Although Roman Emperor Aurelian was a great military commander and “Restorer of the World” (Restitutor Orbis), he was far from generous with his wife. Having “restored” the world by conquering vast territories and defeating armies of those who foolishly refused to be conquered, he still begrudged Lady Ulpia a trifle – Tyrian purple silk shawl. Granted, the shawl literally cost its weight in gold because purple dye was made from a tiny mollusk found only in the Tyre region of the Mediterranean Sea (now in Lebanon), and it took about nine thousands of those critters to produce one gram of purple dye!
The skinflint ruler undoubtedly could’ve afforded this bit of extravagance for Mrs. Emperor, but very few other people were rich enough to buy even a purple tassel or ribbon. Color purple became a mark of extraordinary wealth and stayed that way for many centuries.
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