« A.U.C. 512 = 242 B.C. »

Polybius 1.59.8 notes that a consul for this year, Q. Lutatius Catulus, took command of the Roman fleet at the beginning of summer, i.e. c. May. Sometime thereafter, after putting Drepana (Trapani) under siege, he defeated the fleet that the Carthaginians had assembled in the meantime to relieve the city at the battle of the Aegates Insulae, the concluding battle of the first Punic War. Polybius gives the impression that the interval was not too long, a matter of a few months. The battle is dated to a.d. VI Id. Mart. of this year by Eutropius 2.27.2, and Orosius 4.11 records under this year that the portents preceding the battle included a major flood at Rome, which must therefore have occurred in the first months of 241.

Since Polybius does not mention the passage of a winter, there are two ways to interpret this data.

Number of Intercalations   Number of intercalated days      Julian date of a.d. VI Id. Mart. A.U.C. 512
     A.U.C. 511-564                                                           

              16                              352-368                                   16 April - 2 May 241
              17                              374-391                                 24 March - 10 April 241    
              18                              396-414                                      1-19 March 241

Number of Intercalations   Number of intercalated days     Kal. Mai. A.U.C. 512
     A.U.C. 512-564                                                           

              16                              352-368                    17 June - 3 July 242
              17                              374-391                    25 May - 11 June 242        
              18                              396-414                    2 - 20 May 242
              19                              418-437                    9 - 28 April 242

Dates that appear to be compatible with the data are highlighted in blue.   The preferred solution is bolded.

Clearly, there is only one solution that fits both data items: A.U.C. 512 itself was intercalary, and was followed by 18 intercalations before A.U.C. 537 = 217. The Roman year was aligned with the Julian at its end and slightly ahead at its beginning.

Regardless of the synchronisation between Julian and Roman calendars, there is a specific indication in the data for this year that the consulate started well after Id. Mart. Dio Cassius 12.17.3 notes that Catulus was anxious to make peace after the battle since his term of office was about to conclude. In the time between the battle and the conclusion of peace, the following events occurred:

It is not possible to complete these steps in 5 days. The only possible way to square this sequence of events with a consulate starting on Id. Mart. is to suppose that Catulus negotiated with a deputation from Drepana rather than Carthage itself, and that the final negotiations were actually concluded in the next year. This contradicts Dio's text, but could be compatible with the dynamics of the situation. However, it requires Catulus to be certain that Carthage would accept the terms agreed with the Drepana garrison. On the whole, it seems safest to assume that the consulate started on Kal. Mai.

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