Centre for Textile Research


Date of this Version


Document Type

Book Chapter


Published in Maria Mossakowska-Gaubert, ed., Egyptian Textiles and Their Production: ‘Word’ and ‘Object’ (Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Periods) (Lincoln, NE: Zea Books, 2020).

doi 10.32873/unl.dc.zea.1085


Copyright © 2020 Peder Flemestad


The Oxford English Dictionary defines dyeing as: “to impregnate (any tissue or the like) with a colour, to fix a colour in the substance of, or to change the hue of by a colouring matter”. In ancient Greek this operation is in general expressed by the verb βάπτειν, but the process of dyeing could be designated by a multitude of other terms. The following contribution provides an overview of the extensive ancient Greek terminology for the action of dyeing. The focus therefore lies primarily on the verbs designating the dyeing process itself, while wider dye terminology is only occasionally touched upon. Furthermore, the discussion does not include terms for preliminary or auxiliary processes such as e.g. the preparation of dyestuffs or mordanting. The investigation is based on studies of ancient and modern lexica, and the terms are found throughout ancient Greek literature, both in Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Imperial Greek texts, in a wide range of genres, including the lexicographers of the Second Sophistic, as well as their successors in Byzantine lexicography. The lexicographical works of the Byzantine era must be included since they preserve valuable information on more ancient vocabulary, much of which is only attested through them. The present study makes no claim to be exhaustive, but may hopefully serve as a basis for more comprehensive future studies.