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Wednesday, October 12, 2005 Bookmark Now! | Email to a friend  

How did red carpet come to be synonymous with royal treatment?

Once upon a time, rolling out the red carpet was reserved for kings and queens. Now, any two-bit celebrity up for an award gets to tread on one. How Agamemnon would have disapproved. Title character in the play written by ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, Agamemnon is tricked by his wife into walking across a red carpet fit only for the "feet of the gods." That was 485 B.C., way before the Academy Awards, so you see how far back the concept goes.

In 1821, President James Monroe was entertained with a red carpet rolled out to the river. And when the New York Central Railroad unrolled a red carpet to welcome passengers aboard its famous 20th Century Limited train, the term "red-carpet treatment" was born.

For much of history, though, purple was considered the most regal color. From a Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute paper :

Probably the most...expensive dye of ancient times was Tyrian purple... obtained from a small sac in the body of a snail-like marine mollusk... Only royalty and the very wealthy...could afford to wear apparel colored with this dye... According to a master's thesis, until the middle ages, the word "purple" was also used to describe various shades of red. This may account for purple's majestic aura crossing over to its crimson cousin. Today, red rules, though royal proponents of purple still exist.

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