Friday, May 1, 2009

Classical Color

I just read an article today about how colorful the ancient world of Greece really was. We think of all the alabaster white sculptures and respond, "huh?" Yes, the last few years we've heard rumblings from the academic world about how ancient Greece really was a riot of color, not the pure white we have thought it was. Brilliant yellows, reds, greens and blues, all jewel tones, adorned their art but were leached away over time as they lay buried in the earth. When they were excavated, just the marble was left, the color long gone.

What I learned was that the early Greeks had no fixatives for their pigments so they were very unstable and the artist was unable to predict how a color would turn out. Thus, the color red could be anything "from pink to purple". Pigments were created from a variety of things in nature, and the more rare that thing was, the more expensive and more rare the color. For example, the color purple, long associated with royalty in the West, was made from snails found off the coast of Phoenicia. Since it was such a rare color, and very costly, only the very rich or the very royal, could afford it. Thus the early association with royalty!

Here are a few of the colors from ancient Greece and what they symbolized:
Red: this was a color associated with transitions of all kinds. A boy moving into adulthood wore a red cape; a bride wore a red veil; and death shrouds were red. All big life transitional stages.
Black: way back then it was associated with mourning but with the extra layer of showing how well to do you were! Black dyes were hard to achieve so the blacker they were, the richer you were!
Purple: If you were listening above, it was: ?????? (royalty!)
White: It was associated with young, feminine pale skin.

Hope you have enjoyed this peek into the past. Have a great weekend!


  1. Diantha,
    I am happy to see you up and blogging! As usual, you have offered us wonderful insights. I always thought the Greeks focused on white and now you have truly enlightened me.

    I've linked my blog to yours, so hopefully more and more visitors will find you.

    I'm heading to the garden to enjoy early smidgens of color. xxoo

  2. Jan, glad you liked this post and found it edifying! I reacted the same way!

    I would love to link to yours too....I need to learn how to do that!

    Enjoy your garden and especially the COLOR!

  3. Diantha,

    Your blog is moving along quite nicely and this post is a real eye-opener. And to think the Greeks have always been portrayed wearing white. Go figure.

    What a an interesting history lesson.

    God bless and keep blogging.

  4. Thank you Cheryl! I know I have a ways to go on getting the blog set up right but one has to start somewhere! I love all of your blogs! How do you do it and still write such great stuff!

    I know...I was blown away by all this. It just takes a bit of mind adjustment doesn't it! Imagine the Parthenon PAINTED! It hardly computes!

    Thanks for checking in!


  5. Hi Diantha, I came over via Jan's blog, and love what you have going on here. Color is such a visual world of its own, it's nice to know some of the history of it too. Looking forward to reading more, welcome to the blogging community!

  6. P.S. I'm not sure if my Comment went through the first time, so I resent! Hope it made it this time :)

  7. There is a special award waiting for you at my blog. Come on over and collect it when you can. Hugs!

  8. Thanks so much Joanne! Glad to see you on my very own blog! Hopefully we'll get some good color (and other) vibes going here!

  9. Diantha what a wonderful post!! My hubby and I watched the Rome series of late and really enjoyed the deep colors and dress. I have been studying Greek and Roman life ever since. Thank you for popping by my blog- it's wonderful to meet you. Namaste, Sarah

  10. Nice to meet you too! May I offer YOU a cup of tea and a warm muffin?! That series must have been awesome. I missed it unfortunately but have had an interest in that period of history since freshman year in high school. Like most everyone else, I had no idea they lived with so much color. Don't you just love finding out interesting tidbits? It's like finding the perfect fabric that "makes" a quilt!

  11. Jan, so many thanks for your sisterhood award. It means the world to me.
    Love you!

  12. I'm always amazed at the associations we make with certain colors. I guess the Greeks were no different.

    In East Indian culture, we can be all shades of brown from the most pale and fair to the darkest hue of brown, almost black. So many prefer the lighter version. Though I try to rise above this labeling, even I get sucked into the idea of what is aesthetically pleasing.

    May we love our colors, but learn that their borders can stretch to hold a wide variety of meaning.

    On a less serious note, I love to color with my daughter and her box of Crayola 64 crayons. We are certainly lucky to have access to all colors!

  13. Mermaid, you make me laugh....I have a carton of 96 Crayolas on my desk at all times! I color on and off all day!

    And you are right. We do "love our colors whose borders stretch to hold a wide variety of meaning." How beautifully you express this!

    I've often wondered at why we are repelled by certain colors, or have preferences for more or less saturated colors. This prompts me to post a new blog. Of course, first I have to write it! Thank you for your inspiration!

  14. Hello! I just found you through Jan at Awake is Good, and I'm so glad I did!

    I also recently read something about all the color in the ancient world. Wouldn't that have been something to see?!?!

    Best wishes,

  15. Yes, it WOULD have been something to see! Who knew! And welcome to my new blog! I'm excited to see you here too! Jan is a dear friend and I thank her for "introducing" us!
    Many blessings, Angela.....Diantha


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog. I value your input and thoughts. I send you each a blessing today for your highest good to be served. Namaste.