Could the ancients not perceive the color “blue”?

Cranach | 10/12/2017 | Staff
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Homer famously speaks of “the wine-dark sea.” That’s a beautiful description. Except that wine isn’t blue, and the sea isn’t red or purple. (Homer describes sheep as also being the color of wine; honey is green; and the sky is bronze.) In fact, there isn’t even a word in ancient Greek for blue!

Nor is the color “blue” mentioned in the New Testament, though many other colors are. There are two words in the Old Testament that are translated “blue,” but scholars question which color they are actually referring to.

Omission - Languages - Antiquity - Word - Blue

This odd omission can also be found in other languages of antiquity. Ancient Japanese used the same word for both green and blue.

What is going on? Here is an excerpt and link to the article raising this observation..

Erin - Hoffmann - Wine-Dark - Sea - Color

From Erin Hoffmann, The Wine-Dark Sea: Color and Perception in the Ancient World:

Homer’s descriptions of color in The Iliad and The Odyssey, taken literally, paint an almost psychedelic landscape: in addition to the sea, sheep were also the color of wine; honey was green, as were the fear-filled faces of men; and the sky is often described as bronze.

Homer - Palette - Colors - Metallics - Philosopher

It gets stranger. Not only was Homer’s palette limited to only five colors (metallics, black, white, yellow-green, and red), but a prominent philosopher even centuries later, Empedocles, believed that all color was limited to four categories: white/light, dark/black, red, and yellow. Xenophanes, another philosopher, described the rainbow as having but three bands of color: porphyra (dark purple), khloros, and erythros (red).

The conspicuous absence of blue is not limited to the Greeks. The color “blue” appears not once in...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Cranach
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