[NTG-context] OT world history: other measuring systems?

BPJ bpj at melroch.se
Thu Jan 27 08:23:17 CET 2022

Den ons 26 jan. 2022 09:44Otared Kavian via ntg-context <ntg-context at ntg.nl>

> > On 26 Jan 2022, at 00:17, Hans Hagen via ntg-context <ntg-context at ntg.nl>
> wrote:
> > […]
> > times (clocks) were definitely different per city
> Regarding the issue of the absolute necessity of defining a standard time
> the book by Peter Galison « Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps » gives some
> interesting insight. In particular, since after the mid 19th century trains
> were developed while the time was not standardized, many accidents happened
> with hundreds of people killed. This led Henri Poincaré, Lorentz and
> Einstein (among other mathematcians and physicists) to th enotion of
> relativity…
> Regarding the measure of the distance, area, volumes and weight indeed
> each region of the world had its own units because the trade and exchange
> of products were essentially local. With the progressive extension of the
> exchanges between regions and countries the need for a standardization
> appeared more and more.
> For example the problem of measuring grains is a quite difficult one: if
> one measures the weight, depending on how much humidity the grains contain,
> one has different amount of the real stuff. If one measures the volume of
> the grains, then according how compressed they are, the amount of the
> grains may be different… (at some point there was a law which stated that
> when a unit vessel of grains was to be sold, the seller should struck the
> bottom of the vessel on a table three times and then refill again sthe
> vessel for it to be full).
> The measure of the distances on roads in the Persian empire had one unit
> and one subunit: « parasang » and « mil ». Parasang, which means « big
> stone » in Persian, was the average distance which a fantassin could walk
> in a certain amount of time, and was marked by a large piece of stone on
> the road (this is also reported by Herodotus). Each parasang was divided
> into three « mil », which means « iron bar » in Persian, and was marked by
> planting an iron bar on the road side. A parasang is between 5400 and 6000
> meters, and thus a « mil » is something about 1800 and 2000 meters. These
> units were used in many areas outside the Persian empire, and are still
> used, in particular the parasang, in Iran and Afghanistan (in Iran a
> parasang is 6 kilometers now).

(Personnaly I think the Roman mile has its origin in the Persian « mil »: I
> think the etymology of the word mile based on the word « mille », a
> thousand, cannot be correct since it does not correspond to one thousand of
> any other unit of length used in the Roman empire).

The unit of which the Roman mile was a thousand was a pace, which was
otherwise not commonly used as a measurement. The full Latin term is _milia
passum_, literally 'a thousand of steps', i.e. of a military unit on march.

I wonder if _mil_ as a Persian unit of measurement isn't spurious, or in
fact a Greek (or e.g. Phrygian) word since Old Persian did not have any /l/
sound. At least in the OP script PIE _*l_ has merged totally with _*r_. In
Middle Persian OP _rd_ became _l_. Possibly that happened early in the
spoken language.


> Best regards: Otared
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