The painting above is The Roses of Heliogabalus, painted by Lawrence Alma-Tadema in 1888. It depicts a banquet/orgy thrown by the Roman emperor Heliogabalus, who was also called Elagabalus. Heliogabalus only ruled from age 14 to 18, and was known more for his profligate personal adventures than for anything he did for Rome. His extravagant party shown in the painting featured a lovely shower of rose petals. But the inspiration for the scene is not limited to wine and roses. Alan Parker tells the story of the dark motivations behind the rose petals, which we learned from Herodian's History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus. It's more like a horror movie than what we think of when we hear of a Roman orgy.
As interesting (and disturbing) as the history is, Parker goes on to tell us about the wealthy artist Alma-Tadema and the great lengths he went to make this strangely deceiving painting as realistic as possible. The next time you see The Roses of Heliogabalus, you'll see more than the rose petals. -via Nag on the Lake