The Rose: Its History, Poetry, Culture, and Classification (1847) pp. 14-15
Samuel Bowne Parsons


THE ancients possessed, at a very early period, the luxury of roses, and the Romans brought it to perfection by covering with beds of these flowers the couches whereon their guests were placed, and even the tables which were used for banquets; while some emperors went so far as to scatter them in the halls of their palace. At Rome, they were, at one time, brought from Egypt, in that part of the year when Italy could not produce them; but afterwards, in order to render these luxuries more easily attainable during the winter, by the leaders of the ton in that capital city of the world's empire, their gardeners found the means of producing, in green-houses warmed by means of pipes filled with hot water, an artificial temperature, which kept roses and lilies in bloom until the last of the year. Seneca declaimed, with a show of ridicule, against these improvements; but, without being discouraged by the reasoning of the philosopher, the Romans carried their green-houses to such perfection, that, at length, during the reign of Domitian, when the Egyptians thought to pay him a splendid compliment in honor of his birthday, by sending him roses in the midst of winter, their present excited nothing but ridicule and disdain, so abundant had winter roses become at Rome, by the efforts of art. Few of the Latin poets have been more celebrated for their epigrammatic wit than Martial; and his epigram "to Caesar, on the Winter Roses," serves to show that the culture of roses at Rome was carried to such perfection, as to make the attempts of foreign competitors subjects only for ridicule.

“The ambitious inhabitants of the land watered by the Nile have sent thee, O Caesar, the roses of winter, as a present valuable for its novelty. But the boatman of Memphis will laugh at the gardens of Pharaoh as soon as he has taken one step in thy capital city—for the spring, in its charms, and the flowers in their fragrance and beauty, equal the glory of the fields of Paestum. Wherever he wanders or casts his eyes, every street is brilliant with garlands of roses. And thou, O Nile! must now, yield to the fogs of Rome. Send us thy harvests, and we will send thee roses.”

By this passage it is evident that the cultivation of roses, among the ancients, was much farther advanced than is generally supposed. In another epigram Martial speaks again of roses, which were formerly seen only in the spring, but which in his time had become common during the winter.