A purple patch has come to mean a period of extraordinary success or good fortune, often short-lived, and dates in this sense from the early 20th century. Before this, however, for many hundreds of years, the phrase was used derogatively to refer to pieces of writing that displayed exaggerated, over-florid style. The origin is thought to go back as far as the Roman poet, Horace (65-8 BC), who wrote in his De Arte Poetica, “Often to weighty enterprises and such as profess great objects, one or two purple patches are sewn on to make a fine display in the distance.” Horace was using the metaphor of purple patches sewn on to garments for exaggerated or over-florid writing. In this sense, a ‘purple patch’ referring to a ‘purple passage’ or ‘purple prose’ is derogatory and frequently encountered in literary contexts. Why purple? In Roman times, purple was the colour of high office and later purple robes were worn exclusively by Roman Emperors. Horace used it figuratively to denote ostentation. Today, however, when people or events hit a ‘purple patch’ there are no such adverse connotations.