Most of us are familiar with the archetypal image of ancient Greek scholars; with fabric draped around their shoulders, temples adorned with garlands of ... Ivy? Holly? Juniper? Think again! It’s Rosemary.
For many Australians, this eminent perennial shrub is a key ingredient for our beloved lamb & potato roasts. We also know to fasten a sprig onto our collars on Anzac Day.
But why Rosemary? Ancient mythology proposed that the plant’s fragrant aroma strengthened memory – which is why those Greek scholars wore Rosemary (not ivy, not holly, not juniper) in their hair - to help memorise their studies! This association with remembrance has continued to be woven into literature and folklore in cultures all over the world and today, it remains an emblem of remembrance & commemoration especially in Australia on Anzac Day. In fact, some Australians insist that a special species of the herb – called Gallipoli Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - was propagated from a bush that was brought back from ANZAC Cove by a Digger in 1915.
That’s why Australians pay tribute to fallen soldiers & current and ex-service men and women by wearing of small sprigs of rosemary in the coat lapel or pinned to the breast.
Flowers have traditionally been laid on graves and memorials in memory of the dead. Rosemary, symbolising remembrance, is popular on Anzac Day. Laurel is also a commemorative symbol; woven into a wreath, it was used by the ancient Romans to crown victors and the brave as a mark of honour. In recent years, the poppy, strongly associated with Remembrance Day (11 November), has also become popular in wreaths on Anzac Day.