stadion

[Greek, σταδίων]

Plural, stadia.

1

In modern Greece, a unit of distance = 1 kilometer (about 0.621 mile).

2

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 meters Asia Minor, southern Italy
Olympic 192.0 m Greece and Sicily
Pergamene 198.0 m  
Aeginetan 199.8 m  
Estimates of the size of the Attic stadion
meters Source
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.

Location of track Distance 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 says the Roman mile passus was 8 stadia long but 34.12.3-4 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.

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.

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