The Color of Royalty
Tyrian Purple is prized for its non-fading pigment. In fact, it’s said to become brighter and more intense with age. Discovered in the 8th century BCE, Tyrian Purple has an interesting story behind it. While walking on a beach, Hercules’ dog ran to play with a mollusk that had washed up along the shore. When bit into, the mollusk stained the dog’s mouth with it’s “ink”. The “ink” is really a colorless secretion from the mollusk, but when exposed to air it morphs into a potent, purplish hue. The color was soon demanded for clothing dye.
In order to dye a single garment, tens of thousands of these mollusks were required. The mollusks would be harvested, and then allowed to decay on the shore to collect the secretion. Due to the amount of mollusks needed, the dye was costly and only affordable to the elite. Laws were passed, prohibiting the amount of dye that could be harvested, and it soon became reserved exclusively for royalty.
Origin: Murex (Large Sea Snails)
A recent discovery on the island of Crete suggests that the Minoans may have pioneered the extraction of the purple centuries before the Tyrians, during the Middle Minoan period in the 20th–18th century BCE.