Summary of this page :

- length

- area - (hatched)

- volume and capacity

- weight

- misc.

Welcome to the kingdom of fuzziness.

All the units changed,

After all, compare our weights to those of the Renaissance, only a few centuries away.

- the digit (width of the forefinger - in Latin
*digitus*= finger) - the inch (width of the thumb)
- the foot
- the cubit (
*theoretically*the distance between the elbow and the middle finger) - the pace (or double step)
- the fathom (finger-tip to finger-tip with arms outstreched)

Another unit was the

The remen (+/- 371 mm) was essentially used for land measure.

The main subdivision was the

This royal cubit is obviously inflated - maybe the work of an obsequious courtier who pretended it was Pharaoh's. (My personal cubit makes 470 mm !) There was indeed another "ordinary" cubit of 450 mm.

For those who still think in inches, 1 royal cubit = 20.62 " ; 1 remen = 14.6 " or about and 1 short cubit = 17.67 "

- 1 digit or
*zebo*(= 18.7 mm) - 4 digits = 1 palm or
*shep* - 5 digits = 1 hand
- 12 digits = 3 palms = 1 small span
- 14 digits = 1 large span or 1/2 royal cubit
- 24 digits = 6 palms = 1 ordinary or small cubit (= 450 mm)
- 28 digits = 7 palms = 1 royal cubit or "
*meh*" (= 524 mm) - 100 royal cubits = 1 "
*khet*" (= 52.4 m) - 120 khet = 1 "
*ater*" (later called a "*skhoinos*") (+/- 6288 m)

Its measure varies from 522 to 532 mm.

They had a foot, equal to 2/3 cubit, and a digit equal to 1/30 cubit (therefore 20 digits to a foot.).

There is an exception in Assyria : the cubit is thought to have 640 mm and the foot was 1/2 cubit.

Let's give some examples :

- digit, "
*shusi*" or "*uban*" (+/- 17.67 mm) - 5 uban = 1 "
*qat*" (= 3.18 m) - 6 qat = 1 "
*ammat*" or "*kus*" (cubit of 530 mm - 20.87 ")) - 6 ammat = 1 "
*qanu*" - 60 qanu = 1 "
*sos*" (= 191 m - 209 yards) - 30 sos = 1 "
*parasang*" (later unit ?) (= 5724 m - 3.6 miles) - 2 parasang = 1 "
*kapsu*"

- the unit seems to have 275 mm (name unknown)
- 1/60 gives the "
*susi*" (= 4.58 mm or about 1/4 digit) - 6 units = 1"
*qanu*" (= 1.65 m - fathom ?) - 12 units make for a "
*sa*" (= 3.3 m) - 60 sa = 1 "
*us*" (= 198 m - 217 yards) - and 30 us = 1 "
*kasbu*" (= 5940 m) which is not very different from the previous parasang.

The nameless unit would be 3 palms, and a palm contains 20 susi or 5 digits of 18.3 mm.

NB: my sources of information are quite eclectic, not forgetting the contributors ... one sentence in a book, one figure in a magazine, etc. Nevertheless let's make a special mention for the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

**In Persia ** we had :

- the cubit or "
*arasni*" (520 to 543 mm) - 1/2 cubit, "
*vitasti*" or "*charac*" - 2 cubits = 1 "
*guz*" - 360 cubits = 1 stadion or "
*asparsa*" (187 to 195 m) - 30 stadions = 1 "
*parathanka*" (or parasang) (= 5610 to 5850 m) - there is also mention of a "
*mansion*" equal to 80 000 Assyrian feet (= 25.6 km)

There was also an older foot of 316 mm equal to 3/5 of a big cubit - 527 mm

- 1 digit or "
*daktylos*" - plural : "*daktyloi*" (= 19.3 mm) - 2 digits = 1 "
*condylos*" - 4 digits = 1 "
*palaiste*" - 8 digits = 1 "
*dichas*" - 12 digits = 1 "
*spithame*" - 16 digits = 1 "
*pous*" or foot - plural "*podes*" (= 309 mm) - 20 digits = 1 "
*pygon*" - 24 digits = 1 "
*pechya*" or small cubit - 40 digits = 1 "
*bema*" - 72 digits = 4.5 feet = 1 "
*xylon*" - 6 feet = 1 "
*orgyia*" (or fathom - 1.854 m) - 10 feet = 1 "
*akaina*" - 100 feet = 1 "
*plethron*" - 600 feet or 6 plethra = 1 "
*stadion*" (+/- 185.4 m) - 2 stadia = 1 "
*diaulos*" - 6 diauloi = 1 "
*dolichos*" - there was also a "
*stathmos*", poorly defined - estimated by some authors as 25.8 km (16 miles) - is it another name for "*mansion" ?*

(Did you ever read Xenophon ? I had to.)

The

It is found also in Etruria. The system absorbed several units from conquered territories.

- 1 digit or "
*digitus*" = 18.44 mm - 1 inch or "
*uncia*" = 24.58 mm (inch derives from uncia, meaning 1/12 - same root as "ounce") - 4 digits or 3 inches = 1 small palm or "
*minor palmus*" - 12 digits or 9 inches = 1 large palm or "
*major palmus*" - 16 digits or 12 inches = 1 foot or "
*pes*" (= 295 mm) - 24 digits or 18 inches = 1 cubit or "
*cubitus*" - 5 feet = 1 pace or "
*passus*" - with its half = "*gradus*" and its quarter = "*palmites*" - 10 feet or 2 paces = 1 "
*decempeda*" - 120 feet or 24 paces = 1 "
*actus*" - 625 feet or 125 paces = 1 "
*stadium*" (= 184.4 m) - 1000 paces or 8 stadia = 1 "
*milliarium*" or "*mille passus*" (+/- 1475 m)

The name is, of course, at the origin of "mile".

**Rem :** Let's come back to accuracy : when the Romans started to organize Northern Gaul and Germania, they used a "Drusian" or "Belgian" foot which was 2 digits longer, or 325 to 330 mm (12.9 ") - rather close to the feet of early medieval England.

Originally, the cubit was used - the same as the royal cubit in Egypt. Later, the smaller cubit took over.

- the digit or "
*esba*" (18.75 mm) - 4 digits = 1 palm or "
*tophah*" - 12 digits or 3 palms = 1 "
*zeret*" - 24 digits or 6 palms = 1 small cubit or "
*amma*" (= 450 mm or 17.72 ") - 7 palms = 1 old cubit

Examples : the stick used in Ezek **40** 5 is 6 old cubits long (or 3.15 m - 10' 4")

If your Bible includes 2 M, you'll find in **11** 5 the name "schoene" : it is simply a parasang (from "skhoinos")

Still under construction. I enjoy it ! Please come back from time to time.

All comments, corrections and additions are welcome. Become a contributor.

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*Last updated : Oct. 24, 1997*

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