« A.U.C. 504 = 250 B.C. »
Polybius 1.39.15 notes that the consuls for this year, C. Atilius Regulus and L. Manlius Vulso, changed Roman strategy by assembling a fleet. In the meantime, the Carthaginians sought to defeat the Roman army then led by the previous year's consul, L. Caecilius Metellus, at Panormus. Polybius 1.40.1 notes that Hasdrubal sought to attack the Romans at the height of the harvest -- in Sicily, in early June.
M. G. Morgan, Chiron 7 (1977) 89 at 104 proposes two Roman synchronisms for this date. First, Dio Cassius 11.29a notes that the Carthaginian fleet appeared off the coast during the battle. Morgan argues that this fleet was intended to intercept the Roman fleet, which could be expected to appear in Sicily, lead by Regulus and Vulso, in May or so. Hence he infers that the Roman year was at most a couple of weeks behind the Julian year at this time. While this is very plausible, and probably right, it seems unsafe to me to base a chronological conclusion solely upon an inference about the unstated purpose of a military action which is only mentioned tangentially, especially since there is no mention of the actual appearance of a Roman fleet.
His second argument seems to me to be rather stronger. He notes that the Fasti triumphales date Metellus' triumph for Panormus to a.d. VII Non. Sept. Dio Cassius 11.29a states that Metellus transported 120 elephants from Sicily to Rome for this triumph (cf. Pliny, NH 8.6). Noting that the elephants will not have been able to move faster than 20 miles a day, and almost certainly slower, and that they had to be fed en route, Morgan argues that this will have taken at the very least 5 weeks, and more likely around 8 weeks; and that it will have taken an additional week or so for the triumph to have been applied for and awarded. Hence he concludes that Metellus cannot have left Panormus any later than about Kal. Quint., and that this will have been no sooner than a week or so after the battle in order to allow for a change in command. Hence he infers again that the Roman calendar was approximately aligned to the Julian calendar at this time. While there is obviously some leeway in this analysis, its not much, and the argument seems perfectly reasonable to me. However, the conclusion that Kal. Quint. must have fallen in early-mid June seems to me to be overly precise. On Morgan's figures, Metellus could have left Sicily in early-mid August and still have reached Rome in mid-late October, before the onset of winter.
This conclusion is independent of the date of the start of the consulate. However it does depend on the assumption that Panormus was fought in this year, not the previous year when Metellus was consul. Polybius is somewhat unclear on this point, since he introduces Metellus by noting that his colleague had left for Rome, but his mention of Regulus and Vulso before giving an account of the battle makes most sense if they had already become consuls at this point. Further, Morgan's calculations on the march of the elephants places their departure around Kal. Quint. A.U.C. 504 no matter whether the battle was fought in June 250 or June 251. If it was fought in June 251, while Metellus was still consul, he could not have waited much longer than two months to start moving his elephants to Rome if he wanted to have got them there before winter, but for him to have left immediately after the battle would have been tantamount to abandoning his post. Hence he would have had to wait in Sicily -- and look after the elephants -- until at least the following spring. But, either way, he would be looking after a herd of at least 120 idle elephants for the better part of a year. A chronology which has him leaving Sicily soon after the battle in the year following his consulate makes much more sense.
The following table gives the dates for Kal. Quint. in this year, for 19-24 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 Julian date of Kal. Quint. A.U.C. 504
19 418-437 29 Aug. - 17 Sept. 250
20 440-460 6 - 26 Aug. 250
21 462-483 14 July - 4 Aug. 250
22 484-506 21 June - 13 July 250
23 506-529 29 May - 21 June 250
24 528-552 6 - 30 May 250
Taking the synchronism in isolation, there were between 20 and 23 intercalations between this year and A.U.C. 564 = 190. Since there were most likely 22 or (less likely) 23 intercalations between A.U.C. 505 = 249 and A.U.C. 564 = 190, there were 22 or 23 intercalations between this year and A.U.C. 564 = 190. The possible solutions are given in blue. Note that a secondary result of this calculation is that at most one of A.U.C. 504 and 505 were intercalary.
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