stadion [Greek, σταδίων]

Plural, stadia.


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 pouslink to a chart showing relationships between ancient Greek units of length.

Type of Stadion Size of Unit
Where Used
Attic 177.4 Asia Minor, southern Italy
Olympic 192.0 Greece and Sicily
Pergamene 198.0  
Aeginetan 199.8  
Estimates of the length of the Attic stadion
Length in
Source Comment
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.
Hannibal, the Rhone and the 'Island': Some philological and metrological notes.
Mnemosyne, vol. 59, fasc. 4. (October 2006)

174.77 - 179.13 Polybius
185.4 Herodotus

Walter Wybergh How and Joseph Wells.
A Commentary on Herodotus.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912.

177.60 Van Groningen
178.2 - 179.28

F. Lehman-Haupt.
Stadion (Metrologie).
Real-Encyklopädie, second series, III, 1930-1963.

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.

of track
in meters
Delphi 177.5
Athens 185.0
Miletus 191.4
Olympia 192.3

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 others that the Roman mile was 8¹⁄₃ 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.

The stadion in the New Testament

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.

E. Gulbekian.
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.

William Ridgeway.
Metrological Notes.
The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 9 (1888), pages 18-30.


All the occurances of the word can be found in the ever-useful Chicago dictionary:


Zum Schlüsse gebe ich eine Zusammenstellung der wichtigsten Stadien mit Angabe ihrer Grösse und ihres Verhältnisses zur römischen Meile:

1. Das äginäisch-attische oder gemeingriechische Stadion, 500 Fuss von je 0,328 m = 164 m : es findet sich bei allen griechischen Schriftstellern von Herodot bis Eratosthenes; 9 solcher Stadien gehen auf die römische Meile, doch kommt eine solche direkte Vergleichung in der erhaltenen Litteratur nicht vor.

2. Das olympische Stadion, 600 Fuss von 0,320 m = 192 m, ist in Olympia aufgefunden worden, eine Vergleichung desselben mit der römischen Meile kommt nicht vor : es wird von Censorin erwähnt.

3. Das griechisch-römische Stadion, 600 Fuss von je 0,296 m = 178 m; 8¹⁄₃ derselben bilden eine römische Meile. Eines solchen Stadions bedient sich Polybios, welcher alle Angaben des Eratosthenes, weil sie sich auf ein kleineres Stadion bezogen, etwas vermindern musste. Eine Entfernung z. B., welche bei Eratosthenes 100 Stadien lang war, musste er demnach zu 92 Stadien angeben (vergl. Hultsch, Metrol. S. 56 Anm. 1).

4. Das römische Stadion, 625 Fuss von 0,296 m = 185 m; 8 Stadien bilden eine römische Meile. Die römischen Schriftsteller, namentlich die Agrimensoren, kennen nur dieses Stadion. Strabo unterscheidet es ausdrücklich von dem Stadion des Polybios.

5. Das philetärische Stadion, 600 Fuss von je 0,333 m = 200 m; 77½ Stadien gehen auf die römische Meile, vgl. Athen. Mitth. VIII S. 343; es kommt vor bei den griechischen metrologischen Schriftstellern (Heron), bei Suidas und Hesych.

6. Das ptolemäische Stadion, 600 Fuss von je 0,35 m = 210 m; 7 derselben bilden eine römische Meile, wird bei Suidas und Hesych erwähnt.

In conclusion, I give a compilation of the most important stadions with their size and their proportion to the Roman milia passuum:

1. The Aegean-Attic or common Greek stadion, 500 podos each 0.328 m = 164 m, is found among all Greek writers from Herodotus to Eratosthenes. Nine of these stadia make the Roman milia passuum, however such a direct equivalence is not found in the surviving literature.

2. The Olympic stadion, 600 podos each 0.320 m = 192 m, has been found in Olympia. A comparison of the same with the Roman milia passuum does not occur. It is mentioned by Censorin.

3. The Greco-Roman stadion, 600 pedes each 0.296 m = 178 m; 8¹⁄₃ make a Roman milia passuum. One such stadion was employed by Polybios when he had to somewhat shorten all the data of Eratosthenes because they were described in a smaller stadion. A distance, for example, which in Eratosthenes was 100 stadia long, he had to express as 92 stadia (see Hultsch, [Griechische und Römische] Metrol[ogie. 2nd ed. 1882], page 56, note 1).

4. The Roman stadion, 625 podos from 0.296 m = 185 m; 8 stadions form a Roman milia passuum. The Roman writers, especially the agrimensors, know only this stadion. Strabo specifically distinguishes it from the Polybios stadion.

5. The Philetaric [i.e., Pergamene] stadion, 600 feet from each 0.333 m = 200 m; 7½ stadions go to the Roman milia passuum, cf. Athens. Mitth. VIII p. 343¹; it occurs in the Greek metrological writers (Heron), in Suidas and Hesychius.

6. The Ptolemaic stadion, 600 podos each 0.35 m = 210 m; 7 of them form a Roman milia passuum, mentioned by Suidas and Hesychius.

Wilhelm Dörpfeld.
VI. Das griechische Stadion.
Mittheilungen des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung. vol 15, part 1, page 177.
Athens: Verlag von Karl Wilberg, 1890.

1.Beiträge zur antiken Metrologie III. in Mittheilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Institute in Athen. vol 8, 1883.

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