ramblings about the colour Red.
October 9, 2014
The term Phoenicia comes from the Greek word, Phoenix. It translates into: ‘purple-red’. It is in reference to the purple dye industry that the Phoenicians were known for. The dye was extracted from the mollusc shell-fish and used to colour fabric.
Tyre was the region known for the purple dye industry, with beginnings as early as the 18th century B.C.
The dye, known as Tyrian purple also known as Tyrian red, royal purple, imperial purple, was extracted a few drops at a time from murex, a shell-fish found in the waters off of Tyre and Sidon.
The process used to extract the fluid was quite expensive and therefore only the rich could afford to buy the dyed fabric.
The 4th-century-BC historian Theopompus reported, “Purple for dyes fetched its weight in silver at Colophon” in Asia Minor. The expense meant that purple-dyed textiles became status symbols, and early sumptuary laws restricted their uses. The production of Tyrian purple was tightly controlled in Byzantium and was subsidized by the imperial court, which restricted its use for the colouring of imperial silks, Later (19th Century) a child born to a reigning emperor was said to be porphyrogenitos, “born in the purple”.