Murex is not the only source of purple

Royal purple dye was made from the secretion of the Murex snail, typically found along the eastern Mediterranean coast, especially near Tyre.

In New Testament times (the first century A.D.), several cities in Asia Minor were noted as producers of dye. Colossae and Thyatira were located inland, far away from the Sea. These, and other cities of the region, made purple from the madder root.

Madder root, a source of purple in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Madder root, a source of purple in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The three colors shown in the yarn below come from the madder root. The darker color on the right might more closely resemble royal purple.

Yarn dyed with madder root. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Yarn dyed with madder root. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Thyatira was noted as a great center for the wool trade and for its dyeing industry. Lydia, the first convert of the gospel in Europe, was a native of Thyatira (in Asia). She seems to have represented this industry in Philippi. One inscription, found at Philippi in 1872, honored from among the purple dyers a man named Antiochus who was a “native of Thyatira” (Meinardus, St. John, 93).

The purple dye used around Thyatira was evidently a vegetable dye from the madder root which grew in abundance in the region. Hemer says that the madder root “was still cultivated in the district at least until the end of the last century.” The pigment is commonly called Turkey red. In addition to the colors shown in the yarn above, I am told by the Turkish carpet sellers that the “red” in this beautiful Turkish carpet comes from the madder root.

Carpet made from yarn made from the madder root. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carpet using yarn made from the madder root. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now when you read about Lydia as a seller of purpose you should think of the dye made from the madder root, or from the dyed products.

A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14 CSB)

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One response to “Murex is not the only source of purple

  1. Pingback: Purple fabric dyed from Murex found in Judean desert | Ferrell's Travel Blog

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