The famous and costly Tyrian purple, the royal color of the ancients, is said to have been discovered by the Tyrian Hercules, whose dog having by chance eaten a shellfish called Purpura, and returning to his master with his lips tinged with a purple color, occasioned the discovery of this precious dye. Purple, however, is much more ancient than this, since we find it mentioned by Moses in several places. Two kinds of purple are mentioned in the Old Testament:
1. Argamon, rendered in our version "purple," denoting a reddish purple obtained from a species of muscle or shellfish found on the coasts of the Mediterranean.
2. Techieleth, rendered in the English Bible "blue." This was a bluish or cerulean purple, likewise obtained from another species of shellfish. The "scarlet" or "crimson," for the two words denote essentially the same color, was produced from the coccus in sect, coccus ilicis. All these were sacred colors among the Jews; and the latter was used for the highpriest’s ephod, and for veils, ribbons, and cloths, Exodus 26:1,4,31,36 28:31 Numbers 4:6-12 15:38.
The "purple" of the ancients seems to have included many different tints derived originally from the shellfish, and modified by various arts in which the Tyrians excelled. As each fish yielded but a few drops of coloring matter, the choicest purple bore a very high price. Purple robes were worn by the kings and first magistrates of ancient Rome, and Nero forbade their use by his subjects under pain of death. Our Savior was clothed with a royal robe of purple, in mockery of his title, "The King of the Jews" John 19:2,5. Compare also Judges 8:26 Esther 8:15 Proverbs 31:22 Daniel 5:7 Luke 16:19. Moses used much wool dyed of a crimson and used much wool dyed of a crimson and purple color in the work of the tabernacle, and in the ornaments of the high priest, Exodus 25:4 26:1,31,36 39:1 2 Chronicles 3:14. The Babylonians also clothed their idols in robes of a purple and azure color, Jeremiah 10:9 Ezekiel 23:15 27:7,16.