Talk:Ancient Roman units of measurement

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Please see ancient weights and measures for previous edit history and discussions wrt this article.

Newer discussions:

Archive 1   -- Paul Martin 18:39, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Archive 2   -- Paul Martin 12:02, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
Archive 3   -- Paul Martin 13:14, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

League = 1.5 miles or 3 miles?[edit]

Just a question out of curiosity. The article states that 1 mile is equivalent in Ancient Rome to 5000 ft, while 1 league is 7500 ft. Hence: 1 league is 1.5 mile. However the article League states that 1 league is 3 miles in Ancient Rome (quote: "The league was used by Ancient Rome, which defined it as being 3 miles."). Which is true? Brynnar 14:42, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

The league was originally used by the Gauls, and later picked up by the Romans during their conquests. Their interpretation of it was that a league was about 1,500 paces, or 7,500 feet. I'm not entirely sure how it came to mean three miles, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't used that way in Rome. --Xanzzibar 23:23, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Problem fixed at both pages.  League and League (unit)Paul Martin 13:18, 17 August 2006 (UTC)
A Roman mille passus or thousand paces derives from the Greek mia chillios or one thousand. The thousand is a measure of a field (aroura) laid out boustrehedron or as the ox plows in ten rows of one hundred orquia. Greek measures have short median and long forms so mia chillio of 8 stadia, (4800 ft), one aroura (5000 ft) and one nauticle mile (6000 ft); are referenced in the literature. Roman degrees of 25 leauges, 75 milliare or 110 km, are the same length as Greek degrees of 600 stadia. (talk) 14:21, 15 February 2008 (UTC)
The "3 mille" statement is also at the page for Furlong, referencing it as "the distance a man could walk in an hour" (on a good roman road, one presumes - the going may be 1.5mph over rough ground instead?). Something in the depths of my memory tells me the 7 league boots in the old story covered 21 miles at a time... but then again that might be per pace, with each boot taking 7 at a time? I think this is a good case of Citation Needed :) (talk) 10:01, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

Mass units[edit]

Talent (weight) notes that the Roman talent was a cubic (Roman) foot of water, or about 25.99 kg. It goes on to state that there were 100 libra in a talent, making the Roman pound about 260 grams, much smaller than the figure in this article. Somethng needs fixing. Rhialto 01:53, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

Thanks Rhialto for your advice,
If the Greek talent (= 60 greek mines) was indeed of about 26 kg, this also indicates that Greeks, here, used the old, later-called Roman-digit for their talent-definition, since the third root of 26 gives 2.9625 dm. The Roman foot. The Roman libra was attestedly 3/4 Greek mina.
If the statement that Romans called 100 Roman libra a talent is true (sources?), this would mean, that this hypothetical Roman talent is 1/60 * 3/4 * 100 = 1.25 "water-foot" Greek talent.
I'll see what I can find out, Gluck 123 18:36, 11 June 2007 (UTC).
Mina in their ancient Mesopotamian form have both sacred and profane values so their volume varies. A [Talent] is the cube of a linear measure (talk) 14:29, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

Roman foot and Nippur cubit[edit]

The Roman foot is defined to be 1628 of the Nippur cubit.

"Is that their official definition, or simply a coincidental equivalent value?"

