What Did Colours Mean in Ancient Greece?

Colors have played an important role in the history of ancient Greece, not only as a means of decoration but also as symbols of cultural significance. Ancient Greeks imbued colors with meanings that were deeply rooted in their mythology, religion, and everyday life. In this article, we will explore the symbolism and meanings behind some of the most prominent colors in ancient Greek culture.


White was a significant color in ancient Greece, symbolizing purity and innocence. The Greeks often used white to decorate temples and sacred spaces, as well as clothing worn during religious ceremonies. It was also common for athletes competing in the Olympic Games to wear white clothing as a symbol of their purity and dedication to sport.


Black was another important color in ancient Greece, often associated with death and mourning. The Greeks believed that black represented the underworld and death, which is why they wore black clothing during funerals and other solemn ceremonies. However, black was also used to represent power and authority – wealthy citizens would often wear black robes to signify their high status.


Red was a vibrant color that held significant cultural meaning for the ancient Greeks. It was commonly associated with passion, love, and desire – this is reflected in many of their myths involving Aphrodite, the goddess of love who wore red clothing. Red was also used to represent danger – soldiers would paint their shields red to intimidate their enemies on the battlefield.


While blue was not a prominent color in ancient Greek art or literature, it did hold some significance for the culture. Blue represented the sea and sky – two elements that were deeply intertwined with Greek life and mythology. In fact, many gods were associated with blue – Poseidon (god of the sea) had blue hair while Athena (goddess of wisdom) had blue eyes.


Gold was a symbol of wealth and prosperity in ancient Greece. The Greeks believed that gold was a gift from the gods, making it a sacred metal. Gold was often used to decorate temples and statues of the gods, as well as jewelry worn by wealthy citizens.


Purple was a color reserved for royalty in ancient Greece, as it was very expensive to produce. The dye used to create purple clothing came from a type of sea snail found only in the eastern Mediterranean – this made it highly prized and reserved for the most elite members of society.


In conclusion, colors played an important role in ancient Greek culture – they were imbued with symbolic meanings that were deeply rooted in mythology, religion, and everyday life. From the purity of white to the power of black, each color had its own unique significance that helped to shape Greek society and culture.