How Was Distance Measured in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, distance measurement was a tricky task. With no advanced technology at their disposal, people had to use their knowledge and creativity to measure distances. Nowadays, we have GPS and various other tools that make distance measurement easy, but it’s still interesting to learn how our ancestors managed this task.

The Egyptian Method

The ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to develop a method for measuring distances. They used a tool called a “rope stretcher” to measure land boundaries.

The rope stretcher was essentially a long rope with knots tied at equal intervals. The rope was stretched between two points, and the knots were counted to determine the distance between them.

The Roman Method

The Romans were also known for their advanced engineering skills, and they developed several methods for measuring distances. One of their most innovative methods involved the use of a device called a “mileometer.”

This device measured the number of revolutions made by a cart wheel over a certain distance. By knowing the circumference of the wheel, they could calculate the distance traveled.

The Greek Method

The Greeks also had their own technique for measuring distances. They used a system called “stadia,” which was based on the length of a stadium track. A stadion was equivalent to 600 feet or 200 meters, and distances were measured in multiples or fractions of stadions.

The Chinese Method

The Chinese invented an instrument called a “groma,” which was used for surveying and measuring distances. The groma consisted of a vertical staff with four arms that extended outwards at right angles. Strings with weights attached hung from each arm, and by sighting along the arms, measurements could be taken.


Distance measurement has come a long way since ancient times. Today we have access to advanced technology that makes it much easier to measure distances accurately.

However, it’s still fascinating to learn how our ancestors managed this task with the limited resources they had. By understanding their methods, we can gain a deeper appreciation for their ingenuity and resourcefulness.