Purple irises are beautiful flowers, but they also represent wisdom and have played a role in history and mythology for millennia. Whether you love the purple iris for its striking color and shape or for its deeper connections to ancient Greek gods and the French revolution, the flower definitely makes a striking statement in any garden or floral bouquet.
Irises and the Ancient World
According to legends, Egyptian king Thutmose III popularized irises after he conquered the lands known today as Syria where the flowers grew wild. Thutmose had images of irises added to sculptures in Karnak and had the flowers grown in Egyptian gardens. For the ancient Greeks, the purple flowers symbolized the goddess Iris. When women died, purple irises were planted on their tombs so the goddess would find the grave and take the woman up to the heavens.
Purple Iris and the Fleur-de-Lis
Throughout French history, the purple iris has represented royalty and religious devotion. The flower also inspired the fleur-de-lis, a symbol worn by kings, depicted on the banner Joan of Arc carried into battle, and said to represent the Holy Trinity. Although the phrase “fleur-de-lis” means “flower of the lily,” it does refer to irises which were known as lilies until 1722.
Purple Iris Meanings Today
Today, the purple iris still signifies royalty just as it did for the French kings during the Middle Ages. Also, the flower's upright petals are said to represent wisdom, faith, and bravery. Purple irises are considered the birth flower for people born in February and are the anniversary flower for people married 25 years. The iris, which is Tennessee's state flower, is also associated with New Orleans, Louisiana which uses the fleur-de-lis as its emblem.