Neither, nor.
Western Roman Empire is dissolved for 476, Eastern for 1453. So, there is no one to give modern "official definition" for Roman measures.
It's nor a "simply a coincidental equivalent value", but the current, widely accepted standard theorie in the science of the historical metrologie.
According to newer – especially German – researches since WW2, we know nowadays that the Roman digit (=1/16 RF) results from
an old Egyptian division per 28 of the sumerian Nippur Cubit. They needed 28 parts, because 20 · √2 = 28.284...
Certainly, Egyptian geometers knew that with their construction-remen, the digit of their 20-digit-catheti was not strictly the same digit, than the digit in their 28-digit-hypotenuse, but the small error of 1% was satisfying in practice. [1].
However, the digits of the hypothenuse belong to the so-called "Old Egyptian Cubit" of about 523.9 mm. Whereas the digits of the catheti are the later-called Roman digits.
Ancient precisions are generally better than 0.17%.
Thus, the Roman foot is de facto and really defined 16/28 Nippur Cubit. I don't know any serious, contemporary scientist for contesting it. Everyone, like for example, Prof. Dr. Eberhard Knobloch for admitting it.-- Gluck 123 18:36, 11 June 2007 (UTC)
My point was that, unless the Romans themselves knowingly defined their foot in relation to the Nippur cubit (in which case there would be a historical document from Roman days to say so), it incorrect to call that the definition. I can accept that modern analysis of the two units can show there was a coincidental equivalance, but only a historical document from ancient times can be used to demonstrate a definition.
The sidetrack on the Egyptian geometers is fascinating, but we are talking about Romans, not Egyptians here. I don't see how talking about what the Egyptians did has any bearing on what the Romans did. Without a historical document to say the Romans defined their foot that way, you can't properly call it a definition, except post hoc, which isn't really the same thing at all. Rhialto 21:58, 11 June 2007 (UTC)
Old Romans and old Greeks knew relationships (ratios) between their measures. These ratios were, by the by, the only way of evaluation of their respective measures, since they ignored decimal fractions like 1.25; so, this was always expressed by, here, 5 to 4. The knowledge of these ratios was even necessary for international trading, already very developped in ancient times (even more than in Middle-Ages).
On the other hand:  If in ancient times a changement of a system of measures was operated, we can surely distinguish two different cases. 1. A great, already prosper, ascending state wished to ameliorate their measures and weights, so by studying the performed, established systems in their neighbourship, by adapting it, by creating other subdivisions w.r.t. their own tradition, but by keeping, by taking-over faithfully at least one main measure. 2. Or, a new system was imposed by a conqueror. The conquered state or the new vassal state was obliged to take-over the measure-system of the suzerain. Sometimes, by creating their own variants in subdivisions, at least centuries later, when they reinforced their own sovereign power.
However in no case, never, a measure was "invented". The legend "from the tip of his nose to the tip of his outstretched fingers" is a legend. Later invented for other reasons. Weights and measures, since ancient times, are a too serious topic. Those improbable and ridiculous proceedings, in reality, never existed. Weight and measure systems were always worked out by the souvereign's scientists, the metrologists. Since they were scientists, they took references by operative and existing systems. (Cf. e.g. Troy weights, the system of Troyes, France.)
"I don't see how talking about what the Egyptians did has any bearing on what the Romans did."
You must understand that what, now, we call "Roman digit" was a well-known measure in all the Near-East, Mediterranean region for millennia. Widely used thousands of years before the foundation of Rome.
So, we can't talk about this measure of length, without mentioning, that, attestedly, even Old Egyptians used this same and identical digit of about 18.525 mm, since the beginning of third millennnia BC with their 20-so-called-Roman-digit-construction-remen of about 37.05 cm. We must talk about.
"[... that] the Romans defined their foot that way"
No, of course they didn't!  The Romans defined nothing. The Egyptian geometers did it !  This was thousands of years before the first Roman citizen was ever born! Romans only choised one of the plenty digits already in use for long times, by declaring this digit as their "national" digit. The digit of the Roman Empire.
Romans knew for example, that their foot was exactly 1/25 smaller than the greek foot used in the stadion of Athens. So, to have just the same length of race-track as in the greek capital, they decided to construct, at Rome, a stadion of 625 Roman feet equals 600 Athens feet.
Many other ratios are related by ancient authors. But the term "Nippur Cubit", Romans and Greeks ignored it. You have to realise that the Nippur measure was the domiant measure in Mesopotania and in Egypt 3000 years before Caesar's time. Archivation of memory was not too easy during these times. At the beginning of 3rd Millennary BC writing (archaic cuneiforme and hieroglyphes) existed but rather limited to epigraphs or writings relating some political or economic facts. There are no written scientific workings in no science dating from 30th c. BC. So, Romans, naturally, had forgotten this old relationship. But we, nowadays, thanks to long scientific researches, we rediscovered it. We know it, now.
May I call your attention to the fact, that also, for example, Dieter Lelgemann pdf, former Director of Berlin's Institute for Geodesy uses well the term: definition.
If Rolf Rottländer for 40-50 years recollected especially ancient, archaeological, graduated rule sticks for his statistical researches, Dieter Lelgemann, several years ago, measured with his students, six race-tracks of preserved ancient Greek stadions.
According to Lelgemann, in this context, especially eight old measures are important.
With old highly composite number-orientated measures 7-smooth-numbers are very important. See: de:Historische Metrologie. Because old systems used selected numbers (never all in the same system) e.g. in the suite 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 27, 28, 30, 32 digits = 2 feet, I prefered the defined, modern 7-smooth-value for the length of the Nippur Cubit, an over-all-rounding.
Name of the measure
Idealistic value
× 10-7 metre      
Nippur Cubit
 by 7-smooth:
=  518.6160 mm
 =  24 × 33 × 51 × 74
(20 / 28)  NC
=  370.4400 mm
 =  24 × 33 × 52 × 73
Old Royal Cubit
Root 2  ×  R
~  523.8813 mm
 =  25 × 33 × 52 × 73  × √2  
Old Trade Cubit
(24 / 28)  ORC
~  449.0411 mm
 =  26 × 34 × 52 × 72  × √2
Remen Trade Cubit
(20 / 28)  OTC
~  320.7436 mm
 =  26 × 34 × 53 × 71  × √2
Royal Cubit
(50 / 49)  NC
=  529.2000 mm
 =  25 × 34 × 53 × 72
Babylonian Cubit
(30 / 32)  RC
=  496.1250 mm
 =  21 × 34 × 54 × 72
Babylonian Trade Cubit
(27 / 32)  RC
=  446.5125 mm
 =  20 × 36 × 53 × 72
All the idealistic values  – excepting of course ORC, OTC and RTC –  are plain values, not-rounded,
because the Nippur Cubit is a defined 7-smooth value, inside the scientific coefficient of variation.
Stadion Measured   Length of the stadion
of the foot
Ideal length
of the foot
Ideal length
of the stadion
Olympia 192.27 m = 600 Remen trade cubits
(20/28) OTC
~ 320.7436 mm
~ 192.4462 m
– 0.092 %
Epidauros 181.30 m = 600 Epidauros feet
(16/28) RC
= 302.4000 mm
= 181.4400 m
– 0.077 %
Priene 191.39 m = 600 Priene feet
(20/28) BTC
= 318.9375 mm
= 191.3625 m
+ 0.014 %
Milet 177.36 m = 600 Milet feet
(5/6)(20/28) BC
= 295.3125 mm
= 177.1875 m
– 0.097 %
Delphi 177.55 m = 600 Roman feet
(16/28) NC
= 296.3520 mm
= 177.8112 m
– 0.147 %
Athens 184.96 m = 600 Kyrenaika feet
(20/24) R
= 308.7000 mm
= 185.2200 m
– 0.140 %
One knows that in ancient times a lack of precision of ± 0.17 % must be considered as normal, without any problem. (Nowadays often (tolerances in industrial production, building construction, etc.) not better than this. Of course, now, much better in very high-level accuracy and with top-level scientific measures.)  So, all the values are good.
This can not be, like you said, a "coincidental equivalance", but arises from the well-known deduction of these measures, ones from the others. Example: You took on a 18-digit-pygme, but you decide to use – exactly this measure – as a 16-digit-standard-foot. So, your new digit is exactly 18/16 old digits. It grew-up by exactly 12.5 %.-- Gluck 123 11:33, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
Since these ancient metrologists apparently knew the precise relationships, no doubt there should be a cite from at least one of them to state the mathematical relationship between them, yes? You provide over 2 screens full of data, but without a single cite to show that the Romans (as opposed to more modern metrologists) were aware of the relationship, it just isn't relevant. Rhialto 14:13, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
