« A.U.C. 697 = 57 B.C. »

Plutarch, Cicero 33.7 and Appian, Bell. Civ. 2.16 tell us that Cicero returned to Italy in the 16th month of his political exile in A.U.C. 696/7. Cicero, Epistolares ad Familares 14.4.3 tells us he left Brindisi on prid. Kal. Mai. A.U.C. 696 and, in Ad Atticum 4.1.4 that he returned on Non. Sex. A.U.C. 697. If there were no intercalation in A.U.C. 697, this corresponds to an exile of 15 months and a few days, which matches Plutarch and Appian. Brind'Amour notes that it is possible that Plutarch and Appian's data may be derived from these letters, and hence not be independent information, but considers it unlikely; I concur. Hence A.U.C. 697 was a regular year of 355 days. Since the Julian dates of A.U.C. 698 = 56 are known, this result fixes the Julian dates of A.U.C. 697 = 57.

A datum from the previous year provides a valuable cross-check for the period A.U.C. 697-706 = 57-46, although it is not as precise as is sometimes supposed. Caesar, De Bello Gallico I.6.4, records the day fixed for the departure of an expedition of the Helvetii as a.d. V Kal. Apr. A.U.C. 696. U. Le Verrier, Histoire de Jules César II 491 at 492 noted that if there were three intercalary months, two of 23 days and one of 22, as seemed indicated by other evidence, then this was expedition that would start on the vernal equinox, 24 March 58. He supposed that this was an annual raiding expedition, timed to start at the beginning of a "Celtic" New Year. This coincidence was accepted by Le Verrier, and by certain later writers (e.g. M.-T. Raepsaet-Charlier, Historia 23 (1974) 278) as exact. However, the equation, while suggestive and intriguing, is too precise to be argued from the text, and the whole superstructure of annual raids and Celtic calendars that is built upon it is nothing more than speculation.

Nevertheless, P. Brind'Amour, Le calendrier romain 50, notes that Caesar, De Bello Gallico I.5.5 also states that the Helvetii set forth with three months provisions. If there had been four or more intercalary years in the period, then the start of the expedition was the beginning of March or earlier, meaning that rations were planned to last only till the beginning of June at the latest. Since harvest time in Gaul (France) starts in July, this would, to say the least, have been poor planning by the Helvetii. Hence it is very likely that there were only three intercalations in the period, although the datum does not allow us to determine any exact dates.

Notwithstanding the above, G. Radke, RhM 106 (1963) 313 and again in Fasti Romani 75f., argues that another datum shows that several more intercalations are required in this period. The inscription CIL IX 3513 records a dedication to Jupiter Liber in the Vestinian town of Furfo dated a.d. III Id. Quin. A.U.C. 696, which is equated with the Vestinian month Flusaris. Radke notes that "Flusaris" is better known as "Florialis", and refers to the early spring; in a solar year it corresponds to April. The Vestinian "Jupiter Liber" is identified with the Roman "Jupiter Libertas", whose festival was celebrated, according to the Fasti Antiates Maiores, on a.d. III Id. Apr. -- 89 days before a.d. III Id. Quin. Radke concludes that the discrepancy between the Republican and Julian calendars was therefore 89 days. In order to account for this he supposes that there were not one but two intercalary years of 23 days between A.U.C. 697 = 57 and A.U.C. 702 = 52 (he chooses A.U.C. 698 = 56 and A.U.C. 700 = 54), that A.U.C. 705 = 49 was intercalary (with an intercalation of 31 days!) and that A.U.C. 697 = 57 itself was also intercalary (22 days). As for the Helvetii, Radke supposes that they set forth on their expedition at the time of the winter solstice, 25 December 57, presumably with just enough rations to survive till the beginning of spring!

Aside from the starving Helvetian hordes and the evidentiary difficulties concerning individual years in this sequence, Radke's argument suffers from the rather obvious logical flaw that it assumes that the Vestinian calendar was accurately solar -- if not indeed Julian. This proposition certainly needs to be proved; what little evidence we have says it is simply not true. Censorinus De Die Natali 20.2 says that all the Italian states intercalated months in the same fashion as the Romans, and we have no reason to believe that the others were any more regular than the Romans, nor any better at maintaining a synchronisation to the solar year. If anything, the apparent coincidence of day numbers suggests that the Vestinian calendar was synchronised with and subordinated to the Roman calendar, leaving only a Vestinian festival calendar that was locked three months out of phase with the Roman.  

Website © Chris Bennett, 2001-2011 -- All rights reserved