Other names for purple:
punic, pelagia; mud-purple, seaweed purple, reef-purple, Porphyra, rubeus, rutilus, ruber, argaman, tekhelet
Purple dye comes from shellfish:
mussels, whelks, murex, buccinum, Purpura hoemostoma


From Homer's Odyssey When the bright star that heralds the approach of dawn began to show. the ship drew near to land. Now there is in Ithaca a haven of the old merman Phorcys, which lies between two points that break the line of the sea and shut the harbour in. These shelter it from the storms of wind and sea that rage outside, so that, when once within it, a ship may lie without being even moored. At the head of this harbour there is a large olive tree, and at no distance a fine overarching cavern sacred to the nymphs who are called Naiads. There are mixing-bowls within it and wine-jars of stone, and the bees hive there. Moreover, there are great looms of stone on which the nymphs weave their robes of sea purple- very curious to see- and at all times there is water within it.

Purple factories

From Pliny's Natural History, quoted in 'The Dyes of Antiquity' The best Asiatic purple is at Tyre, the best African that at Meninx and on the Geotulian coast of the Ocean, the best European in the district of Sparta. The official rods and axes of Rome clear it a path, and it also marks the honourable estate of boyhood; it distinguishes the senate from the knighthood, it is called in to secure the favour of the gods and it adds radiance to every garment while in a triumphal robe it is blended with gold. Consequently even the mad lust from the purple may be excused; but what is the cause of the prices paid for purple shells which have an unhealthy odour when used for due and a gloomy ting in their radiance resembling an angry sea?

purples are taken in a sort of lobster-pot of fine ply thrown into deep water. These contain bait, cockles that close with a snap as we observe that mussells do. These when half-killed but put back into the sea gape greedily as they revive and attract the purples which go for them with outstretched tongues. But the cockles when pricked by their spike shut up and nip the creatures nibbling them. So the purples hand suspended because of their greed and are lifted out of the water.

For Tyrian purple the wool if first soaken with sea purple for a preliminary pale dressing, and then competely transformed with whelk dye. Its highest glory consists in the colour of congealed blood, blackish at first glance when held up to the light; this is the origin of Homer's phrase 'blood of purple hue'

The Ancient Phoenicians always kept their production methods secret, and the 'veil of the temple' had to be produce by these 'workers in purple, crimson and blue'. The imperial dyeworks of Tyre were destroyed by the Arabs in 638 AD.

The discovery of purple

Søren Kierkegaard Johanes Climacus 1843 Johannes Climacus assumed that modern philosophy begins with doubt and now asked how it happened, whether it was by accident or a necessary beginning. At this point, Johannes Climacus asked whether it was by an accident like that by which purple was discovered [according to legend, purple or violet-red dye was discovered by a dog rooting among sea-snails]- an accident of such a nature that it would forever remain an accident.

Purple flag