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The Phoenicians' Purple Passion



The Phoenicians' Purple Passion
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.84

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    aleph, alephbeth, blood-red, hieroglyphic-inscribed, prbly, prpl, reassemble, sntnc, sound-symbol, sound-symbols, tyrian, wine-colored, following, hieroglyphic, scribes, potion
     content words:    Eastern Europe, Dead Sea, Near Eastern


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The Phoenicians' Purple Passion
By Colleen Messina
  

1     The seafaring Phoenicians of the twelfth century B.C. had a passion for purple. Who would have thought that this purple passion would lead to the world's first true alphabet? The Phoenicians, who lived in what is now Syria, were unpolished seamen with no art, literature, or culture of their own. However, they bravely sailed farther than any other ancient people to trade in ivory, precious metals, and spices. They also marketed their own special purple dye. In fact, they had a worldwide monopoly on purple!
 
2     Because of the Phoenicians' unique purple potion, one possible meaning for the word Phoenician is "dealer in purple!" Others think it means "blood-red" because their purple dye had a reddish undertone. So how did they make this dye, and what was the big deal about purple? The Phoenicians discovered that crushed shellfish oozed a fabulous wine-colored goop. Cloth soaked in this substance turned shades ranging from deep pink to rich purple. Royalty soon chose purple as their favorite hue, so every king and queen needed purple dye!
 
3     Another name for this superb color was "Tyrian purple" because Tyre was a famous Phoenician city located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Everyone called Tyre the "queen of the seas" because it was the center of the Phoenicians' trade empire. Soon they realized that they needed a simpler writing system for their bookkeeping because so many people wanted the dye and their business exploded. They didn't have the patience to write in artistic hieroglyphics, so they invented a simple alphabet in the twelfth century B.C. Tyre was at the height of its influence, and traders carried the Phoenician alphabet to Greece.

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