« A.U.C. 505 = 249 B.C. »
The interpretation of the chronological data for this year is controversial.
One of the consuls for this year, P. Claudius Pulcher, set out for Sicily by marching a naval force to the straights of Messina, transporting them to Sicily, and marching along the coast to Drepana (Polybius 1.49). He then manned the fleet, tossed the sacred chickens overboard for not giving the appropriate omen of victory, and attacked the Carthaginian fleet at Drepana, where he was decisively defeated, just as the chooks had predicted he would be. Since he must have left Rome a few weeks after the start of his consulate at the earliest, the battle can't have taken place any sooner than two months after the start of his consulate.
Polybius 1.52.5 states that the Romans then held a consular election and despatched one of the new consuls, L. Junius Pullus, with corn supplies for the beseigers of Lilybaeum; Junius gathered additional corn once he reached Sicily. Having spent some time in Syracuse (Polybius 1.54) he sailed to Lilybaeum, but the fleet was wrecked by a gale en route. Junius then went on to defeat the Carthaginians at the battle of Mt Eryx.
M. G. Morgan, Chiron 7 (1977) 90 at 108 points out that the mention of corn supplies indicates that these events took place fairly well after the harvest, i.e. around September or later. His subsequent actions show clearly that he left well before the onset of winter, while the wreck of the fleet suggests that the sailing season was drawing to a close.
Combined with Polybius' account, this appears to indicate that Junius' consulate started around August or September 249, i.e. that the Roman calendar was up to 8 months ahead of the Julian. The immediate problem with this straightforward analysis is that according to the Fasti consulares Junius was actually Claudius' colleague, not the consul of the following year, and we have seen that Claudius was certainly well into his consulate by this time.
This discrepancy could be resolved in three ways:
By supposing that Polybius' account is in error in that Junius actually held the elections for the following year and immediately left for Lilybaeum before his term of office expired. This would indicate that the consulate of A.U.C. 505 was due to end within a couple of months after September 249, i.e. the Roman calendar is 4-6 months ahead of the Julian calendar.
By supposing that the Fasti consulares are in error. While this is unlikely it is not impossible. The Fasti were redacted in canonical form under Augustus, and variant forms exist for the fourth century. If this is what happened, then two consuls have been lost, and Claudius' date (and that of all earlier consuls) has slipped a year. The result would be that A.U.C. 505 actually began around August or September 249, meaning that the Roman calendar was several months behind the Julian calendar at this time.
M. G. Morgan, Chiron 7 (1977) 90 at 108 argues that the error is Polybius' statement that elections were held. In this case the datum does not establish a synchronism, though the remaining course of events would then be consistent with the rough alignment or sllight retardation between the Roman and Julian calendars at this time that we would expect from the analysis of the previous year, A.U.C. 504 = 250.
Morgan supposes that Polybius, knowing that the consuls normally were both in the field, and knowing that Junius did not leave Rome till well after Claudius, but not knowing why, guessed that the reason was that they were consuls in different years.
The third alternative seems to me the most likely. Additional evidence favouring it is given by the account in Dio Cassius 12.15:
The delay in Junius' departure is explained: he was engaged in building the fleet that would later be wrecked in Sicily, the design of which was based on a prize that Claudius had captured.
About the time of the battle of Mt. Eryx, the Romans appointed A. Atilius Caiatinus as dictator. Since Livy, Periochae 19, describes Caiatinus as the first dictator to leave Italy, he can safely be identified as the unnamed dictator discussed in Dio Cassius 36.34.3 who went to Sicily.
We can estimate that Caiatinus was appointed dictator around October 249. As Morgan points out, if Junius had just conducted an election it makes no sense for the Romans to appoint a dictator, who normally held a 6 month term. Since he went to Sicily he probably served a full term, but the consuls of the following year appear to have assumed office at a normal time. If the consular term started on Kal. Mai. his term would then have started before Kal. Nov. (or Kal. Dec. if the year was intercalary). The non-intercalary dates are probably to be preferred since it was often not known till quite late whether the year would be intercalary or not.
I think we can safely say that Polybius is in error on the start of the consular term. While our information about Caiatinus' term is not awfully strong, the indications we have about it are consistent with a term starting in October 249. The following table gives the dates for Kal. Nov. and Id. Sept. in this year, for 17-23 intercalations between this year and A.U.C. 564 = 190, the most recent year whose dates are certain:
Number of Intercalations Number of intercalated days Kal. Nov. A.U.C. 505
17 374-381 31 Jan. - 17 Feb. 248
18 396-404 8-26 Jan. 248
19 418-437 16 Dec. 249 - 4 Jan. 248
20 440-460 23 Nov. - 13 Dec. 249
21 462-483 31 Oct. - 21 Nov. 249
22 484-506 8-30 Oct. 249
23 506-529 15 Sep. - 8 Oct. 249
Since Kal. Nov. AUC 505 appears to correspond to a date in October, we most likely have 22 intercalations between this year and A.U.C. 564 = 190. There could be 23 if this year itself was intercalary.
The most likely date ranges compatible with the data for Caiatinus are highlighted in blue and bolded. It should also be clear that by this time the accumulated margin of error in the estimated date equations is such that these estimates might well be out by 1 intercalation even if the synchronism with October 249 is correct. Hence 21 intercalations are also marginally possible.
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