I saw during my necessary corrections, you replied. I'll answer you soon. Gluck 123 15:16, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
PS. Just a thing, later more, it isn't that a fact is ignored by s.o. at a specific time (here, the ignorance of Romans), this doesn't prouve that a fact is not true. No? There are many ancient authors like Eratosthenes, Heron and Ptolemy describing well-known ratios. But all these ancients ignored the Nippur cubit. The first specimen was found by archeological excavations in 1916, but, meantime, we have understood its high importance.  *  It isn't because Columbus thought to be in India, that the Americas are identical to India. The knowledge progresses. Sometimes even, old, entombed cognitions must be regained. (Cf. Copernicus). In short:  It is not because s.o. at a specific time isn't aware of (here, the ignorance of the Romans) that it isn't true. If, now, we know that the definition of the "Roman foot" is via the Egytian Remen, 16/28 of the Nippur measure, it doesn't matter that the Romans ignored it. It is so, anyway!
((This was my prepared continuation before your reply below. I'll write you later on w.r.t. your new arguments. Thanks.))
Just to answer that specific point... you're right that absence of evidence isn't proof that something is not true. But equally, it isn't proof that something is true. And the official standard of wikipedia is to only say something is proved to be true if you can actually provide a cite which says so. I'm more than happy to acknowledge that modern metrologists have noted the relationship between the various ancient units. But this is froma time period in which written records are reasonably common.
If the Romans were directly aware of the relationship between their units of measurement and the Nippur/Egyptian/etc units of measurement, why are there no cites from notable Romans to demonstrate this? For example, we can say the metre was defined as xyz because someone somewhere made a formal statement about its relationship with xyz. For us to say that the Romans defined their foot as 16/28 of a Nippur cubit, somewhere there needs to be a Roman metrologist making a formal statement about its relationship with the Nippur cubit. Since I haven't seen any cite to say that the Romans defined it, I strongly feel the most we can say is that modern metrologists have found the Roman found to be 16/28 of a Nippur cubit.
Also in your long text, you noted that the Romans had in fact lost information about the Nippur cubit, as written records from taht long ago no longer existed. If the Romans really had no direct knowledge of the Nippur cubit, I put forward the hypothesis that the claim that they defined their foot as 16/28 of a Nippur cubit MUST be obviously untrue. You can't define something relative to something you don't know about. Although in this case, I would accept that there must be some intermediary unit whioch there were aware of, and that the Romans presumably defined their foot relative to that intermediary unit.
Rhialto 15:53, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
Here, my reply to your new thoughts:
  1. Not an "absence of evidence", but an absence of knowledge, of cognition.  But you are right  – the other way round –  also, this must be proofed. At least as "to be the current, widely accepted standard theory."  That's the case.  (By Lelgemann, Knobloch, Huber, BI-SMH  a.m.o.m.)
  2. You are right:  "Modern metrologists have found the Roman found to be 16/28 of a Nippur cubit." After long trials and tribulations especially at the end of 19th c. beginning of the 20th century with alltoo complicated, very doubtful theories (cf. Pseudoscientific metrology), now for several decades it is standard theorie in the historical metrology, that the Near-East, Fertile Crescent, Mediterranean weights and measures are all related by easy 7-smooth  – also called humble numbers –  deductions. Since 2003, the hexadecimal BI-SMH  – as the antagonist to the decimal BIPM –  even proposes a conventional, 7-smooth over-all-rounding of the values themselves. But if these modern metrologists are right, not only themself, we nowadays know that the later called Roman foot is defined 16/28 NC, but also these old Egyptian geometers operating this definition about 5000 Jears ago were aware using a mesopotamian measure to define a new measure, a new digit by 16/28 NC. This is it, what really counts. We contemporary human beings know it. Old Egyptian geometers knew it. Between long time of ignorancy. Nevertheless it is so.
  3. One more:  Not the Romans, but the old Egyptian geometers defined the  – later called –  Roman foot 16/28 NC.
  4. "that the Romans presumably defined their foot relative to that intermediary unit"  You are partially, widely right. Romans passed by an "intermediary unit". But they never defined anything, they simply took over a well-known  – since millennia –  already and widely used unit.
  5. Ancient scientists referred  – of course –  to the various Greek measures, than also to the Egyptian measures. But old metrologists ignored the lost missing link, the Nippur cubit.
A personal question: Where you are Rhialto?  Me, roughly at 48° 52′ N, 02° 21′E.-- Gluck 123 18:09, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
((First, here above, my older prepared reply. Later on, w.r.t. your new arguments below, with these funny postpostements ;-))  However have a good day to you, Rhialto.
"If, now, we know that the definition of the "Roman foot" is via the Egytian Remen, 16/28 of the Nippur measure, it doesn't matter that the Romans ignored it. It is so, anyway!"
That is a spurious argument. By that logica, we can say, with teh benefit of some future historian, that the metre, far from being defined as a cfertain fraction of the teh distance light travels in a second, is in fact some fraction of the diameter of Pluto. It woudl of course be technically correct to define it that way, just as it is technically correct to say the metre is defined as slighlt less than half my height. But that would not be the definition that modern scientists use.
Beg pardon. The meter was defined as being a fraction of the size of the earth. Later it was changed to a number of wavelengths of a certain colour of light. Estimates can vary about the size of the earth, but wavelenths of light are assumed to be constant. The distance light travels in a second is a secondary measure, and comes out at an awkward amount, usually rounded off to 300 m/sec.Mariya Oktyabrskaya 04:18, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Similarly, although with hindsight, we can say the Roman foot was some fraction of teh Nippur cubit, that would not be teh definition that they used. Rhialto 16:50, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
This argumentation is invalidated by the fact (and only, if that theorie is true):  The old Egyptian geometers consciously took the Nippur measure to create their construction-remen digit. Later called Roman digit. They knew what they did. If this is true, we modern human beings, we rediscover. So, if this is the case, your argumentation above is invalid.-- Gluck 123 18:23, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
If it is true that they consciously took that Nippur cubit, we should be able to come up with a Roman scholar on record as saying as much. It's not as if written records from Roman times are lost to modern day scholars. I see your point that the Romans were using a unit that was defined by the Egyptians. But that simply pushes the date and culture of the people doing the defining. If we can't find a historical document saying it was defined as such, the best we can do is reconstruct the definition from the evidence available, and make a best guess as to the definition.
I am going to amend the article to note that modern scholars have found (re-discovered?) that 16/28 relationship. Rhialto 19:34, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
According to Rottländer this digit is attested at least since the third dynasty of Egypt, i.e. roughly 2650 BC. From this time, by the preserved hieroglyphic textes we only know the names of the pharaons, some few political facts. In no case there exist e.g. philosophical, theoretical textes, nor any scientific dissertation. However in practice, we know that the Old Egyptians were good and competent geometers.
More than 2000 years later, scholars like Eratosthenes were content to discribe relationships with the measures in use during their life-time, including those used in the hellenistic Egypt.
In conclusion:  I can live with your current amendement and I thank you for our interesting discussion.-- Gluck 123 07:18, 14 June 2007 (UTC)
Am I the only person bothered by "16/28"? What is wrong with 4/7? -- (talk) 14:16, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
I mean, I understand the 7-smooth numbers, but it doesn't mean that 16/28 doesn't equal 4/7. -- (talk) 14:20, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

