- Sub rosa
Latinphrase sub rosa means "under the rose" and is used in English to denote secrecyor confidentiality.
rosewas the emblemof the god Horusin ancient Egypt. Later the Greeks and Romans regarded this as god of silence. This originates from a Greek/Roman misinterpretation of an Egyptian hieroglyphicadopting Horus along with Isisand Osirisas a god. The Greeks translated his Egyptian name Har-pa-khered to Harpocrates.
The rose's connotation for
secrecyalso dates back to Greek mythology. Aphroditegave a rose to her son Eros, the god of love; he, in turn, gave it to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to ensure that his mother's indiscretions (or those of the gods in general, in other accounts) were kept under wraps. Paintings of roses on the ceilings of Roman banquet rooms were also a reminder that things said under the influence of wine ("sub vino") should also remain "sub rosa". [http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/archive/2003/02/17.html] In the Middle Agesa rose suspended from the ceiling of a council chamber similarly pledged all present (those under the rose) to secrecy. [http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/International-Relations/15181/18474 Scottish Executive Official Website] ]
In Christian symbology the phrase "sub rosa" has a special place in confessions. Pictures of file-leaved roses were often carved on confessionals, indicating that the conversations will maintain secrecy. The phrase has also understood to make reference to the mysterious virginal conception of Christ, which will remain a secret to a rational mind.
In current times, the term is actually used by the
Scottish Governmentfor a specific type of "off the record" meetings. [http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/International-Relations/15181/18474 Scottish Government official website] ]
More recently, "sub rosa" activities have become a byword for
covert operations, usually by security services. Originating primarily in the Canada and the USA special forces, this meaning has been gradually spreading to other countries and in particular the United Kingdom.Currently covert operations by the Special Boat Service uses the term in the vernacular.
In 1670, in the fort of Sàrospatak, Hungary (near the present Ukrainian border), members of the Wesselényi-conspiracy met to plot against the royal court in Vienna - the kingdom of Hungary being part of the Austo-Hungarian empire - in a small balcony room bearing a rose painted on the ceiling. The conspirators were ready to fight against the ruling court as they deemed the laws enacted by it unconstitutional, endangering religious and political freedom. Rákóczi Ferenc I., Nádasdy Ferenc, Zrínyi Péter, Frangepán Ferenc were present, the latter later revealing to the Austrians the details of the conspiracy. The Austrian court responded by putting the fort under siege. During the planning, several secret meetings took place in this small, secluded room. Since then, "sub rosa" has been used in the Hungarian language (in both the Latin form and the Hungarian translation, "A ròzsa alatt") meaning secrecy and a plot. For many Hungarians, this where the expression 'sub rosa' originated.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.