This particular belief may be traced back to the legend found in the imaginations of Greeks who told that Cybele loved Attis. Attis was a macho man who loved to hunt and hunting boar was a special love of his. while hunting boar he was killed and where his blood fell violets grew.
The question often arises concerning flowers at funerals. Why flowers? One major event that will make this clear was the death of Pres. Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. The funeral director had piles of fresh fragrant flowers placed all around the coffin to cover the strong scent of the President's decaying flesh.
Throughout history there was no way to deal with this scent unless the body were buried or burned quickly. In ancient India bodies "were not buried as heathen do" but left out for birds of prey and animals to dispose of it returning the body back to whence it came. Reincarnation would follow, they believed, and many still do.
The Jewish Talmud suggests flowers and spices to deal with the scent that accompanys death.
Most folks simply overlook this fact even when they read John 11:39 "Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord by this time he stinketh ("stinketh" the English translation of the New Testament Greek: ozei): for he hath been dead four days."
In John 19:39-42 we find that the body of Jesus was prepared with a mixture of myrrh and aloes and the men wound the body of Jesus with linen cloths with the spices "as is the manner of the Jews."
Today, with refrigeration and air conditioning and proper embalming, flowers are a beautiful indication of respect for the deceased.
The earliest flowers for burial purposes can be dated to almost 14,000 years ago. Evidence was found at prehistoric burial sites in a cave on Mount Carmel. The burial rituals are believed to be a part of the Natufian society, one of the earliest cultures in which humans lived in permanent settlements. The evidence identified stems of mint, sage and figwort. The flowers and herbs were placed at the bottom of the grave before the bodies were placed there. This indicates that some care was taken in the preparation of the burial site. There could have been a family or tribal ceremony during the event with a meal and music.
John Milton was dealing with the death of his learned friend, Lycidas, when he wrote a tribute in 1637. From this we abstracted the following, written in Middle English:
"Bring the rathe Primrose that forsaken dies.
The tufted Crow-toe, and pale Gessamine,
The white Pink, and the Pansie freakt with jeat,
The glowing Violet.
The Musk-rose, and the well attir'd Woodbine.
With Cowslips wan that hang the pensive hed,
And every flower that sad embroidery wears:
Bid Amaranthus all his beauty shed,
And Daffadillies fill their cups with tears,
To strew the Laureat Herse (hearse) where Lycid lies.
Emperor Nero had all the resin, called, frankincense, found in Arabia, a year's production from the Boswellia Sacra trees, for his wife's funeral. The Roman taxpayers were certainly gracious to pay for all this expense.
His wives included Claudia Octavia, his stepsister. He divorced her for barrenness and married his mistress Poppaea Sabina. She was married to Otho while she was Nero's mistress. She bore him a child so she became Augusta. The child was named Claudia Augusta. Suetonius claimed that Nero administered a fatal kick to Poppaea when she was pregnant a second time. Such is the life of powerful political leaders of yore.
Flowers are beautiful, and appropriate anytime and any occasion, and are a respectful part of funerals.