Important Error.[edit]

There is an important error in this article, in the table of ancient Roman dodecimal fraction-names. Semis means not 2/12 but 6/12. Sextans means not 6/12 but 2/12. I'm sure about this, but I suppose I should find a reference-- here we go: Gullberg, Jan: Mathematics from the Birth of Numbers, Norton, 1997, p. 16. Mjhrynick (talk) 18:13, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Mjhrynick is correct. 1/2 is called semis which is short for "semi as" where the "as" is the Roman unit for weight and a monetary unit. The sextans the name of 1/6. A stronger reference supporting this is that of Friedlein1 at SICD Universities of Strasbourg - Digital old books. Note that this site did provide an enlarged view of each page but lately this fails. A large copy can be seen here Tafel.

1 Friedlein, Gottfried - Die Zahlzeichen und das elementare Rechnung der Griechen und Römer


What is this "Roman unit" (sicilicus) doing in the article? (talk) 18:42, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

Why wouldn't it be in this article? It was used by Pliny. See here. Note that this is not the same as a shekel, which is called a siclus in Latin. Rwflammang (talk) 09:37, 24 November 2008 (UTC)
Then shouldn't sicilicus article reflect this usage? Because as it sits it has nothing to do with measurement. Sicilicus is written about a theoretical usage of a diacritical mark... -- (talk) 14:09, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

Ancient Roman field divisions preserved?[edit]

I heard once in a class of mine that the ancient Roman agricultural field divisions are occasionally preserved in modern fields. Specifically, I have an aerial picture of fields near Pula that claims to show square divisions of 20 actus per side. I can't post the picture because I have no idea of it's copyright. Does anybody know anything about this?--SkiDragon (talk) 11:25, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

Actually, here is the picture. [2] --SkiDragon (talk) 11:30, 14 December 2008 (UTC)


First off, they weren't measures of mass. They were measures of weight. Second, I followed at least one hatch link here that broke because the #weight section had been removed. Changed, pending some rationale on changing the terminology to something more erroneous and less user-friendly. — LlywelynII 22:00, 24 February 2011 (UTC)

Presumably they used balances for measurement rather than springs, so they were measuring mass and not weight. Not that they, or anybody else really, cared. Rwflammang (talk) 13:48, 29 June 2011 (UTC)
This question comes up so frequently that there should be a rule that no one be allowed to edit a weights-and-measures article until they understand that "weight" in legal and commercial usage has, since the 18th century, meant "mass" in the physics sense. Before that, going back to the Bronze Age, it meant that property measured by a balance scale in conjunction with a standard reference mass, thus de facto "mass."Zyxwv99 (talk) 14:59, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
OK, we know it is called "mass" in physics and a few other sciences (not including, for example, medicine and chemistry). But the Romans didn't have Newtonian physics, so to call it mass in this article seems an anachronism. This isn't an article title, but I suggest that it should anyway be moved to its common name, weight. I'll do that in a day or two, unless there is opposition to such a move? Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 15:15, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
Actually, calling it "weight" is an anachronism too, since the ancient Romans didn't speak English. But I agree, "weight" is the common name. I just wish we had an article entitled "Weight (mass)." Eventually, I hope to get around to writing it, if only so that articles such as this one could have a Wikilink to it. Many other articles are struggling with the same issue. Weight is the right word, but it really needs to be distinguished from "weight" in the physics sense. This is motivating me to hurry up and write the article Zyxwv99 (talk) 15:45, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
They definitely were not measuring weight in the physics sense. I won't object to a name change as long as that is made clear. Perhaps with parentheses? The Roman units of weight (i.e., "mass" in the sense of modern Physics) were... The weight (mass) article would help. Rwflammang (talk) 23:42, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
The weights were, I believe, called pondera, which roughly translates into English as "weights". I'm personally fully prepared to respect the redefinition of "mass" to mean what ordinary people call "weight", and "weight" to mean something else, but only in those contexts where that redefinition has occurred. I don't believe that this is one of them. Yes, some clarification, perhaps in parentheses as suggested, would be necessary. Unless there are any objections, I'll go ahead and make the change tomorrow. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 23:57, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
I like the way NIST handles this: When used in this law (or regulation), the term “weight” means “mass.” (See paragraphs V. and W. in Section I., Introduction, of NIST Handbook 130 for an explanation of these terms.) Zyxwv99 (talk) 00:50, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
Justlettersandnumbers, no redefinition of mass is needed, nor appropriate. English speaking physicists redefined the word weight for pedagogical reasons at some point in the 19th or twentieth centuries. This redefinition is anachronistic when applied to ancient times. When Romans spoke of pondera, they meant what modern day physics teachers call masses. Of course, everyone else calls them weights, including most translators of ancient Latin. In modern high-school physics English-based jargon, weight is used to mean a type of force, but everywhere else it is just a synonym for mass. Rwflammang (talk) 01:13, 13 December 2011 (UTC)

More info on time?[edit]

I know nothing of the subject matter, but the section on units of time seems incomplete without some mention of how the romans sub-divided the day. Either they had no common unit on the order of hours and minutes, or they did, and the answer to this question ought to be mentioned in the article. Flies 1 (talk) 14:52, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

Expanded the time section a bit. I based everything on my memory; I'll add references when I can look them up. In the mean time, most of the linked articles have references in them. Rwflammang (talk) 08:23, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
Great work! Seems like a big improvement to me. Flies 1 (talk) 20:20, 13 September 2011 (UTC)

Mass Section Proposal[edit]

I don't know the history of this article and was not sure whether "be bold" would lead to flames, so I decided to ask first: The mass section has a couple of things that I feel would benefit from attention.

