« A.U.C. 537 = 217 B.C. »

We have three synchronisms that enable us to bound the dates of this year:

All things considered, it seems to me that there is a much better case for equating Argive Panemos with Athenian Hekatombaion than with Skirophorion, Metageitnion, Bodroemion or Pyanepsion, although Metageitnion is not excluded, and indeed may occasionally have corresponded due to phase differences between the Argive and Athenian calendars in the insertion of embolimos months. Assuming Panemos (Arg.) = Hekatombaion (Ath.), we can date the Nemean Games in this particular year, 18 Panemos (Argive), approximately to 25 July 217.

We are finally in a position to determine the number of intercalations between A.U.C. 537 = 217 and A.U.C. 564 = 190, the most recent year whose dates are certain. The estimated dates for Lake Trasimene for different intercalation values are given in the following table:

Number of Intercalations   Number of intercalated days      Julian date of a.d. X Kal Quin. A.U.C. 537
     A.U.C. 537-564                                                           

              5                              110-115                                         2-7 August 217
              6                              132-138                                       10-16 July 217    
              7                              154-161                                       17-24 June 217  
              8                              176-184                                    25 May - 2 June 217
              9                              198-207                                        2-11 May 217

The value that places the battle of Lake Trasimene in mid-June, as required by the Polybian evidence, is seven intercalations. This is the same conclusion reached by P. Brind'Amour, Le calendrier romain 161, but on a fallacious dating of the Nemean Games, which gave far too little time to allow the news to reach Argos by 26 June, let alone for Philip V to complete the series of actions ascribed to him by Polybius. Six or less can be ruled out for the same reason on the dating determined here for the Nemean Games. Eight could be possible, but if the Polybian synchronism with the siege of Thebes is correct it would place the siege too close to the Argolid harvest. Nine intercalations (per P. S. Derow, Historia 30 (1976) 265 at 275f.) places the battle well before that harvest. It also places Id. Mart. A.U.C. 537 in the range 16-25 January 217 which is too far before the Sicilian eclipse.

Id. Mart. A.U.C. 537 therefore lies in the range 3-10 March 217 and the battle of Lake Trasimene was fought between 17 and 24 June 217. If the conjecture offered here for the Eclipse of Ennius is correct, the actual dates were 3 March and 17 June 217 are assumed here.

Derow's reconstruction was based on the a priori assumption that intercalation in this period exactly followed the principle of intercalations of alternating length in alternating years described in Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.13.11-14. He then argued that the accounts of Hannibal's campaigns given by Livy and Polybius supported this scheme. However, the indications they give for the time taken for key steps in the sequence of events are too imprecise to accept this analysis as definitive. Indeed, since Derow's scheme has Hannibal starting to prepare his winter quarters in July/August -- high summer -- one could reasonably argue that in fact the same data is sufficient to show that Derow's scheme is too early.

Nevertheless, there is one contraindication that, taken in isolation, does appear to favour Derow's scheme. According to Livy, Q. Fabius Maximus was granted dictatorial powers shortly after Lake Trasimene (Livy 22.8), and gave up command to the consuls of that year "while there was still some time left in autumn" (Livy 22.32). Since the term of a Republican dictatorship was fixed at 6 Roman months, this corresponds, at the very earliest, to a date in late December 217 on the scheme proposed here. By no stretch of the imagination can such a date be regarded as a date in autumn. However, Polybius 3.106.1 says that Fabius gave up his command after the consuls of the next year had been elected, and that the incoming consuls appointed the consuls of the previous year, as proconsuls, to command the armies against Hannibal. The simplest way to explain this apparent contradiction is to suppose that Livy, who used Polybius as a primary source, overlooked this nuance when composing his account, and interpreted the fact that the proconsuls took up active command immediately to mean that the campaigning season of the previous year was not yet over.

The same datum suggests that this year was not intercalary. The term of Fabius' dictatorship must have expired in Ianuarius or Februarius. The fact that the new consuls had already been elected and were ready to take up office suggests that the interval between the end of his dictatorship and the start of the next consular term was short, which would not be the case if there was an intercalary month at this point.

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