Monday, October 2, 2006

Deep purple

Purple blankets, purple cloaks: A student asked a good question. Why, in the Odyssey, is it always purple? The word in Homer's Greek is πορφύρεος, porphureos. Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins explain:

Vegetable dyes were common, but the highly prized and expensive purple dye came from two species of sea snail (purpura and murex brandaris), which were native to the coasts of Syria and Phoenicia. (Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece, Oxford UP, 1997)
Purple was the color of majesty. Thus the expression "born to the purple" and the phrase "purple mountain majesties" in "America the Beautiful" (which I've heard, since grade school, as "purple mountains' majesty"). And it's fitting that purple should be the favorite color of the artist once again known as Prince.

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