  • First, the libra is defined using grams, but only one unit, Centum podium is then defined in librae, leaving the reader to do fairly complex math (x/12 to get uncia then do a multiple or fraction of that) in his or her head. Since it appears that everything in the section is defined in reference to the uncia, could we define that in modern grams instead of the libra?
  • Next, the parenthetical "oz" after the gram-equivalence of the libra doesn't really fit WP:WORLDVIEW guidelines, since an "ounce" is defined with various gram-equivalences even in its own article. It should be clarified by linking it to the International avoirdupois ounce using oz.
  • The uncia link takes you to a page that defines the coin, and that article uses a gram-equivalence range that differs from the one in this article. If the coin is a defining baseline for this unit, can we adjust the libra sentence to, "The modern mass of the libra is estimated to range from 273 to 327 grams..."? If not, we need to drop the link to the coin (or fix the coin article).
  • Overall, the mass section could certainly use a tabular layout similar to the Length section. If there is consensus that we could use ~324 for the libra and ~27 grams for the uncia, we could create a chart like this:
Unit of mass Unciae Imperial Metric
Centum podium 1,200 ~71.5 lb ~32.4 kg
Mina 20 ~1.2 lb ~540 g
Libra (podium) 12 ~11.4 oz ~324 g
Deunx 11 ~10.5 oz ~297 g
Dextans 10 ~9.5 oz ~270 g
Dodrans 9 ~8.6 oz ~243 g
Bes 8 ~7.6 oz ~216 g
Septunx 7 ~6.7 oz ~189 g
Semis 6 ~5.7 oz ~162 g
Quincunx 5 ~4.8 oz ~135 g
Triens 4 ~3.8 oz ~108 g
Quadrans 3 ~2.9 oz ~81 g
Sextans 2 ~1.9 oz ~54 g
Uncia (ounce) 1 ~0.95 oz ~27 g
Semuncia 12 ~0.5 oz ~13.5 g
Duella 13 ~139 gr ~9 g
Sicilium 14 ~104 gr ~6.75 g
Miliaresium 15 ~83 gr ~5.4 g
Solidus (sextula) 16 ~69 gr ~4.5 g
Denarius 17 ~60 gr ~3.857 g
Denier 18 ~52 gr ~3.375 g
Scripulum 13 denier ~17 gr ~3 g
Putting in gram equivalents sounds good. Note, however, that I've revised the figure for the libra to 328.9 grams. (The question of "How many grains to a Roman pound?" is one that I've been following for many years. The accepted figure used to be 5040 British Imperial grains, but after comparing the weights of a great number of coins, specifically the denarius, they've arrived at 5076 grains.) Next, the bronze coin known as uncia is, to the best of my knowledge, not the defining baseline for this unit. I'm pretty sure it's the denarius. Also, you can't go by other Wikipedia articles, since they are likely to have been as poorly researched as this one, in which case it's the blind leading the blind. I would drop the link to the uncia coin.
Finally, the chart as it currently stands is a confused mess. It looks like it was lifted verbatim from a single source, a book by an author who is apparently a metrologist but not much of a historian. Mixing all those units together is like someone two thousand years from now mixing shoe sizes, points, picas, miles, furlongs, meters, Angstroms, light-years, and hands, and calling it "linear measurements system of the USA 1500 - 3000 AD."
Also, ancient Roman units should not include Republic or pre-Republcan, except in the way of historical background information. Starting with Constantinople, we're talking units of the Byzantine Empire.
By the way, I'm new here too. Zyxwv99 (talk) 17:58, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
The chart below is based on your sources for 328.9g equivalence. I am SOOOOO not a historian OR a metrologist, and you mention that some of the units (or possibly their definitions?) are incorrect or inappropriate in context. Can you identify the items in this chart that are ill-suited to this article, please? Kevin/Last1in (talk) 19:03, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
Unit of mass Unciae Imperial Metric
Centum podium 1,200 ~72.5 lb ~32.89 kg
Mina 20 ~1.2 lb ~548.2 g
Libra (podium) 12 ~11.6 oz ~328.9 g
Deunx 11 ~10.6 oz ~301.5 g
Dextans 10 ~9.7 oz ~274.1 g
Dodrans 9 ~8.7 oz ~246.7 g
Bes 8 ~7.7 oz ~219.3 g
Septunx 7 ~6.8 oz ~191.9 g
Semis 6 ~5.8 oz ~164.5 g
Quincunx 5 ~4.8 oz ~137 g
Triens 4 ~3.9 oz ~109.6 g
Quadrans 3 ~2.9 oz ~82.2 g
Sextans 2 ~1.9 oz ~54.8 g
Uncia 1 ~0.97 oz or ~423 gr ~27.41 g
Semuncia 12 ~0.48 oz or ~211 gr ~13.7 g
Duella 13 ~141 gr ~9.14 g
Sicilium 14 ~106 gr ~6.85 g
Miliaresium 15 ~85 gr ~5.48 g
Solidus (sextula) 16 ~70 gr ~4.57 g
Denarius 17 ~60 gr ~3.92 g
Denier 18 ~53 gr ~3.43 g
Scripulum 13 denier ~18 gr ~1.14 g
Without spending a great deal of time on further research, I am not qualified so say at this time which ones don't belong on the list. Since what you are proposing would be an improvement over what we have now, I would say go ahead and put it in. Zyxwv99 (talk) 20:37, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
Just off hand, I'd say Denier looks questionable. The closest I can think of is the Frankish silver penny (French denier) which would be Carolingian Empire, not ancient Rome.
Mina looks suspicious. Of course the Mina was probably by used by Greeks and Jews living in the Roman Empire, but I don't think it was ever official except locally (in which case we should at least mention that).
Solidus should go under Byzantine Empire, and probably not here. The Denarius was 1/6 of an ounce, not 1/7, so maybe (after further research) it could be linked to sextula. Zyxwv99 (talk) 01:09, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

One thing that has puzzled me about these Roman units is this. Should sextans, triens, quadrans, and so be considered actual units or simply specialised words on a par with pair, trio, quartet (ie are they counting words rather than measuring words)? Are there convincing arguments for or against? Rhialto (talk) 08:20, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

