In ancient Greece, purple was a lavish symbol of social status and wealth, and in high demand as a clothing dye. Purple Greek textiles were coveted all over the Mediterranean world and in Persia. All-purple garments were worn by kings and generals, and society’s elite, including politicians, courtesans, and actors all wore purple as a sign of their affluence. Purple garments were also used as offerings and gifts for the Gods as idols were often dressed in purple robes.

Dye Materials

The purple dye was procured from shellfish, mainly snails, found in the Mediterranean. It was an expensive and involved process, as it required large quantities of shellfish. The Greeks mined every coast in the vicinity of their empire and established dye centers in Tyre, Hermione and Sidon. As the demand for purple colored clothing began to supersede the supply, less costly methods of producing purple were developed using insects, mulberry juice, amaranth blossoms and crushed bloodstone.