Saturday, 30 September 2017

Tyrian Purple

The ultimate status symbol in Ancient Rome was a set of robes died Tyrian purple. This colour, named for Tyre, its place of origin, was made from the secretion of a particular sort of sea snail called a Murex. It took 13,000 snails to produce just 28 millilitres of dye, enough for the trim on one garment. In Republican Rome only the wealthiest men, the equites, were allowed to wear it, but in Imperial Rome it was restricted to just the Emperor, as a symbol of his power.
Tyrian purple may first have been used by the ancient Phoenicians as early as 1570 BC. The dye was greatly prized in antiquity because the colour did not easily fade, but instead became brighter with weathering and sunlight. Its significance is such that the name Phoenicia means 'land of purple.' It came in various shades, the most prized being that of "blackish clotted blood".

True Tyrian purple, like most high-chroma pigments, cannot be accurately displayed on a computer display.