NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY PICTURE COLLECTION / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY PICTURE COLLECTION / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
The evergreen myrtle tree (myrtus communis) was in antiquity one of the plants sacred to all peoples around the eastern Mediterranean. It was revered by the ancient Hebrews who covered the tent of their Tabernacle with myrtle boughs in bloom. The Egyptians consecrated it to Hathor, goddesses of love, mirth and joy. In Greece and Rome it was sacred to Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of love, because when they sprang from the foam of the sea-waves they were preceded by the nereids, carrying garlands of myrtle. The myrtle was considered the symbol of love and marriage, and ever since Roman times brides often wear wreaths of myrtle blossoms and bridegrooms sprigs of myrtle on the wedding day.
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