The Ancient Greek Colour Conundrum

The Ancient Greek Colour Conundrum

One of the strange mysteries in the history of language is this: what’s the deal with Ancient Greece and colour? Homer’s works are full of unusual quirks, like:

Calling the sky bronze,

Describing the ocean as ‘wine-dark’,

Saying someone has blue hair.

People offer all sort of explanations. Those labels make sense because sunset makes the sky bronze and the ocean dark. People back then had inferior colour vision because ‘evolution’. Homer was born blind or was blinded by an infection.

And so on.

None of these explain everything. Keep in mind this was not unique to Homer. Other folk at the time described sweat, blood and honey as all being green, or something.

And the evolution theory is nonsense. Colour vision is excellent for spotting ripe fruit and breaking jungle camouflage – something our hunter-gatherer ancestors needed more than we do. If anything, we should have lost colour vision, not gained it (and not that quickly).

So maybe the Greeks were poetic, or Homer was literally describing a dark sea with a golden sky. That doesn’t explain the other weird stuff like green blood and blue hair.

You want to know my take on it?

It’s not a question of colour vision. It’s a question of language.

We modern folk take colour for granted. Our computers, TVs and phones can display millions of colours.

But think about the natural world. They sky is blue, the ocean is blue… and that’s mostly it, apart from a few eyes and the occasional tropical bird (which are probably not common in ancient Greece?) Even supposedly blue things like blueberries are purple. And while there are blue flowers, they aren’t common (and how many of them were selectively bred to be this way?)

Many ancient people could paint using reds, yellows and blacks. If they wanted to paint something blue, they had to make do with other colours.

Maybe some peoples were content to describe colours they couldn’t capture. Based on the history of colour labels, that doesn’t seem likely.

It makes you wonder what you’re not seeing because you don’t have the labels for it. Labels have a way of making things more real and pinning them in place. Once you accept a label, it’s harder to change it.

But there’s a way of thinking that goes beyond labels. It uses abstract symbolism, intuition and instinct to get from A to B, any way other than a straight line.

Are you sick of being stuck with such linear thinking?

Are you ready to think so far outside the box, you don’t even have a word for it?

If so, my professional prescription is for self-hypnosis. It lets you access all the amazing potential of your unconscious, letting you grow and stretch in ways your conscious, label-addicted mind literally can’t imagine.

And you can learn it starting today.

Here’s how:

Photo by
Tim Zänkert on Unsplash

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