I don’t know about you, but i’ve always wondered that: why the mile is 5,280 feet? I mean, why not 5,000 or something? Who decided that a mile should be 20 feet shy of 5,300 feet or 80 feet more than 5,200 feet?
Well, the answer is quite interesting and it all has to do with with Great Britain being invaded by the Romans.
Here’s how it goes. (the article continues after the ad)
Ancient Romans used a measuring unit called paces when calculating land distances. One pace was defined as two steps, which is roughly 5 feet. The largest unit used by Romans that was based on the pace was the “millia passuum” which actually means “a thousand paces”; and since one pace was equal to 5 feet, a “millia passuum” was 5,000 feet.
At around 55 B.C. when the Romans conquered Great Britain, the British adopted the “millia passuum” but shortened the name to “mile”. The British also used their own unit of land measure at the time which was called a furlong. The furlong was 660 feet and it was the approximate length an oxen can plow an ordinary field without resting.
Since the furlong was used extensively in surveying, and the mile was becoming quite popular, in order to make things simpler, a decision was made that the mile should be a whole number of furlongs. Therefore, in 1575, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law changing the mile to 5,280 feet which is exactly 8 furlongs. And that is why a mile is 5,280 feet.
And now you know!