Distance Measurements of Ancient Rome

Roman Ruler

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What is a Roman mile?It is 1000 paces- milia passuum.

  • A pace - passus- is two natural steps. Thus, it you take 10 steps, you have 5 paces. Everyone has a different stride however.  My husband is tall. For every pace he takes, I need one and a half.
  • CXXV passus create a stadium, for which there is no English equivalent.
  • A passus or pace is the equivalent of V Roman feet -pedes.
  • A Roman foot - pes- equals 11.6 inches foot and is divided into XII unciae which are just shy of one inch.
  • A thousand paces - milia passuum - equals one Roman mile which is called milia passuum.

          How do we know? Romans were very precise and enjoyed reporting details. One example of such precision can be found in the work of Pliny the Elder.  In Natural History, Book II, Line 85 , he tells us about pedes, passus et stadia.  I include also the next 9 lines for those who enjoy a challenge.  Use 'amounts to' as a translation of 'efficit'.


Stadium CXXV nostros efficit passus, hoc est pedes DCXXV. Posidonius

non minus XL stadiorum a terra altitudinem esse, in quam nubila ac venti

nubesque perveniant, inde purum liquidumque et inperturbatae lucis aera,

sed a turbido ad lunam viciens C milia stadiorum, inde ad solem

quinquiens miliens, et spatio fieri, ut tam inmensa eius magnitudo non

exurat terras. plures autem DCCCC in altitudinem nubes subire

prodiderunt. inconperta haec et inextricabilia, sed prodenda, quia sunt

prodita, in quis tamen una ratio geometricae collectionis numquam fallacis

possit non repudiari, si cui libeat altius ita persequi, nec ut mensura -- id

enim velle paene dementis otii est --, sed ut tantum aestimatio coniectanti

donet animo.


Posidonius (said) that . . .

The Next page shows an actual comparison of the roman pes and unciae standard as compared to the english and metric standards that we know today.  Also the ruler at the top of the page is a link.

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