In modern Greece, a unit of distance = 1 kilometer (about 0.621 mile).
Various ancient Greek units of length, in concept the standard length of the furrow made in plowing with a team of oxen, = 600 podos, the size varying with the size of the pous.
|Type of Stadion||Size of Unit||Where Used|
|Attic||177.4 meters||Asia Minor, southern Italy|
|Olympic||192.0 m||Greece and Sicily|
|165.99 - 179.03||Herodotus||
Schrier derives ranges of values for Herodotus and Polybius, and concludes the value must lie in their common range, 174.77 - 179.03 m.
Omert J. Schrier.
|174.77 - 179.13||Polybius|
Walter Wybergh How and Joseph Wells.
|178.2 - 179.28||
One line of evidence is preserved in a number of ancient Greek stadiums where the start and finish lines for 1-stadion foot races are indicated by lines incised in stone.
|Location of track||Distance in meters|
Another line of evidence comes from comparisons with Roman units. Polybius (34.12.3-4) says the Roman mille passus was 8 stadia long but roman mile 8 1/3 stades. Three centuries later Pliny made an equivalent statement, that the stadion was 625 pes. Taking the pes at 295.7 millimeters makes a stadion of 184.8 meters.
A third line comes from Pliny's statement that the schoinos was 40 stadia. Unfortunately, this relationship is of doubtful usefulness, because the length of the schoinos is less surely known than the length of the stadion.
An old legend has the length of the stadion determined by Hercules. He ran while holding his breath, managing 125 paces. That defined the stadion.
In the King James translation of the Bible, the stadion was always translated as “furlong.” The Revised Standard Version uses furlong once (Matthew 14:24), and stadia itself in Rev. 14:20 and 21:16. Elsewhere (Luke 24:13, John 6:19, 11:18) it is translated as the equivalent distance in miles.
Robert A. Bauslaugh.
The text of Thucydides IV 8.6 and the South Channel at Pylos.
Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1979.
Pages 1-6. Proposes amending almost the only passage in Thucydides containing a wildly inaccurate description of a distance by adding the word “stadion.” An appendix lists each occurrence of the word “stadion” in Thucydides, with the actual distance. Bauslaugh concludes that Thucydides’ stadion was in the range 130 – 260 meters, with 77% of the occurrences between 150 and 200 meters.
The origin and value of the stadion unit used by Eratosthenes in the third century B. C.
Archive for History of Exact Sciences, volume 37, number 4, pages 359-363 (1987).
Gulbekian calculates backwards from Eratosthene's famous determination of the diameter of the earth to determine the length of Eratosthene's stadion, which he finds to be 166.7 meters, comparable to the value derived from the length of the "Heptastadium" jetty at Alexandria.
The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 9 (1888), pages 18-30.
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Last revised: 1 September 2014.