« A.U.C. 547 = 207 B.C. »

The sequence of events given by Livy leading up to the battle of the Metaurus, in which the army of Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal was annihilated, is as follows:

  1. Livy 27.36 notes that the Romans had received intelligence that Hasdrubal intended to cross the Alps as soon as possible in the spring.

  2. Livy 27.37 notes that the consuls, M. Livius and C. Claudius Nero, did not leave Rome until at least the 9th day into their turn of office, and implies (Livy 27.38) that it was not until at least 16 (two sets of "nine", i.e. eight days). Thus the consuls left Rome c. Kal. Apr. or possibly even later.
  3. Livy 27.38 reports that the consuls then proceeded to conduct a levy. Livius decided to train his troops rather than to depart immediately to meet Hasdrubal on his descent from the Alps.
  4. Livy 27.39 reports that the consuls received reports from Gaul that Hasdrubal had commenced crossing the Alps, apparently earlier than expected, and therefore the consuls left for their provinces earlier than planned. Moreover Hasdrubal crossed the Alps much more quickly than anyone expected, but he then wasted time by beseiging Piacenza.
  5. Livy 27.41 and 27.42 describe a series of engagements between Claudius and Hannibal lasting about a week, after which Claudius pursued Hannibal towards Metapontum.
  6. Livy 27.43 describes the interception of messengers from Hasdrubal to Hannibal at this time which caused Claudius immediately to begin a forced march to the north.
  7. Livy 27.45 stresses the unusual speed of the march to the north.
  8. Livy 27.47 dates the battle of the Metaurus to the second day following the joining of the two Roman armies.

P. S. Derow, Historia 30 (1976) 265 at 280 and N. Prack, Der römische Kalendar (264-168 v. Chr.) 99ff. focus on estimating the length of Claudius' campaign and his forced march in order to estimate the approximate Julian date of the battle of the Metaurus. It seems to me that the better point of correspondence to focus on is the date of Hasdrubal's march over the Alps. There are two points to note:

  1. The debate about whether to try to meet Hasdrubal as he descended from the Alps to Italy shows that if the Roman troops had left as soon as the levy was assembled it would have been possible, on a normal spring crossing schedule, to do this.

    Since the levy did not commence till the beginning of Aprilis, the earliest point of departure would have been around Id. Apr. or a bit later. Assuming three weeks or so to march north at a normal pace, the Roman troops would have been in position around Non. Mai. or a little later.

    A normal spring departure time for crossing the Alps would be around the equinox, c. 25 March. Assuming that it was expected to take Hasdrubal the same 15 days it had taken Hannibal (Livy 21.38) he would descend into Italy around 7-8 April.

    Hence this datum suggests that Non. Mai. A.U.C. 547 was very roughly around 7 April 207, i.e. the Roman calendar was about a month ahead of the Julian at this time.

  2. In the event, the consuls received news of Hasdrubal's departure for the crossing before they had completed the planned training.

    This suggests that the news was received towards the end of Aprilis. Assuming it had taken a couple of weeks to reach Rome, Hasdrubal must have set off near the start of Aprilis. Since he evidently left very early in the Alpine crossing season, we can therefore estimate that early Aprilis corresponded to early-mid March. Again, it appears that the Roman calendar was about a month ahead of the Julian one.

There were 4 intercalations between A.U.C. 544 = 210 and A.U.C. 564 = 190, the most recent year whose dates are certain, and 2 between A.U.C. 551 = 203 and A.U.C. 564 = 190. The following table gives the possible date ranges for Id. Apr. A.U.C. 547 assuming 2-4 intercalations between this year and A.U.C. 564 = 190.

Number of Intercalations   Number of intercalated days      Julian date of Id. Apr. A.U.C. 547
     A.U.C. 547-564                                                           

              2                               44-46                                  24-26 April 207
              3                               66-69                                    1-4 April 207
              4                               88-92                                  9-13 March 207 

Clearly, the data supports four intercalations. Further, in view of the anxiety caused by news of Hasdrubal's plans, it seems unlikely that there was an intercalation at the end of the previous year, since this would have delayed the entry of new consuls into offce.

Per P. S. Derow, Historia 30 (1976) 265 at 280, the remainder of Livy's account suggests that Claudius spent about a month or a little more pursuing Hannibal before engaging in his forced march, which must have taken him at least a couple of weeks. If the armies left Rome late March, as discussed above, then the Metaurus must have been fought mid-late May. If the above equation is correct, we would expect the Roman date of the battle to be the latter part of Iunius.

The date of the battle can be determined from Ovid, Fasti 6.770. This gives the suicide of Hasdrubal as occuring on the same date as the defeat of Syphax at Cirta, i.e. a.d. IX or a.d. VII Kal. Quint. As with the battle of Cirta, the exact date is not important here, since we are only seeking to establish the number of intercalations.

In order to fix the year of Ovid's event we must first decide which of the several known Hasdrubals he is referring to. There are really only two possibilities. Livy 27.49 describes the death of Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, in the battle of the Metaurus, when he deliberately sought death in battle after seeing that his army was being annihilated. The Metaurus was a great and glorious Roman victory, and a major turning point in the Second Punic War. Since the date of Hasdrubal's death is coupled with that of the defeat of Syphax, the event was surely at least as important. Therefore it seems very unlikely that Ovid can be referring to anything but the battle of the Metaurus.

However, Hasdrubal did not literally die by his own hand. For this reason, it has been suggested instead that Ovid is actually referring to the death of Hasdrubal son of Gisgo, who did commit suicide by poison, in A.U.C. 552 = 202. But the circumstances of the death of Hasdrubal son of Gisgo did not directly involve Roman action, nor were they exactly glorious. Moreover, it is clear from the account in Appian, De Bello Punica 7.38, that this event occurred shortly before the battle of Zama, which occurred around December, not Iunius. Thus, Ovid cannot be referring to the death of Hasdrubal son of Gisgo, and I see no reason to doubt that he is actually describing the battle of the Metaurus. 

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