Friday, December 5, 2014

King Nisus of Megara

The following passage about red hair comes from the Description of Greece, a work by the Greek geographer Pausanias.
Behind the Lyceum is a monument of Nisus, who was killed while king of Megara by Minos, and the Athenians carried him here and buried him. About this Nisus there is a legend. His hair, they say, was red, and it was fated that he should die on its being cut off. When the Cretans attacked the country, they captured the other cities of the Megarid by assault, but Nisaea, in which Nisus had taken refuge, they beleaguered. The story says how the daughter of Nisus, falling in love here with Minos, cut off her father's hair.
This is a pretty cool story about red hair. Especially as it links red hair with power - both kingly power and supernatural power.

Interestingly when I checked the Wikipedia page for Nisus (or Nisos) it gives the same story, however in this case the colour of the hair in question is purple. Again I guess it's a case of translation. I'll have to start looking into purple a bit more deeply I think. Violet hair popped up in my last post, and purple also pops up in relation to both the Phoenicians and royalty in general. Two themes we've linked with red hair before.

Purple was the colour of royalty and the Phoenicians supposedly traded a purple dye named Tyrian purple which came from sea snails - originally known by the name murex. Hence the 'divers for murex' of Aristotle's description.

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