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 p866  Parasanga

Unsigned article on pp863‑864 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

PARASANGA (ὁ παρασάγγης), a Persian measure of length, frequently mentioned by the Greek writers. It is still used by the Persians, who call it ferseng, which has been changed in Arabic into farsakh.

According to Herodotus (II.6, V.53, VI.42) the parasang was the half of the Egyptian schoenus, and was equal to 30 Greek stadia. Suidas (s.v.) and Hesychius (s.v.) assign it the same length; and Xenophon must also have calculated it at the same, as he says (Anab. II.2 § 6) that 16,050 stadia are equal to 535 parasangs (16,050 ÷ 535 = 30). Agathias (II.21), however, who quotes the testimony of Herodotus and Xenophon to the parasang being 30 stadia, says that in his time the Iberi and Persians made it only 21 stadia. Strabo (XI p518) also states, that some writers reckoned it at 60, others at 40, and others at 30 stadia; and Pliny (H. N. VI.26 s. 30) informs us, that the Persians themselves assigned different lengths to it. Modern English travellers estimate it variously at from 3½ to 4 English miles, which nearly agrees with the calculation of Herodotus. These variations may probably be accounted for by the fact, to which attention has been called under Mensura, that itinerary distances were originally indefinite, and therefore that the values of the parasang, at least those given by the earlier Greek writers, were only computed values. This  p867 view is confirmed by the opinion of the best Oriental scholars respecting the etymology of the word (Comp. Ukert, Geogr. d. Griech. u. Röm. vol. I pt. 2, p77, and über die Art d. Gr. u. R. die Entfernungen zu bestimmen.) Its true etymology is doubtful. Rödiger (in Ersch und Graber's Encyclopädie, s.v. Paras.) supposes the latter part of the word to be the same as the Persian seng, "a stone," and the former part to be connected with the Sanskrit pâra, "end," and thinks that it may have derived its name from the stones placed at the end of certain distances on the public roads of Persia.

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