We have long been using flowers to decorate our homes and give as gifts, but did you know that flowers are not only woven into our modern lives but are also part of Greek mythology?
Flowers in Greek Myth
Flowers make us feel happy, emotional and are built into the fabric of our society, so it is not wonder that the ancient Greeks had the same approach. Some of the names of our modern flowers take their name from ancient myths and legends dating back more than 2700 years!
Here is an interesting overview of flowers in myth, perhaps it will inspire your next bouquet choice?
Roses in Mythology
Romance is often symbolised by the rose and there are many reasons for that, but the oldest reason comes from the Greek Gods of love Eros, and Aphrodite. Did you notice that ‘rose’ is an anagram of Eros, the god of love? It is not a coincidence!
Legend has it that Chloris, the goddess of flowers, stumbled upon a lifeless nymph while walking through the woods one day. Saddened by its death, she turned it into a flower so beautiful that all the gods would consider it the Queen of Flowers. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was so struck by its beauty that she named it ‘rose’ in honour of her son, Eros.
Sunflowers in Mythology
Greek mythology tells it that a water nymph called Clytie loved Apollo, the sun god. He loved her too, until a mortal princess, Leucothoe, caught his eye. In revenge, Clytie told Leucothoe’s father about their affair, and he murdered her. When he found out, an angry Apollo wanted nothing more to do with Clytie. To convey her despair, she sat naked without food or water for nine days, staring at Apollo. He continued to ignore her, and on the tenth day of her tragic strike, she was transformed into a sunflower, her face forever following her lost lover across the sky.
Carnations in Mythology
Carnations are also known as dianthus, meaning ‘flower of the gods’. Their name is believed to originate from the legend of Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology), the goddess of hunting.
One leading interpretation tells that, as Artemis was returning empty-handed from a hunt, she happened upon a shepherd playing the flute. She immediately blamed him for frightening away the animals and gouged his eyes out (typical Greek deity behaviour!). Once she’d calmed down, she was full of remorse, and red carnations bloomed where his bloodied eyes had fallen.
Peonies in Mythology
Popular peonies are named after Paean, the physician who tended to the wounds of the gods under the guidance of his teacher, Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing.
One day, Paean healed Pluto, the god of the underworld, with a milky liquid taken from the root of a magical flower he had found on Mount Olympus. His success humiliated Asclepius, who plotted to kill his pupil for outsmarting him. Zeus, the king of the gods, took mercy on Paean by turning him into the plant that had saved Pluto’s life. It was the blousy peony, hence its long-held meaning of compassion.