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Only the Roman Elite Could Wear Tyrian Purple to Keep the Peasants in Their Place

Sunday, November 6, 2016 15:02
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Only the Roman Elite Could Wear Tyrian Purple to Keep the Peasants in Their Place

Throughout history, the rich and powerful have attempted to control access to items considered luxurious or status symbols. Today, this is done through marketing and price setting (a prominent example is the strict control of the number of diamonds allowed to enter the global market). In previous eras, however, consumption could be directly regulated through the passage of sumptuary laws. These laws forbade ordinary citizens from obtaining food, clothing, or goods made of a particular material in order to reinforce social hierarchies. Sumptuary laws were also passed by religious institutions in order to prevent temptation and ensure moral behavior. Laws that regulate consumption have been passed throughout human civilization and continue to exist in the modern world (even in the United States).

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