Matt Lauer's Red Carpet History Lesson
As Lauer noted, the earliest known reference to walking on a red (but sometimes purple) carpet comes from Aeschylus's play Agamemnon, from 458 BC, in which Clytemnestra greets her husband, who is returning from the Trojan War:
Clytemnestra: Now my beloved, step down from your chariot, and let not your foot, my lord, touch the Earth. Servants, let there be spread before the house he never expected to see, where Justice leads him in, a crimson path.
Agamemnon: I am a mortal, a man; I cannot trample upon these tinted splendors without fear thrown in my path.
Agamemnon does cross the crimson/red (but also sometimes purple) tapestry/carpet, which is a no-no (it's the color of the gods). If you haven't read Aeschylus's Oresteia trilogy, I won't ruin it for you, but needless to say, things don't end well for Agamemnon.
Hopefully, things end better for Hugh Jackman and company tonight!