What Does the Color Purple Mean in Ancient Times?

The color purple has been used throughout history to represent various meanings and symbolisms. In ancient times, the color held a significant place in many cultures and was associated with different beliefs.

Meaning in Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, the color purple was associated with royalty and power. The rulers of Egypt used purple as a symbol of their status, and it was considered a rare and valuable color. The dye used to create the color came from a shellfish found only in the waters near the city of Tyre, making it difficult to obtain.

The Phoenicians and Purple

The Phoenicians were responsible for bringing purple dye from Tyre to other parts of the world. They established trade routes that allowed them to share this valuable commodity with other cultures. The Phoenicians also believed that purple represented spirituality and divinity, which is why they used it in their religious ceremonies.

Purple in Ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, purple was also associated with power and wealth. Only members of the imperial family were allowed to wear clothing dyed with Tyrian purple. The dye was so expensive that it became a symbol of extravagance, and its use was limited to those who could afford it.

Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, the god Zeus had a favorite daughter named Athena. She was often depicted wearing a robe colored with purple or violet shades. This association made the color represent wisdom and higher knowledge.

The Biblical meaning of Purple

In Biblical times, purple represented royalty as well as wealth and prosperity. It is mentioned several times in the Bible as being worn by kings and rulers.

  • The book of Esther mentions that King Ahasuerus gave Mordecai clothing made from fine linen and “purple wool” (Esther 8:15).
  • The Gospel of Mark also mentions that the Roman soldiers dressed Jesus in a purple robe to mock him as “King of the Jews” (Mark 15:17).

Symbolism in Asian Cultures

In some Asian cultures, purple represents wealth and prosperity. It is often used in traditional clothing and textiles to signify good fortune and success.


In conclusion, the color purple held a significant place in many ancient cultures. It was associated with royalty, power, spirituality, wisdom, and wealth.

The difficulty of obtaining the dye made it a rare and valuable color that was limited to those who could afford it. Today, purple is still used to represent different meanings and symbolisms but continues to be a color associated with luxury and extravagance.