Was Purple Unpatriotic? 國旗五彩繽紛 為何獨缺紫色
by William Ryan
Despite its popularity, the color purple has hardly ever been used on the flags of nations. With nearly two hundred national flags in existence, the virtual absence of purple from the scene is apparent. One might wonder, then, if there is some little-known historical reason for this lack of purple. Was purple somehow considered unpatriotic? Not at all. It was just impractical.
For centuries, a single species of Mediterranean sea snail was the only known source of purple dye. Merchants sold it in Tyre, a Phoenician trading city in present-day Lebanon. Ten thousand snails had to be harvested to produce a single gram of the substance, making it rare and unaffordable to all but the super-rich. Until the end of the 19th century, purple dye was literally worth more than its weight in gold. Due to its scarcity, purple naturally became associated with royalty and the imperial classes of Egypt, Persia, Rome, and England. Even so, it wasn't worth spending that kind of money on a flag; purple was never used to represent an empire or civilization. Purple was also considered a spiritual color because people who wore it seemed somehow godlike.
In 1856, William Henry Perkin, a British chemist, accidentally created the first synthetic purple dye. By the end of the century, it was being mass-produced. Since then, a few countries have included purple in their national banners: Nicaragua in 1908, the Second Republic of Spain from 1931 to 1939, and Dominica in 1967. Who knew this calming hue, so easy on the eyes, was once only for civilization's elite?
1856 年，一名英國化學家威廉．亨利．珀金意外創造出首批人造紫色染料。到了該世紀末，紫色染料已被大量製造。自那時起，有些國家將紫色納入國旗上：尼加拉瓜於 1908 年納入、西班牙第二共和國於 1931 至 1939 年間納入，而多米尼克則於 1967 年加入。誰能想得到，這種寧靜的色調看在眼中是如此舒服，卻一度只為文明中的菁英所用呢？