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Roses and Privacy: A Historical Duo for Centuries

All names mean something.

For the Oasis Network community, names and meanings are especially important. Behind the name chosen for the network’s native asset stands a long history of symbolism that underscores the importance of the Oasis Foundation’s mission to build better privacy for crypto. 

From Ancient Rome and Medieval Europe to World War 2 and 20th century novelists, a thread that connects roses and the ideas of privacy, confidentiality, trust and anonymity has stretched across centuries. Privacy advocates supporting the growth of the Oasis Network ecosystem should understand the historical context that gave ROSE its name. Highlights of this rich lore are explored in this article. 

Ancient and Medieval History 

Throughout the history of roses and privacy, one of the most prominent ideological ties comes from Hellenistic and Roman mythology. 

According to the legends, Harpocrates, the god of silence, secrets, and confidentiality, received a rose from Cupid. This gesture was intended to keep hidden the indiscretions of Venus, Cupid’s mother. Another myth tells a similar story of Aphrodite giving a rose to her son Eros who in turn also gave it to Harpocrates to ensure that misbehavior of the gods was kept secret. 

This is where the Latin phrase sub rosa originates from, keeping Venus’ and the gods’ affairs a secret. “Sint vera vel ficta, taceantur sub rosa dicta,” which translates to: Whether true or made up, let words spoken under the rose remain secret.

This symbolism reportedly crossed over to the Middle Ages in a few different forms. In some council chambers, for example, roses hung from the ceiling or were carved into its woodwork to remind attendees that their discussions were private. Roses were also known to be carved into Christian confessionals on occasion to symbolize the secrecy between a priest and the confessor. 

The rose’s role as a medieval symbol of secrecy aligns with the ethos of unity, discretion and mutual respect that King Arthur’s Round Table epitomized. The Round Table itself was a symbol of equality and unity, where each knight had an equal voice and no one was head of the table.

The Renaissance and Victorian Era

During the 17th century, sub rosa entered the English language, and is even thought to have German origins, but carries the same meaning. Anything said “under the rose” is understood to be kept confidential.

Some of the discourse around roses and privacy in England around this time period has included references to royalty wearing roses or decorating with them to indicate an understanding that certain information or meetings was not to be revealed. 

A few centuries later, in Victorian England, sending coded communications via roses and other flowers became quite popular. The language of communicating with flowers (a.k.a., floriography) was widely used during this time because contemporary social conventions put severe restrictions on what could be verbally expressed. Thus, floral communication was used to convey all sorts of personal messages. 

World War 2

White Rose was the name of a non-violent resistance group organized against the Nazi party regime starting in 1942. The group’s main initiatives were anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaigns that encouraged widespread opposition to the Nazi regime. In 1943, the identities of students and professors at the University of Munich who participated in this group were discovered and they were all arrested. 

20th Century Literature

Connections between roses and secrets, mysteries, and the unknown are sprinkled throughout poems, short stories and other literary works. 

William Butler Yeats, for example, was one of the most prominent figures of 20th-century literature. His poem, The Secret Rose, refers to a particular rose as something secret or someone mysterious. Strong emotions, religious symbolisms, and historical contexts are included in the poem as Yeats writes about the personified rose, but the identity remains a secret

“Far off, most secret, and inviolate Rose,

     Enfold me in my hour of hours […]”

William Faulkner also employs mysterious symbolism around roses in his novel, A Rose for Emily. While never mentioned as a noun, the use of the rose represents secrets and unknown mysteries around the life of the main character, Emily. 

Roses and Privacy Today

With the name ROSE, the Oasis Network gives a nod to the rich historical connection between privacy, trust, confidentiality, and beautiful roses. Today, the need for privacy is as important as ever, and the Oasis team is excited to work with a global community of committed advocates who build, create, and evangelize the mission of strong privacy. Smart privacy starts here