« A.U.C. 496 = 258 B.C. »
Polybius 1.24.9 notes that the incoming consuls for this year, A. Atilius Caiatinus and C. Sulpicius Paterculus, attacked the Carthaginians who were wintering at Panormus. If taken literally, as M. G. Morgan, Chiron 7 (1977) 89 at 97, wishes to do, this suggests that the attack took place in early March 258.
The following table gives the dates for Kal. Mai. in this year, for 24-28 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. Mai. A.U.C. 496
24 528-552 27 May - 20 June 258
25 550-575 4-29 May 258
26 572-598 11-27 Apr. 258
27 594-621 19 Mar. - 15 Apr. 258
28 616-644 24 Feb. - 22 Mar. 258
The best match is given by 28 intercalations between this year and A.U.C. 564 = 190. However, given the results for A.U.C. 499 = 255, this match can only be reached by supposing that this year and the next two years in a row were all intercalary. While long runs of regular years are known, as are occasional pairs of consecutive intercalations, a run of three (or more) intercalations is unprecedented in Roman chronology. It is not impossible; one could suppose that the extra month was added to extend the term of each consul for several years running. But since Intercalaris was in mid-winter at this time regardless of the date of the start of the consular term it is hard to see what the benefit of doing this was. Hence I have to reject this possibility as being extremely unlikely.
In each case one fewer intercalation would still give a date in late March 258 if the lengths of intercalations were biased towards 23 days rather than 22. M. G. Morgan, Chiron 7 (1977) 89 at 92 and n. 13 argues that there are no grounds to doubt the literal accuracy of the term "wintering" on every other occasion Polybius uses it. But Polybius is only as good as his sources on the First Punic War, who are now lost to us, and in fact this is the first time he uses the term. Morgan himself notes that "inactivity could descend on Punic generals at the most inopportune moments." This would require us to suppose that the Carthaginians were somewhat dilatory in leaving their winter quarters, but not negligently so, especially if it were a bad spring.
The date ranges compatible with the data are highlighted in blue. The preferred solution is bolded.
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