Tag Archives: Italy

Measuring distance in Rome

roman.measure
The Romans borrowed religion, art, architecture and literature from the people they conquered to make a hodge-podge, eclectic culture for themselves. Mostly they borrowed from the Greeks—the Greek gods got Latin names. Ares (the god of war) became Mars. Zeus became Jupiter, Hera became Juno, Poseidon became Neptune, Aphrodite became Venus.

The Romans also borrowed technology. They measured distance the same way the Egyptians and Greeks did, by using parts of a typical grown man for standardized units.

finger—digitus (1/16 of a pes)
thumb-joint—uncia (inch, 1/12 of a pes)
four fingers—palmus (1/4 of a pes)
foot—pes (plural: pedes)
one step—gradus (2.5 pedes)
pace—passus (5 pedes)

For longer distances, a mile (mille passus) was 1000 passus or 5000 pedes. (I hope I’m getting the plurals right—https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/passus)

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space

A Servant to Two Masters

A Servant to Two Masters opens at the O’Reilly Theater in Pittsburgh, PA this Thursday. It’s an old commedia dell’arte-style farce updated to modern-day Venice. “Our hilarious hero, Truffaldino, will stop at nothing to stuff his face, even if it means working for two bosses at the same time. Laughs pile on top of laughs as he tries to keep both masters happy, hook up with the delectable Smeraldina, and have his fill of fettuccini.”

To celebrate, here is the art I was commissioned to create for the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s promotional materials. The design is by my brilliant pal, Paul Schifino. We’re looking at the first rough ideas through tight sketches to final art.