During the Roman period, a 350-year period between 28 B.C. and 325 A.D., Roman citizens showcased their wealth with classical flower arrangements. They chose bright, fragrant flowers to adorn banquet halls. Some wore flowered crowns and scarves, and the University of Chicago says that Roman soldiers and brides wore wreaths for symbolic purposes. Extravagant floral arrangements exemplified Roman luxury and taste.
Romans arranged flowers in wreaths and crowns. "Garden and Forest, Volume 6" states that Romans wore flowers at meals, usually over their foreheads as extravagant costume decoration. Brides picked flowers and herbs to make bridal wreaths as symbols of fertility, according to "The World of Roman Costume" by Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante. Soldiers also wore wreaths to commemorate their services.
Wreaths were often associated with reckless drunkenness, and for a time, Roman law punished anyone who appeared in public with a wreath on his head.
The Romans showcased flowers by arranging them in baskets, according to Charles P. Griner's "Floriculture: Designing and Merchandising." They favored bright flowers with contrasting colors, and they spaced the blossoms between branches. In addition to roses and jasmine, they also included vines, berries, ivy, laurel, pine cones and acorns in their arrangements. The Garden Club of Virginia says that Roman arrangements were bold and loud, especially when set against a backdrop of marble walls. Romans left gaps between branches to give a sense of proportion.
Romans also arranged flowers in bowls, handled vases and jugs.
Flowers were common at religious ceremonies, according to Griner. Roman artwork indicates that people carried flowers on scarves to present as offerings to gods and goddesses. "Garden and Forest, Volume 6" says that some flowers had unique attachments to Roman deities. For instance, the anemone was for Venus, the lily for Juno and the myrtle for Diana.
In addition to typical basket arrangements, Romans organized further floral arrangements for banquets. According to Griner, dinner was called "the hour of the rose," due to the frequent presence of roses. Banquet guests waded through 2 feet of roses on the floor to find their seats. Sometimes flowers fell from the ceiling for extra ambiance. The aroma of fragrant flowers was sometimes overwhelming.
- anemone image by asb from Fotolia.com