Tuesday 10 February 2009

Romantic Roman flowers for Valentine's Day

As a forerunner to Valentine's Day, and with my Roman books in mind, I thought I'd talk about some romantic Roman flowers. Some are surprising. Some are popular even today.

Sweet violet is a pretty, sweet-smelling flower used, like the anemone and the madonna lily, in garlands at Roman banquets. The scent was believed to ward off drunkenness! The Romans loved the scent of violets and even drank wine infused with violets and honey.

Vervain is a dull-looking plant but one which the Romans believed held magical proprieties. Believed to bring good luck, it was used in love potions.

Roman brides used mint for their garlands, and their faces may have been cleansed with a facepack made from the juice of yellow elecampane, because it was believed that Helen of Troy was collecting the flower when Paris abducted her.

Then as now however, the most popular romantic flower was the rose. Roses were grown in Campania for sale and the streets in Rome were red with rose garlands. They were known as flowers of seduction - Cleopatra was rumoured to have seduced Mark Anthony with rose petals. I'll leave it to your imagination as to how!

(Painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and drawings of sweet violet, elecampane and mint from Wikimedia Commons.)


Savanna Kougar said...

Blogger is such a pain!
It's being contrary.
Luv your blog, Lindsay. I think it should be put up at HEA.

I know hos Zeke uses a rose to seduce his Sylva...

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, Savanna! I must say that Alma Tadma is another Victorian artist whom I really like. And I'm happy for it to go on the HEA blog if others are happy about it.

Unknown said...

LINDSAY--such a sweet blog about lovely flowers, just like the lovely Lindsay. Humans across time have used plants for medicinal purposes, we know that, and most have used them as beauty products, too--rose water, for example.It would be interesting to learn the kinds of plants, say, the cavewoman, used to lure her lover to her bed. No, I think they went strickly by pheromones!! Now, I shall go out to find some yellow elecampane--if it worked for helen, it'll work for me! Celia

Hywela Lyn said...

What a fascinating entry Lindsay - and I absolutely love sweet violets|!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hello Celia! As you have guessed, I'm a 'sucker' for flowers.

I'd love to have whatever worked for Helen of Troy!


Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Hywela! I love sweet violets, too. And roses, daffs, iris, primroses, cowlsips, apple blossom...

Thanks again.