Porphyry has been known and used since ancient times. Important relics and monuments in porphyry have been discovered at Assyrian-Babylonian, Egyptian and Roman sites. In Roman times the red porphyry, so called for its purple-red colour (in Latin “porphyra”) was a symbol of great prestige and majesty.
The name porphyry was initially used to indicate a rock extracted in Egypt, known in ancient times as Imperial Red Porphyry or Ancient Red Porphyry. It was extracted in the Egyptian desert in the mountain Jebel Dhokan (up to 500 A.D.) and it was used to build columns, vases, sarcophagus, busts, etc.
The Romans exploited intensely the quarries, using thousands of workers: the large number of works extended all over the Empire. This stone has always had a great symbolic value: the emperors, personifying divinity, lived surrounded by porphyry, they were born in rooms cladded with porphyry (which existed only in the palaces of power) and many Roman emperors were even buried in sarcophagi of porphyry.
Another famous porphyry of ancient times is the Green Porphyry, found in Greece, in Laconia area, close to the city of Sparta; it was also called Serpentine Porphyry. It was easily recognisable by the presence of crystals of light green feldspar in an olive green matrix.