What is Porphyrogene?

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In the poem THe Haunted Palace, by E.A. Poe, the word Porphyrogene is used. I need to know what it is or means. Can you please give me a dictionary or encyclopedia entry with its definition?

-- Anonymous, January 17, 2000


porphyr, in greek, is purple. Gene, is gene, like in genome. it means off spring of purple. an epithet for a great king. christ is an example, wearing the purple cloak.

-- Anonymous, January 26, 2000

The word “Porphyrogene” is really the key to understanding the entire story. Why would Poe set it off so awkwardly in parentheses, unless he wanted it to stick out in the poem prefaced with such importance?

The whole question is in how the word is broken down. It’s structure would denote a noun, and there are two component parts - “porphyro” + “gene”. Porphyro, as my predecessor in posting to this site so astutely points out, comes from the Greek porphyros, meaning “purple”. The question is what relevance the color purple has to the story.

To answer that, one must look to the current derivatives in English of the word “porphyros”. There are two - “porphyry” and “porphyrin”.

Porphyry, according to Webster’s New Universal Unabridged, means “a very hard rock, anciently quarried in Egypt, having a dark, purplish- red groundmass containing small crystals of feldspar; any igneous; any igneous rock containing coarse crystals...” Could this perhaps be some sort of parallel to the stones of the house, which the narrator notes to be individually crumbling, despite the overall appearance of order? Such a conclusion would be somewhat far- fetched, and difficult to connect to the concept of “gene”.

Porphyrin, on the other hand , from the same source, is defined as “a dark red, photosensitive pigment consisting of four pyrrole rings linked by single carbon atoms: a component of chlorophyll, heme, and vitamin B12.” It is interesting to note that excessive accumulations of porphyrin within the human body can produce a condition known as “porphyria”, the symptoms of which are quite similar to those exhibited by Roderick and Madeline. The condition can be either congenital or acquired. Given the allusions to the family bloodline, the most likely assumption would be that they were suffering from a congenital condition and that the word “Porphyrogene” refers to the head of the family who carried the gene related to porphyria.

-- Anonymous, March 04, 2001

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