Why IS a mile 5280 feet?


I’ve never understood how a mile came to be such a ridiculous, unrounded number. In fact, the mile has always been the example to prove the inherent superiority of the metric system…

Yesterday in Latin, we ended up discussing the origin of the term ‘mile.’ Apparently, a mile once was a reasonable number – a 1000 paces or mile passus. This came out to about 5000 feet. Thousands of miles were milia passuum (milia is the plural of mile).

I have come up with an experiment to see if Romans were the same size as us… how far do you walk in 1000 steps? I may have to get off the cross-trainer and on to the treadmill to check this one out… unless someone else feels like being a guinea pig for me… any takers?

Nonetheless, i feel comforted knowing that there is sense in the world. Some anyways.


3 thoughts on “Why IS a mile 5280 feet?

  1. Hey Heather, guinea pig here.

    I just measured lenght of my steps walking across the room and hallway. They’re 63.3 cm each, which means that 1 pace = 126.6 cm, times 1000 is 1266m.

    According to wikipedia, it was in the 13th that some queen in England changed the mile to its current definition of 5280 feet, but who believes in wikipedia anyway.



  2. Hi

    Read Prof Robert Tavenor’s book “Smoot’s Ear” if you’re into that kind of stuff. He gives a complete description of the politics behind standard measurements and comparisons and the architectural basis. Its actually a lot more interesting than it sounds.



  3. Those Romans must have had really long strides if they could go 5000 feet in 1000 paces! Five feet per step seems a like a stretch to me!

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