Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Purple is for Power

The color purple is universally associated with power.  Roman emperors wore purple, and both kings and the Catholic church wrapped itself in a purple facade.  To mock Jesus, the Romans made him wear a purple robe when they arrested him, as Jesus had referred to heaven as "his kingdom".

Why?  Not surprisingly, because it was rare.  In antiquity, purple dye was obtain by salting a Mediterranean mollusk referred to as murex, and even if the mollusk was free the dye could be difficult to extract.  Because of this, Julius Ceasar did the logical thing: forbade anyone except his household wear purple-trimmed togas.  And if Caesar did it, then anyone with power should do likewise.

And let him drink from a jeweled cup and sleep on Sarran purple
Virgil, first century B.C.

Source: Kurlansky, Mark.  Salt: A World History.

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