TYRIAN purple (aka Royal purple or Imperial purple) is a dye extracted from the murex shellfish which was first produced by the Phoenician city of Tyre in the Bronze Age. Its difficulty of manufacture, striking purple to red colour range, and resistance to fading made clothing dyed using Tyrian purple highly desirable and expensive.
The Phoenicians gained great fame as sellers of purple and exported its manufacture to its colonies, notably Carthage, from where it spread in popularity and was adopted by the Romans as a symbol of imperial authority and status.
In Phoenician mythology, the discovery of purple was credited to the pet dog of Tyros, the mistress of Tyre’s patron god Melqart. One day, while walking along the beach the couple noticed that after biting on a washed up mollusc the dog’s mouth was stained purple. Tyros asked for a garment made of the same colour and so began the famous dyeing industry.
PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Dido (Queen of Tyre/Founder of Carthage)
QUEEN Dido (aka Elissa, from Elisha, or Alashiya, her Phoenician name) was a legendary Queen of Tyre in Phoenicia who was forced to flee the city with a loyal band of followers.
Sailing west across the Mediterranean she founded the city of Carthage c. 813 BCE and later fell in love with the Trojan hero and founder of the Roman people Aeneas. The tale of Dido is most famously recounted in Virgil’s Aeneid but she appeared in the works of many other ancient writers both before and after.