The Greek word anthos, "flower," provides the literal sense of the word: a collection of flowers. Anthologies (once also called florilegia, Latin for "a collection of flowers") were originally conceived as collections of "beauties."

Anthologies play a critical role in canon formation.

From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
Please send comments to Jack Lynch.
Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
Three question marks mean I have to write more on the subject. Bear with me.