Metric and the Imperial Foot

In a recent lore discussion thread, @Kaizen_Trader_Oramara asks how a metric system came about in the cluster. That is a question best answered by a bit of fiction, I think. So, here it is.

Before the reclamation, each realm on Athra had their own measures of length and weight. Sometimes within one kingdom, there were several measures for the same quantity, depending on the use. For example the unit of volume for wheat and for wine could be different. Some claimed that the conversions made trade difficult, others reveled at the opportunities for swindle.

In Amarr, unsurprisingly, the units were based on the Emperor. The unit of length was the length of the Emperor’s right foot.

Each new Emperor wanted to leave his footprint in history, and decreed that the previous Emperor’s foot should be replaced by the New Foot. Soon, the foot measuring rite became an integral part of the many ceremonies that take place with each coronation. It came with a fancy title (and even fancier costume) for the person measuring the Emperor’s foot during the rite: the Imperial Pedemetitur.

The rite results in a prototype Imperial Foot, a metal bar made from platinum-iridium alloy. It was presented to the people of Dam-Torsad in a special procession during which the Pemedetitur had to hold up the New Foot for everyone to see. The procession went through all districts of ancient Dam-Torsad, so pedemetiturs needed physical training as it is not easy to hold up a heavy-metal bar for hours.

Copies were then made of the bar, and sent all over Amarr to be cemented to the gates of each town. Townsfolk could go to their gate and make their own measuring sticks with the correct Imperial Foot. This was a quite a hassle but also had its advantage since it made townsfolk genuinely hope the new Emperor would live long.

Few were the Emperors that would accept having smaller feet than their predecessors. No Imperial Pedemetitur dared to say the Emperor has small feet. So, over the centuries, foot inflation occurred. The Imperial foot became about as large as our current meter. Pedemetiturs developed stronger arms. Townsfolk believed the Emperors were giants, whereas among nobles, the proverb “having imperial feet” meant pretending you’re richer than you actually are.

Disaster struck when a legless member of the Ardishapur family ascended the imperial throne. Born without feet, but with a strong sense of scientific integrity, he instructed the Pedemetitur to report a size of zero for the new Imperial Foot. The Foot procession went around with the Pedemetitur holding up nothing in his muscled arms.

The Council of Apostles (this is from before the Moral Reforms) was in turmoil. All over Amarr, critical infrastructure was in danger of crashing due to divide-by-zero errors. The Emperor had no choice but to give in.

But, rather than reverting to the previous Emperor’s foot, he chose to base the system of units on universal constants, such as the speed of light and the frequency of spectral lines of atoms. From now on, the meter would be fixed by these constants and no longer change at each coronation. A council, chaired by the Pedemetitur who could easily strong-arm dissidents, was appointed to decide on these science-based units, defined such that they were not much larger or smaller than the human scale. It still took several centuries before the new units became completely accepted throughout Amarrian society, but the legless Emperor was a long-lived one and could see the reform through.