farsakh or farsang

A unit of distance in the Middle East. The farsakh comes from an ancient Persian unit, the parasang, in principle the distance a horse would walk in an hour, about 3 miles = 12,000 cubits.

In mid 19th century, the Persian farsakh was approximately 6.23 kilometers; the Arab farsakh was shorter, approximately 5.76 kilometers.

Location Period Equivalents Source
Arabia   4.83 kilometers (about 3.00 miles)  
Egypt 20th c2 2.25 kilometers, = 3000 dhira mamari chart symbol 2
19th c 5.542 km = 3000 bâa, chart symbol  
Ethiopia   5.07 kilometers (3.15 miles)  
Iran globe icon,

 

metric farsang 20th c by the law of 31 May 1926, = 10 kilometers (approximately 6.21371 miles) = 10,000 gaz. 1
farsakh-song Sometimes called a farsang 20th c 6.24 kilometers = 6,000 guz (about 3.88 miles)
The farsakh-song is sometimes valued at 6.72 kilometers
(approximately 4.18 miles).
1
Muscat and Oman globe icon 20th c approximately 3 miles (approximately 4.8 kilometers) 1
Tunisia Sfax 19th- about 3.75 kilometers 3
Sahel 60 kilometers

1. United Nations, 1966.

2. Saadeddine Bencheneb.
Bulletin des Études des arabes, Sept-Oct 1952, page 104.

3. Marcel Legendre.
Survivance des Mesures Traditionnelles en Tunisie.
Publications de L’Institut des Hautes Études de Tunis.
Memoires du Centre D’Études de Science Humaines, volume 4.
Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1958.
Pages

4. A. Houtum-Schindler.
On the length of the Persian farsakh.
Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, vol. 10, no. 9, pages 584-588 (Sept. 1888).

sources

1

When discussing the length of the League (Farsakh) in the earlier part of this work, it was explained how in ancient days the learned, in the reign of king Kay Qubād the Kayānian, established the length of the League to be three miles, which is equivalent to 12,000 Common Ells (Dhirā` Khalqī), which is other than the measure known as the Tailor’s Cubit (Gaz-i-Khayyāṭī). Now in the Diary of Malik Shāh it is recorded that this monarch, becoming acquainted with the varying lengths of the Farsakh in his journeyings over the many roads of Īrān and of his other kingdoms, gave orders to measure the (various) Farsakhs. And it was found that while the League was of 15,000 paces (Gām) in Khwārazm more or less, in Ādharbāyjān and Armenia it was only of about 10,000 paces; and throughout the Two `Irāqs, Kurdistān, Luristān, Khūzistān, Khurāsān, Fārs, Shabānkārah and Diyār Bakr, with their neighbouring districts, the Farsakh measured but 6000 paces. Then, furthermore, in the provinces of Rūm (Asia Minor), Gurjistān, Arrān, Mūghān and Shīrvān, the Farsakh was not in use, distances being counted in Stages (Manzil) and by time. Malik Shāh, therefore, throughout his dominions established the use of the League which averaged 6000 paces, and the distances along the roads that he traversed are stage by stage set down in his Diary after this computation. Later, in the reign of Ūljāytū Sulṭān the Mongol, when after this same fashion various roads were measured, and mile-stones set up, the Farsakh was counted, approximately, as of 8000 Tailor’s Cubits (Gaz-i-Khay- yāṭī). Now, the Common Ell (mentioned above) being but two-thirds of the length of the Tailor’s Cubit, and the average Pace (Gām) being of greater length than the Tailor’s Cubit, all the above estimates of the League work out to about the same result, and this may be taken as equivalent more or less to the Farsakh of 12,000 Common Ells, as estimated by the learned men of former days.

Ḥamd-Allāh Mustawfī of Qazwīn.
G. Le Strange, trans.
The Geographical Part of the Nuzhat-al-Qulūb.
Leyden: E. J. Brill, Imprimerie Orientale, 1919.
Chapter 15. Written around 740 A.H.(1340 CE).

2

La lieue persane s’appelle fars seng, terme persan qui signifie pierre de Perse, lequel Hérodote et les autres auteurs grecs qui ont écrit l’histoire de Perse écrivent parasanga, ce qui n’est pas une grande altération, la prononciation de l’f et du p étant si consonante en persan qu’on prend souvent l’une pour l’autre. Il paraît par la signification de ce mot de fars seng qu’anciennement les lieues étaient marquées par de grandes et hautes pierres, tant dans l’Orient que dans l’Occident. Tous les gens de lettres savent que dans la langue latine le mot de pierre est toujours employé pour dire lieue. Ad primum vel secundum lapidem: à la première ou seconde lieue. Hérodote dit que la parasangue est de trente stades. Cela reviendrait à deux lieues françaises, à faire la lieue de douze mille pieds. Les Persans la font de six mille pas ou endaze, qui est leur mot pour dire pas; et ce mot signifie jet, comme pour dire que le pas est le jet du corps. Le farseng ou parasange est presque de même mesure dans tout l’empire de Perse.

The Persian league is called fars seng , a Persian term meaning stone of Persia, which Herodotus and the other Greek authors who wrote the history of Persia write as parasanga, which is not a great alteration, the pronunciation of the f and the p being so similiar in Persian that one often takes one for the other. It appears by the meaning of the word fars seng that in ancient times the leagues were marked by large and tall stones, both in the East and in the West. All men of letters know that in the Latin language the word "stone" is always used to mean league. Ad primum vel secundum lapidem : at the first or second league. Herodotus says that the parasangue is thirty stadia. It would amount to two French lieues, taking the lieue as twelve thousand pied. The Persians make it six thousand steps or endaze , which is their word for pace; and this word means jet, as if to say that the step is the stream of the body. The farseng or parasange is almost of equal measure throughout the Persian empire.

Jean Chardin.
Voyages de Monsieur le chevalier Chardin en Perse et autre lieux de l’Orient.
Amsterdam: Jean Louis de Lorme, 1711.
Texte intégral édité et annoté par Philip Stewart.
Online in the Achemenet Digital Library, at, http://www.achemenet.com/dotAsset/738b64dc-7dc9-4d4b-8a8c-90adb6fd78ee.pdf Retrieved 14 March 2018. The book is also available from Google Books and archive.org, including a very good scan from the University of Ottawa.

Chardin first reached Persia in 1666.

A map showing the location of Iran.

Where is Iran?

A map showing the location of Oman.

Where is Oman?

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