Fossil evidence tells us that the rose has been around for about 35 million years. Gardeners have cultivated them for perhaps five millennia. In the Middle East during the Roman period, roses were used as confetti at celebrations, as a source of fragrance, and for medicinal purposes. Wreaths of roses have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Roses became popular in Europe in the 18th century. Napoleon's wife, Josephine, maintained magnificent rose gardens near Paris.
Among the ancient Greeks, roses symbolized secrecy. Wearing a rose during a religious ceremony implied that the wearer would keep the religion's secrets sacred. Ancient Greco-Roman culture also saw the rose as a symbol of beauty, of springtime, and of love. And they saw in it a reminder of how fleeting life can be. In Rome, "rosalia" was an annual feast honoring the dead.
More recently, in the Christian faith, the rose has stood for martyrdom, even at times representing Christ himself. A thornless rose has been associated with the Virgin Mary. And the rose is part of the elaborate symbolism of the Knights Templar, an ancient Christian society surrounded in secrecy and legend. Some people consider the rose to be an emblem of heresy.