Since the earliest periods the charm and fragrance of the rose have led to its appreciation and use. This is shown by the entire older literature, and of all the flower perfumes that from the rose has always received preference. In Chinese and Sanskrit writings the fragrance of the rose is much praised. Fats and oils saturated with the rose perfume have been used since earliest antiquity in perfumery and religious cults.4) Thus Aphrodite anointed the dead body of Hector with rose oil.5) The Greeks and Romans celebrated annually a rose festival, at which the graves of the dead were decorated with roses and their tombstones were anointed with rose oil.6) Of the various flower cults that of the roses has been the most eminent since antiquity.7) aus Neu-Spanien und Westindien kommendes flussiges Harz, welches bei Einschnitten aus der Rinde groBer Baume mit epheuartigen Blattern aus-flieftt Diese Baume he/Sen "Ocosotl". Die Eingeborenen kauen die Rinde mit dem exsudierten Harze. Dieselbe ist angenehm wohlriechend und gibt beim Auspressen ein dickes, ebenso riechendes Of, Oleum liquidambar."
1) Journ. de Pharm. II. 16 (1830), 88; Ibidem II. 17 (1831), 338. - Tromms-dorff's Neues Journ. de Pharm. 21, II. (1830), 242 and 24, II. (1832), 236.
2) Americ. Journ. Pharm. 29 (1857), 261; Ibidem 88 (1866), 33. - Proceed. Americ. pharm. Ass. 13 (1865), 160.
3) Americ. Journ. Pharm. 46 (1874), 161-165. - Arch, der Pharm. 206 (1875), 541.
4) Apparently the rose was not cultivated in Palestine. It is mentioned only a few times in the Bible. The "rose of Jericho," which is repeatedly mentioned, is the cruciferous Anastatica hierochuntica, L., a small plant growing in the desert which, upon drying, rolls up like a ball (Wisdom of Solomon, 2: 8. - Song of Solomon, 2: 1. - Jesus Sirach, 24: 18; 50: 8.- Acts, 2: 8.)
5) Homeri I lias, chap. 23, V. 186.
6) Friedlander, Sittengeschichte der romischen Kaiserzeit. 5th ed. 1881. p. 254.
7) Ferd. Cohn, Die Pflanze. Breslau 1882. pp. 326-335. - Fluckiger Pharm. Rundschau (New York) 12 (1894), 43, 91.
The earliest description of the method of preparation of the oil of rose of the ancients is found in the writings of Dioscorides.1) It was an aromatised fatty oil as were the majority of the rose oils of the middle ages, such as Oleum rosarum, O. rosatum or O. rosaceum, etc.
Aside from apocryphal Persian and other oriental traditions, the earliest definite directions for the preparation of roses and the use of the distillate are found in the writings of the Arabian historian Ibn Chaldun. He mentions that during the eighth and ninth centuries rose water was an important article of commerce, being carried as far as China and India.2) In a codex of ceremonies of 946 by the East Roman emperor Constantine VII., Persian rosewater is mentioned as a toilet water.3) At the beginning of the 10. century, Nonus Theophanes,4) the physician to emperor Michael VIII., recommended and used rose water as a medicament. Avenzoar,5) the physician to the calif Ebn Attafir of Morocco, who lived at the beginning of the 12. century; also his contemporaries Joannes Actuarius,8) a physician of Constantinople, used rose water as an ophthalmic, and rose sugar as an internal remedy.
During this period, Persia seems to have supplied most of the rose water. During the fourteenth century it was also exported from Mesopotamia.7) After the prime of the levant commerce, the Portuguese and Dutch were the principal carriers of goods between Aden, the ports of the Persian bay, India and the Occident. Rose water constituted one of their principal articles of merchandise.1) During the 10. century the distillation of roses was introduced into Spain by the Arabs.2)
1) See p. 38 - Dioscoridis De mater/a medica libri quinque. Editio Kuhn-Sprengel. 1829. Vol. 1, pp.56 and 123; Vol.2, pp. 399 - 404.
2) Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la bibliothbque imperiale a Paris. Tom. 19 (1862), p. 364. - Istachri, Das Bitch der Lander. Editio Mordmann. Hamburg 1754. p. 73.
3) Constantinus Porphyrogenitus, De ceremonibus antiquis byzant Editio Reiske. Lipsiae 1751. Lib. II. cap. 15, p. 338.
4) Nonus Theophanes. Editio Bernardi. Praefatio ad Synesium: de febribus. Amstelodami 1749. Cap. 28, p. 112.
5) See p. 24.
6) Actuarius, De medicamentorum compositione. Joanne Ruellio interprete. Basiliae 1540. pp. 18, 19, 22, 31.
7) Voyage d'Ibn Batontah. 1854. Tom. 2, p. 140. Traduite par De-fremery.
Throughout the middle ages, the distillation of rose water seems to have been an important industry of Persia. Unless strongly alcoholic wine was used in the process,3) one would expect that in the distillation of large amounts of rose water4) the separation of oil of rose at low temperatures in the form of a butyraceous mass had been noticed at an early date and probably used to perfume fats and fatty oils.
The first statement concerning rose oil, which possibly refers to the distilled oil, is found in the writings of Mesue,5) and in the almanac of Harib for the year 961, which mentions the time suitable for the preparation of rose water and a rose preserve.8) In his Compendium aromatariorum written about the middle of the fifteenth century, Saladin of Asculi,7) the body physician of a prince of Tarentum, describes the distillation of roses for the preparation of rose water and rose oil.
According to a statement by Langles,8) distilled rose oil is twice definitely mentioned in Mohammed Achem's history of the great moguls of 1525 to 1667; also in the annals of the Mongolian empire written by Manucci,9) a Venetian physician who lived 40 years in India.
1) Carl Ritter, Erdkunde von Westasien. Vol. 8, p. 745 and Vol. 9, p. 1010.
2) Calendrier rural d'Harib in Duran de la Malle, Climatologie compaee. Paris 1849. p. 65. - Dozy, Le Calendrier de Cordoue de I'ann6e 961. Leyden 1873.
3) The above supposition is not supported by specific statements in literature. However, it seems reasonable since Persian rose water could be shipped without detriment to its quality to distant lands with tropical climate such as India, China and Egypt