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πορφύρα). The finest and most costly dye of the ancients, a discovery of the Phœnicians, though known to the Greeks in the Homeric Age. This may be inferred from the frequent epithet πορφύρεος applied to robes, rugs, etc. It was also known to the Romans in the time of their kings. It was obtained from two kinds of shells in the Mediterranean Sea:
  • 1. from the trumpet-shell (Gr. κῆρυξ; Lat. bucinum, murex);
  • 2. from the true purple-shell (Gr. πορφύρα; Lat. purpura, pelagia=murex brandaris or tribulus).
These shells respectively contained in a diminutive bladder a small quantity of
  • 1. scarlet-coloured,
  • 2. black-and-red-coloured juice.
The juice collected from a number of these shells was placed in salt in the proportion of about one pint of salt to every seventy-five pounds avoirdupois of juice, and heated in metal vessels by the introduction of warm vapours; then the raw material, wool and silk, was dyed in it. The best and dearest purple was always the Phœnician, especially that of Tyre, although it was prepared by other inhabitants of the Mediterranean. As the colour of the bucinum was not lasting, it was not used by itself, but only in combination with the true purpura for producing certain varieties of purple dye. By mixing bucinum with black pelagium, the juice of the true purple-shell, the fashionable violet, called the “amethyst” purple, was produced; and, by a double process of dyeing, first in half-boiled pelagium, and then in bucinum, Tyrian purple was produced. This had the colour of clotted blood, and when looked at straight appeared black, but when held to the light it glowed with colour. A pound of violet wool cost in Caesar's time 100 denarii ($20), Tyrian purple wool above 1000 denarii ($200). By mixing pelagium with other matter— water, urine, and orchilla—the bright purple dyes —heliotrope-blue, mauve-blue, and violet-yellow —were obtained. Other colours were produced by the combination of the different methods of dyeing; first dyeing the material with violet colour, purple dye, and scarlet (produced from the coccus ilicis); then by using the Tyrian method they obtained the tyrianthinum, the Tyrian shell-purple, and the variety called the ὕσγινον, from ὕσγη, a variety of πρῖνος, or quercus coccifera (Pliny , Pliny H. N. ix. 124-141). The native dye was apparently not easily distinguished from the Tyrian when newly applied, except by the connoisseur (Epist. i. 10, 26-30). For further details, see Blümner's Technologie, i. 224-240.

Purple robes were used at an early date by the Greeks as a mark of dignity. Even the Athenian archons wore purple mantles officially. In Rome at one time broad, at another narrow, stripes of purple on the toga and tunic served as marks of distinction for senators, magistrates, and members of the equestrian order. The robes of the general were dyed in purple (see Paludamentum); so also was the gold-embroidered mantle worn by one who celebrated a triumph. For a long time home-purple was used; Tyrian purple was not introduced till the middle of the first century B.C., and from that time it became a luxury. In spite of repeated attempts to check by imperial decrees the use of real purple among private individuals, robes trimmed with purple, or altogether dyed with it, became more and more used. Only a complete robe of blatta, the finest kind of purple, of which there were five varieties, was reserved as an imperial privilege, and any private person who wore it was punished as being guilty of high-treason (Cod. Theod. iv. 40, 1). From the second century A.D. the emperors took part in this lucrative industry, and from the end of the fourth century A.D. the manufacture of the blatta became an imperial monopoly.

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