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Myths and Legends: Tyrian Purple

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The origin of royal purple is in a number of species of murex snails native to the Mediterranean Sea which, when disturbed, secrete an acrid yellow fluid. When this fluid is subjected to cooking or heating, it produces a deep scarlet or purple permanent stain, as early fishermen may have discovered by chance when trying to make a meal of these creatures. The odd vivid color and permanence kept this substance in high demand as a dye although acquiring enough for textile use was quite labor-intensive and painstaking, and thus it was affordable only to the elite nobility and wealthiest merchants. Long a symbol of the imperial household of the Roman Empire, the color was later favored by the Christian emperors of the Western Empire after Constantine.

P.S.: Notice the left ventricular contours in this metaphor of a 4-chamber view of the heart.

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All images, text, and captions ©2000 - 2003 Starr Kaplan.