The Origin of Tyrian Purple
As the story goes, Hercules was strolling along the shores of Phoenicia with the nymph Tyrus, whom he loved when his dog happened upon a snail protruding from the sand. The dog devoured the shellfish, today known as a Murex snail, and came away with a mouth stained a brilliant purple. Tyrus was enthralled by the color and requested a robe of the same striking shade as the price that Hercules would have to pay for her hand. Thus goes the legend of the origin of Tyrian purple.
Tyrian purple, the most expensive and sought after dye of classical antiquity, was praised by historians and poets. Homer wrote his great epic poems during the heyday of Phoenicia and spoke of the brilliance and beauty of the cloths that Paris brought back from the island to Troy.
Tyrian purple was quite literally worth more than its weight in gold. It is estimated that it took 10,000 shellfish to produce 1 gram of dye – only enough to dye the hem of a garment in deep color. A pound of pre-dyed wool cost its weight in gold, roughly $22,000 at todays prices!