I believe they are uncial divisions of an as or whole, not units as such, and mean just a sixth, a third, and a quarter respectively. It looks as if the pes, the libra and the jugerum, and probably others too, were divided into "ounces" in this way. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 10:35, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I agree with this. It is what I was taught. Uncia, etc. apply to all Roman measures: weight, length, area, and volume. Rwflammang (talk) 01:46, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
OK, I know this section has just had work done on it and possibly doesn't need more. I'm wondering, though, whether in the interests of full referencing and of consistency of format and of source it might not be better to base this table too on those in Smith (who breaks it down into two parts, the uncial divisions of the libra and the subdivisions of the uncia). He gives a value of 5050 grains for the libra, which seems to be more or less in the right range. And no, I don't have shares in his company! - he just gives clear detail, and is a respected if well outdated source. What do others think about this? Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 23:27, 17 December 2011 (UTC)
One of the differences between plagiarism and not plagiarism is "consistency of source." I don't mean copyright violation, since that's not an issue, but just responsible scholarship. On the one hand, I can understand wanting to keeping units consistent within the same category, e.g., an inch should be 1/12th of a foot because that is it's definition. Similarly, it makes sense (I think) to have the capacity measures calibrated to the Roman foot, since that appears to have been the legal definition. However, I still lean towards the 296 mm figure for the foot and the 5057 grains figure for the pound, not only because it represents the latest scholarship, but also to get away from blindly following a single source. After all, we will, at some point, want to revise any items where contemporary scholarship has gone beyond Smith's work. Just my opinion. Zyxwv99 (talk) 23:53, 17 December 2011 (UTC)
The problem I would like to resolve is that the current table is completely unreferenced. I believe that taking Smith as a source for the names of the units (and, for now, eliminating any he does not name until references for those too can be found) would solve that problem. Whether the conversion to metric, in any case only a guide, is done at the value he uses as we have done for the measures of capacity, or using an accepted figure from a modern source as we have done for length and area, seems to me secondary; I would be agreeable to either. The difference between 5050 grains (Smith) and 5057 is anyway minute. How reliable are the sources that give 5057, in your opinion? Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 13:45, 18 December 2011 (UTC)
Since you are the one doing the work on the Smith project, and I'm just criticizing, maybe we should invite input from other users. My own opinion is that Smith has done a great deal of footwork for us, and that we should take full advantage of his generosity. However, I am dubious about modern-day equivalents from 19th century sources. For example, look at the first table in this article. It lists three sources for the Roman foot, all three of them now discredited (the third one apparently fraudulent). Nowadays historical metrologists use large numbers of sources, laser telemetry, computer statistical models, etc. Personally I'd like to eventually replace ALL of Smith's numbers with something more contemporary, taking care to ensure that our newer sources are actually better and supported by peer-reviewed scholarship. But then again, that's just my opinion. Zyxwv99 (talk) 00:29, 18 December 2011 (UTC)
Criticism is welcome, thank you. And yes, I hope that others will comment, particularly Kevin/Last1in who started this thread. As above, I have no objection whatsoever to using referenced values from reliable modern sources rather than 19th C ones, indeed agree that it is preferable. The first step, I believe, is to get everything referenced, and then fine-tune the details. Do you think the first table, summarising Greaves's findings, should not be there? I find his to be a remarkable example of 17th C scholarship; but perhaps that has led me to giving it undue weight? I'm puzzled by "fraudulent", which is about the last word I would apply to his account. Is it believed that the congius of Vespasian was a fake? By the way, if the "PX" in the inscription on that object is read as "pondo X" or 10 librae, the libra can be calculated from the Roman foot; a pes of 296 mm gives a libra of about 324 g or 5003 grains. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 13:45, 18 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm not suggesting Greaves was guilty of fraud, but rather whoever sold the congius to the House of Farnese, which is where Villalpandus got it in the first place. For details, see my recent additions to the article congius and follow the references under "Congius of Vespasian." Those references lead to Google Books where you can read the referenced text.
I like people like Greaves and think we would feature their work, so long as it is made clear to the reader that we are discussing history of Roman metrology and not current scholarship. The table seems to suggest that these three sources are still taken seriously, which they are not.
Is this valid objection answered by the caption I've put on the table, or would you prefer to see the table removed and the content as running text? If so, I'd have no objection - I thought table format would be clearer, that's all. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 22:25, 19 December 2011 (UTC)
As for whether the Roman pound was 5050 grains or 5057, it could go either way, as there are plenty of competent sources to back up either number. That's why I would include something like this in the references. I'm actually impressed with how close Smith's numbers are to the latest scholarship (a point we should probably mention in the text). I'm just trying to get away from over-reliance on a single source. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Zyxwv99 (talkcontribs) 15:25, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Indeed that would appear to be just the sort of source we need, nice find!; did you have any luck tracking down the various sources that it in turn cites? I have not tried to. As no-one else seems to have immediately responded here, I'd like to suggest a part-way solution: convert the table to show the units as Smith does, but using the current conversion value, with Skinner as reference for that. In that way the whole section as it stands will at least be referenced, which seems to me an essential starting-point. The metric conversions can always (and easily) be modified if consensus leads to using a different value for the libra. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 22:25, 19 December 2011 (UTC)

In response to "Is this valid objection answered..." it looks fine. Thanks. Zyxwv99 (talk) 23:34, 19 December 2011 (UTC)

Capacity Measures[edit]

I just changed the metric equivalents for the capacity measures. I added a reference at the top of the section.

Incidentally, this article mentions something called the Congius of Vespasian.

The article on Congius has the following sentence:

There is a congius in existence, called the "congius of Vespasian", or the "Farnese congius", bearing an inscription stating it was made in the year 75, according to the standard measure in the capitol, and that it contained, by weight, ten pounds (3.4 kg). This congius is one of the means by which an attempt has been made to fix the weight of the Roman pound (Libra).

This is obviously lifted verbatim from a very old text. (Try doing a Google search on "There is a congius in existence". I tried to follow up on this. Apparently there is no longer such a congius in existence. Plus scholars who examined it had serious doubts about the interpretation of the inscription. Zyxwv99 (talk) 03:00, 13 December 2011 (UTC)

I wondered if this object still existed. It was measured and compared with a quadrantal constructed for the purpose by Greaves in 1639, not in order to fix the Roman pound but to obtain a value for the Roman foot. He wasn't too happy with the results. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 17:00, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
The congius is illustrated in Daremberg and Saglio, Dictionnaire des antiquités grecques et romaines. Apparently it was by then in Dresden ...
How much confidence do we have in Zupco? I can't see what he says about the size of the sextarius (it isn't on the snippet Google gives me), but I'm a little concerned that the dry and liquid measures now no longer reflect the apparently well-documented equivalence of the quadrantal to a cubic Roman foot. IF the Roman foot was about 0.296 m then the quadrantal should have been about 25.9 l, and the sextarius 1/48 of that, or about 0.54 l; Smith gives 0.96 pint, or about 0.546 l. That's quite a big discrepancy from Zupco's figure. If Zupco is well supported by other sources then I'd suggest perhaps putting both sets of equivalences into the table, those derived from theory and the estimated length of the pes, and those from actual measurement of surviving containers; if not, perhaps the earlier values should be restored? Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 21:55, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
Zupko's British Weights and Measures has about 2 or 3 pages on Roman weights and measures. Apparently the Encyclopedia Britannica had enough confidence in him to use those 2 or 3 pages as their article for Roman Weights and Measures. (See Encyclopedia Britannica Online) Zyxwv99 (talk) 22:47, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
On the other hand, you raise a good point about the cubic foot issue. My guess is that our knowledge of Roman linear measurements in better than for capacity, just because capacity is much harder to measure, harder still for the Romans. How about if we went with 295.9 mm for the Roman foot, then figured out what sort of amphora that would give us? I know this sounds like "original research" but if that was Roman law, then maybe our tables should reflect the law. On the other hand, we could also add a paragraph about actual measurements from surviving amphorae, etc. Zyxwv99 (talk) 04:04, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
Okay, maybe 296 mm. (Wanting to put a number after the decimal point is my Asperger syndrome talking.) Zyxwv99 (talk) 22:36, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
I just made some changes to the capacity measures, mentioning a range of accepted values for the sextarius (.53 - .58 l) and the equivalence of the cubic foot with the amphora quadrantal. I then changed the figures for the liquid measures but don't have time (at this moment) to change the figures for dry measures. I think one of the issues here is that early-modern metrologists from the time of the Renaissance went overboard in constructing grand schemes on flimsy evidence. The 20th century witnessed a strong reaction to that sort of thing (not only in metrology but also in the field of archaeology). Thus, historical metrologists sometimes ignore systems, focusing merely on individual units. Zyxwv99 (talk) 16:05, 15 December 2011 (UTC)
I see that a lot of work has been done, and don't want to seem to criticise or undervalue it. However, I'm concerned that this section of the article (or at least the tables) continues to be completely unreferenced. What I suggest is that we redo the tables from a reasonably reliably source, removing (for now) all unreferenced English equivalents and Roman units; and put all discussion of alternative values for the equivalences into the text; there are a LOT of those. The only source I know of that gives a (fairly) full table is Smith, the 19th C source already used for length and area and for the related Greek article. I'm sure there are many others, but using that particular one might give a degree of consistency to the article as a whole; however, I don't want to push it unduly. There would of course be nothing to stop people putting the bits he doesn't mention back in as and when alternative sources for them are found. Smith's value for the congius is about 3.27 l, which is slightly over the theoretical equivalent calculated from his Roman foot, and possibly (I hazard a guess) chosen more because 5.76 pints divides neatly by 288 than for any other reason. IMO a referenced table that differs slightly from modern thinking is still preferable to a totally unreferenced one that doesn't. Any thoughts?
I have to admit to a twinge of anxiety that our source for both the minimum and the maximum value of the sextarius is from the same publisher. Can't they make up their minds? Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 22:55, 16 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm looking at Smith's tables right now. What I'd like to do is check some of the information against contemporary sources to get an overall feel for Smith's reliability. As for the Encyclopedia Britannica, they have about as many contributing editors as the Wikipedia, so of course they can't make up their minds. The only difference is that their editors have PhDs, are considered among the world's leading experts in their respective fields, and the gist of their articles has passed peer review. Also, I cited Zupko directly, not his encyclopedia entry. But basically I'm just asking you to hold off for at least a several hours so I can take a serious look at Smith. Right now I'm looking at these pages:
Smith's tables — Preceding unsigned comment added by Zyxwv99 (talkcontribs) 00:34, 17 December 2011 (UTC)
Smith's figures are a bit off from currently accepted values, but not by much. Considering the current state of this article, Smith's tables would probably be a big improvement. And thanks ahead of time for all the work you are about to do. Zyxwv99 (talk) 01:19, 17 December 2011 (UTC)

