that in the modern era the rosemary is most often ascribed to the Virgin Mary, and thus by others to Aphrodite. It would be safe to say that, perhaps even more so than the rose, this sun loving herb, is one that can be devoted to both Aphrodite and Apollon, both deities associated with the sea and marriage to a degree….but I would say that rosemary bears a closer semblance to Apollon, even with the connections of romance and marriage. Perhaps rosemary is a perfect symbol of the harmonic relationship of the domains of Apollon and Aphrodite.
As laurel, and Aphrodite’s myrtle, is difficult to grow up in these northern climates, I grow mostly rosemary myself in honor of Apollon and Aphrodite for whom I clip off small bouquets. Perhaps when my rosemary gets large enough I will be able to do more with it.