by: Richard J. Karam, J.D.
Official Color - Purple
two special commodities upon which the Phoenicians built their
initial prosperity (in addition to timber) was purple cloth
and glass. The "Tyrian color," a purple dye, according to Greek
legend was discovered by Melqart, king and deity of Tyre, when
he and the nymph Tyros were strolling along the Mediterranean
shore with their dog. Biting into a large sea-snail or mollusk,
the dog stained its mouth purple. Melqart promptly dyed a gown
with the new-found substance and presented it to his companion.
The dye is an extract from the Mediterranean mollusk species
(Murex trunculus, M. brandaris, and Purpura Haemostoma,) whose
hypobranchial glands contain the chemical precursors for the
purple dye. These mollusks come into the shallow water along
rocky shorelines of Lebanon to mate in the late spring.
In the succeeding centuries, the Canaanite city-states on
the Levantine coast completely dominated the purple dyeing industry.
Even their name---Phoenician--is derived from the Greek root
"purple." To promote this industry, dye factories were set up
at certain Phoenician colonies---most notably, along the coasts
of Tunisia, Malta, Sicily, and Spain.
Biblical texts (Ezekiel 27:7, 16, 24; II Chronicles 2:7,14)
are more informative about the involvement of Phoenician city-states,
especially Tyre, in the industry. The use of purple in early
Israelite religion (e.g., in the tabernacle curtains and the
High Priest's vestments--Exodus 26:1, 31; 28:4-6; 39:1, 28-29;
II Chronicles 3:14) shows considerable Phoenician influence.
The purple dye was difficult to produce as thousands of mollusks
were needed to make an ounce of the dye, and as a result it
was worth more than its weight in gold. It was no wonder then
that purple became a mark of status, both religious and political,
and of wealth. One example of a conspicuous display of wealth
was the purple sail of Cleopatra's ship at the Battle of Actium
in the first century B.C. One hundred years later, Nero issued
an edict that permitted only the emperor to wear purple. Production
of the molluscan dye continued until the fall of Constantinople
in 1453 A.D. In 1465, Pope Paul II issued an edict instructing
cardinals to substitute kermes, an insect-derived scarlet dye,
for the royal purple the church had been using to dye its vestments.
The phrase "Born in Purple" came from this early appreciation
of the dye. The Phoenician nation has been referred to as "The
Purple Empire" because of its development and trade in the purple
A Resolution Adopting Purple as the Official Color of
WHEREAS, The original inhabitants of present day Lebanon, the
coastal regions of present day Syria, and most of ancient Palestine,
were people known as "Canaanites" who occupied the
land known as Canaan; and,
WHEREAS, The word "Canaan" or "Canaanite"
is derived from an old Semitic word meaning "purple."
The connection stems from the fact that a valuable purple dye
was manufactured by the Canaanites from sea mollusks under a
secret process known only to them for which they became world
WHEREAS, The name "Phoenicians", used later in the
12 Century B.C. by the Greeks to identify the Canaanites of
the area, was also derived from the Greek word for "purple."
It was the purple dye that continued to characterize the people
of that area. In their own language however, the Phoenicians
called themselves Kena`ani or "Canaanites". In the
Semitic language, the word kena`ani has a secondary meaning
of "merchant," a term that Encyclopeadea Britannica
states "well characterizes the Phoenicians"; and,
WHEREAS, What became identified as the land of Phoenicia after
the 12th Century B.C. included not only present day Lebanon,
but also the Mediterranean coastal cities of Syria and hence,
historically speaking, portions of ancient Syria were part of
a greater Lebanon, a process that would reverse itself in later
centuries when Lebanon became part of a greater Syria; and,
WHEREAS, In time the northern portion of Phoenicia came to
be called "Syria". The term "Syrian" is
the Greek version of "Aramaean" and, throughout the
Bible, the terms "Aram" and "Aramaean" are
translated as "Syria" and "Syrian", respectively,
but Aramaic remained as their language. The term "Syria"
stems back to a Babylonian word "Suri," for a district
along the upper Euphrates; and,
WHEREAS, The name "Lebanon" referred originally to
the two parallel mountain ranges which crossed the country,
hence the phrase "Mount Lebanon." The name is derived
from the Semitic word for "white" because of its snowy
peaks. Eventually, the name was applied to the entire country;
WHEREAS, Purple, the color of that valuable dye which was produced
by our ancestors and for which they became world renown, and
from which is derived the names for Canaan and Phoenicia, has
unique historic significance to Syria and Lebanon; and
WHEREAS, the SFSLAC should adopt the color Purple as the Official
color of this Organization.
NOW THEREFORE, LET IT BE KNOWN, that the Official Color of
the SFSLAC shall be the color Purple which shall be utilized
in the Official Emblem and the Official Flag of this Organization
and wherever else appropriate.