Astronomy versus astrology[edit]

An editor recently changed the word astrologer to astronomer in the sentence describing minutae. I don't really have a preference for which term is used; in this historical context, it was six or one, half dozen of the other. But I think whichever term we use, we should use it consistently. If we use astronomers to describe those who divided the day into minutae, then we should use astronomers to describe the those who grouped the days into weeks, since it was the same community of professionals doing both of these things. We should also replace astrological with astronomical. Rwflammang (talk) 14:07, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

Even though it was the same community, and usually the same individuals (Ptolemy for example) the divisions weren't necessarily used for the same purposes. I'll look into this and see what I can find. And sorry about putting "astronomers" into a sentence that had "astrologers" later in the same sentence. I'll just self-revert for now. Zyxwv99 (talk) 15:52, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
Well, that's very polite of you, but the more I think about it, the more I like your change and think we should follow it through. The term "astrologers" carries a very negative connotation these days that did not apply to the mathematical community of ancient Rome when it adopted the practice of the more scientifically advanced east in following a 7 day week. It would be like saying the metric system has become more popular now since it has been adopted by those who don't know how to divide by 12 or 16, rather than because it has been adopted by the prestigious medical and scientific communities. Rwflammang (talk) 17:46, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
I would be careful about making it all one or the other. Sometimes it was one, sometimes it was the other. The 7-day week, for example, seems to have been astrological. The division of the day into hours, on the other hand, was apparently astronomical. Zyxwv99 (talk) 22:22, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

Libra sign ₤[edit]

According to the article about the record label Parlophone, their trademark sign ₤ is for Libra (and also for Lindström, the German founder). --HelgeStenstrom (talk) 13:22, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

You bring up a good point. The Pound sign article does not explain the origins or early history of the symbol. However, I seriously doubt that it goes back to ancient times. Further discussion on this topic should probably take place on the Pound sign talk page, or better yet, someone should just look it up and fix the article. Zyxwv99 (talk) 15:13, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

Why no Stadium unit of length?[edit]

Pliny talks of a stadium in Book II and calls it 625 feet. Why is there mention of this unit here? the table on lengths correctly lists the STADIA at 625 roman pes or feet somehow the length is calculate incorrectly according to your table the Roman foot is 296 mm (Berriman gives 296.3 mm) in any case 625 x 0.296 is 185 meters and not 190.5 as shown Also the Parthenon according to Nicholas Kollerstrom, Ph.D. is supposed to be 100 attic feet or 30.897 meters wide therefore the attic stadia of 600 attic feet would equal 185.382 meters if both the attic and roman stadia are equal then the roman foot = 296.66 mm in any case 190.5 meters is WRONG Roland Boucher

The 190.5 measure would be compatible with an Olympic stadion, a special unit used for foot races.
Measured fields define the property of landowners from the Sumerians onward. Property tends to be defined by contract and international treaty so its been stable and international for the last 4,000 years.
The Greek root stadios means 'to have standing'(as a landowner). Early on Stadions are used to measure the sides of fields and are related to both body measures such as feet and agricultural measures such as yards and paces. 600 Greek feet or pous of 308.5 mm are the same as 625 Roman feet or pes of 296 mm. In England up until the time of Queen Elizabeth the Roman units were the standard. There are 600 to a degree of 111 km. For the Persians a degree of 111km was divided into 500 stadia of 222 Remen. In Egypt horses were used for warfare from the time of the Hyksos but fields continued to be plowed with oxen until the time of the Romans. Once fields were plowed with horses the half acre khet of 100 Royal cubits to a side or acre setat of 2 khet became a combination of three fields 300 royal cubits by 100 royal cubits with one left fallow. 300 royal cubits of 525 mm measured 157.5 mm, the Egyptian minute of march with 700 minutes of march being 110.25 km.
Whether we are talking 4800 Greek pous or 5000 Roman pes or English Fote to a Myle the measure is 8 stadions or stadiums or furlongs until Queen Elizabeth changes the length of a furlong from 625 to 660 English feet making a mile of 5280 feet such that there were twice as many seconds in a century as there were inches in the circumference of the Earths Great Circle.
The Sumerians measured in hands of 100 mm such that there were 300 mm in a foot, 500 mm in a cubit, 600 mm in a great cubit and 1000mm in a double cubit or nibu. The Egyptians and Romans measured in palms, the Greeks and Persians used hands. The foot measure of three hands (fifteen fingers) or four palms (16 fingers) was nominally 300 mm though it varied from 308.4 mm to 296 mm depending on which system was chosen.
In the time of Herodotus, the standard Attic stadion used for distance measure is 600 pous of 308.4 mm equal to 185 m. so that 600 stadia equal one degree and are combined at 8 to a mia chilioi or thousand which measures the boustredon or path of yoked oxen as a distance of a thousand orguia, taken as one orguia wide which in Egypt Herodotus tells us defines an aroura or thousand of land and at 10 agros or chains equal to one nautical mile of 1850 m. (10 stadions or stadiums)
Several centuries later, Marinus and Ptolemy used 500 stadia to a degree, but their stadia were composed of 600 Remen of 370 mm and measured 222 m, so the measuRement of the degree was the same.
The same is also true for Eratosthenes, who used 700 stadia of 157.5 m or 300 Egyptian royal cubits to a degree, and for Aristotle, Posidonius, and Archimedes, whose stadia likewise measured the same degree.
1 plethron (pl. plethra) = 100 podes, a cord measure
1 stadion (pl. stadia) = 6 plethra = 600 podes ≈ 185 m
1 diaulos (pl. diauloi) = 2 stadia, only used for the Olympic footrace introduced in 724 BC
1 dolikhos = 6 or 12 diauloi. Only used for the Olympic foot race introduced in 720 BC
1 parasanges = 30 stadia ≈ 5.5 km. Persian measure used by Xenophon, for instance
1 skhoinos (pl. skhoinoi, lit. "reefs") = 60 stadia ≈ 11.1 km (usually), based on Egyptian river measure iter or atur
1 stathmos = 25 km, one day's journey, 320,000 palms
75 Greek (thousands of orquia) mia chilios or Roman (thousands of paces) miliare = 111 km = 1 degree of the Earths Great Circle (talk) 15:08, 29 August 2013 (UTC)

