Roman mile nine-tenths the length of our mile

Cecil said that the Roman Mile was about 9/10 the size of our mile, because the Romans’ feet were smaller. I don’t get it. I think the length of stride is related to leg length, not foot size. Of course, the Roman leg length was probably shorter than ours, too, so the end result is the same.

He says that a Roman Mile consisted of 5000 Roman Feet, whereas an Imperial Mile consists of 5280 Imperial Feet. So far, no actual human appendage involved.
He then says that because the Roman Foot was shorter than todays Imperial Foot, the Roman Mile was about 9/10 of an Imperial Mile. Still no human appendages involved. If the Roman Foot had been equal to an Imperial Foot, the difference between the miles would have been smaller. The Roman Mile would have been about 95/100 of an Imperial Mile.

Got it. 5000 / 5280 = ~0.95 ==> Smaller Roman Foot ==> ~9/10


As I think the original poster intended to suggest, I have always heard the Roman Mile described as 1,000 (double) paces, not as any number of foot-lengths. (The word, of course, comes from the Latin word for “thousand”.)

Surveyors, by the way, use an entirely different subsystem of English measures.

1 link = 7.92 inches (exactly).
25 links = 1 rod = 16.5 feet (exactly)
100 links = 1 chain = 4 rods = 66 feet
1000 links = 1 furlong = 10 chains = 40 rods = 660 feet
8000 links = 1 mile = 8 furlongs = 80 chains = 320 rods = 5280 feet

The system is further confused, however, because surveyors continue to use the pre-1959 definition of the inch: exactly 1/39.37 meter, which is 0.0002% bigger than the 1959 definition: exactly 2.54 centimeters.

In other words, a mile is actually about 5280.01 feet.

A good thing we don’t use that confusing metric system, huh?


“Cumbersome though the present English system of measures is, it’s a miracle of simplicity compared to what it was a thousand years ago. One distance then was defined as 3 miles, 3 furlongs, 9 acres’ breadths, 3 perches, 9 feet, 9 shaftments, 9 handsbreadths, and 9 barleycorns, which sounds more like the inventory of a chicken farm than a measurement. Give me a kilometer any day.”
I agree I will take the kilometer, but was (is) there really a measurement in use that was so defined? I sounds suspiciously like some writing from Lewis Carroll.

They are all real linear measurements, and most of them are still in limited use.

Mile: 5280 feet
Furlong: 660 feet
Acres’ breadth: 66 feet, or 1 chain
Perch: 16.5 feet, or 1 rod
Foot: 12 inches
Shaftment: about 6 inches (obsolete & the only one I had to look up)
Handsbreadth: somewhere between 2.5 and 4 inches (obsolete)
Barleycorn: 1/3 inch (still used in US shoe sizes)

I think the barleycorn et al figure was a measurement, not a unit. That is to say, some surveyor measured the distance between the corner of Jones’ barn and the center of Johnson’s well, and found that that distance was equal to three miles etc.

So far as I know, this is actually the only place where 10 shows up as a conversion factor in the customary system. Well, that, and ten acres in a square furlong, which amounts to the same thing. Honestly, it’s easier to find unit ratios for 7 and 9.

As for the feet in a Roman mile, the mile was defined in terms of strides, but with how organized the Roman army was, it would surprise me not at all if the official standard stride of a Roman soldier was enforced to be exactly 5 Roman feet.

Anyone heard of an Arpent? You can read about them on Arpent are old measurements and they can be used to measure distance and area. Arpent were used to measure land in Louisiana and other U.S. States with plenty of river front land. One arpent in Louisiana measures so many feet, while an Arpent in Arkansas measures differently.

WAG without any research than what Ficer provided:

Given its name and where it was used in North America, I assume that the arpent was a French measurement (pre-Revolutionary/Napoleonic reforms), and had less to do with riverfront areas pre se.

In Louisiana, the arpent indeed was involved with riverfront areas, because of the nature of plantation land on the lower Mississippi. It became essentially a linear measurement – so many arpents of riverfront, extending back away from the river as far as the owner cared to clear it.

“Arpent” was indeed a French measurement for land - it’s usually translated by “acre”, not because it was exactly the same, but because that conveys the idea.

One famous use of the word “arpent” is in Voltaire’s Candide:

See also the Wiki article: A few acres of snow