Pes quadratus is volume, not area[edit]

There is an error in the article: it says that pes quadratus is a measure of area (square foot). In fact, the names are as follows: pes = foot (length), pes constratus = square foot (area), pes quadratus = cubic foot (volume). Pliny says pes quadratus to be equal to three modii, which makes about 26 liters, i.e. a quadrantal. (talk) 09:04, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

If you can cite a reliable (modern) source for this, please do. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 09:53, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Dictionaries suggest quadratus means "square" and constratus means "thatched". That doesn't really match with the meanings you ascribe. I second the previous comment, that reliable sources are required.
{"A collection of voyages and travels"]Awnsham Churchill, ‎John Churchill, ‎John Locke - 1744 "pes porreftus; next, pes conslratas, or as "' Agricola reads it, contraflus; and lastly, pes quadratus. The first was the measure of longitudes, the other two of superfices. Frontinus, In pedes corralo semipedes duo,(two Roman feet, the square of the semipes)in pedes constrato semipedes quator (was the square of the Roman foot thus its perimeter measured four pes), in pedes quadrato oile similarly. Its area. (talk) 11:36, 12 September 2013 (UTC)
As I read it, this means that pes quadratus is a measure of "superficies", i.e., area. Rwflammang (talk) 16:56, 12 September 2013 (UTC)
Anyone cared to see Pliny? - (talk) 17:56, 21 October 2014 (UTC)
I always care to see Pliny. Any particular part of Pliny I should look at? Rwflammang (talk) 00:46, 23 October 2014 (UTC)
I do not know about Pliny, but here is what Balbus gromaticus seems to say about it (Expositio et Ratio Omnium Formarum, 96.8, 96.10, 96.13): Pes prostratus sic obseruabitur: ducis longitudinem per latitudinem, facit embadon (i.e. aream). Pes quadratus sic obseruabitur: longitudinem per latitudinem metiemur, deinde per crassitudinem: et sic efficit pedes solidos. Pes quadratus concauus capit amforam trimodiam.
So, according to this, pes prostratus is the square foot and pes quadratus is the cubic foot. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:06, 27 October 2016 (UTC)
Well, clearly Balbus, whoever he was, used pes quadratus to mean a cubic foot. This source mentions also Frontinus as using quadratus to mean "cubed". It also mentions constratus as meaning square in some cases. However, the dictionaries seem unanimous in defining pes quadratus as square foot, so it is not correct to say that it is an "error" to say pes quadratus means square foot. Some mention should be made that it can sometimes mean a unit of volume. Rwflammang (talk) 01:07, 1 November 2016 (UTC)
If Balbus the surveyor is not enough, here is Festus (258): "Quadrantal vocabant antiqui, quam ex Graeco amphoram dicunt, quod vas pedis quadrati octo et XL capit sextarios" (nb. what do you think, why this unit is named quadrantal?) Not enough? Cicero ND 1.24: "at mihi (sc. forma) vel cylindri vel quadrati vel coni vel pyramidis videtur esse formosior". The dictionaries quote this under quadratum/quadratus (OLD, p. 1530) and under constratus we find Balbus again: "Planum est quod Graeci epipedon appellant, nos constratos pedes" (OLD, p. 421). It is true that Columella, Vitruvius and many others use pes quadratus in the meaning of "square foot", but not taking into account that it apparently also means cubic foot, and that then the square foot is named pes constratus/prostratus, is clearly an error. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:57, 3 November 2016 (UTC)


See Talk:Mile. The common name is clearly mille passus (preferred by Caesar & Cicero as well as English), with mille passuum (Livy) a distant second. There were 3 "sources" for mille passuum, but none were scholarly treatments of units. Instead, they were simply popular accounts repeating what they saw in places like Wikipedia. — LlywelynII 02:58, 6 April 2015 (UTC)

Your reference is a google search. Clearly, google is not an authoritative source for Latin usage, and google searches are not representative samples. We should get a real source. Rwflammang (talk) 15:43, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
See here for a reliable source. Mille passuum and mille passus are both simply Latin phrases meaning "a thousand paces". Both forms are found in classical literature. In the plural, "thousands of paces" or "miles", only the partitive form is used, milia passuum.
I have no objection to writing mille passus in the article, but clearly we would also need to point out that the plural is irregular and that it is milia passuum.Rwflammang (talk) 17:14, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
The normal rule is that mille (the singular) works (syntax-wise) like an adjective, hence mille passus; and that milia (the plural) works as a substantive, hence milia passuum. It is no surprise that even Romans find this confusing sometimes, but statistically mille passus prevails over mille passuum, and it is also considered correct by the grammarians, so it should be preferred. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:02, 31 October 2016 (UTC)
Pompous ass isn't a very appealing or effective tone to strike when failing reading comprehension quite so thoroughly. Google searches are sources for usage and specific sources were given with the original post. It wasn't a question of whether one (mis)spelling is attested but which one was more common, regarding which your "source" had nothing to contribute at all. Plural forms (especially Latin plural forms) can be left to Wiktionary entries (WP:NOTADICTIONARY) so there's nothing "clear" about needing to decline the term here at all. That said, I do support the idea given that it's irregular in spite of your difficulty with general civility. — LlywelynII 22:20, 14 January 2017 (UTC)

The 1850s were a while ago[edit]

and ancient metrology is dependent upon verifying and contrasting literary sources with field work. Even if Smith has held up over time, we should still source the estimated values to more up-to-date scholarship alongside him. — LlywelynII 22:23, 14 January 2017 (UTC)