BMCR 2014.01.46

Response: Levene on Fronda on Levene, Livy on the Hannibalic War

Response to 2013.10.24

Response by

I greatly appreciated Michael Fronda’s thoughtful, careful, and generous review of my book. I did, however, want to take the opportunity to respond to the third of his ‘quibbles’. I had suggested that Livy violated chronology by having Hannibal in 216 winter his troops in Capua in the middle of the year; Fronda argues that in fact there was no violation of chronology, because “ancient armies tended to secure winter quarters in the fall or even late summer,” and indeed Hannibal had done so as early as mid-July in the previous year.

I entirely agree with Fronda on the factual points he raises, but the key detail that reveals that Livy is violating chronology here is not when he shows Hannibal entering winter quarters, but when he shows him leaving them, and what he represents as happening afterwards. According to Livy, Hannibal spent most of the winter in Capua (23.18.10), but left winter quarters “with the winter now growing mild” (23.19.1: mitescente iam hieme); he resumed the siege of Casilinum and captured the city; he then launched a siege of Petelia (23.20.4). The siege of Petelia lasted several months before its capture (23.30.1); after it was concluded, the Carthaginians had time to rapidly capture Consentia (23.30.4) before the new consular year began in Rome on March 15 (23.30.17).

This is an impossible chronology given Livy’s usual assumptions about the relationship between the seasons and the calendar. Indeed, the impossibility is even more apparent in reality, if we accept Fronda’s own argument in his important recent paper1 that in the previous year (217) the Roman calendar was running around six weeks ahead of the solar calendar. If that displacement carried through into 216/15 (and it cannot have changed much in a single year), the new consular year would have begun in early February by the solar calendar, and Hannibal would certainly not have had time before it began to conduct three sieges (one several months long) after leaving winter quarters.


1. M.P. Fronda, “Polybius 3.40, the Foundation of Placentia, and the Roman Calendar (218-217 BC),” Historia 60 (2011) 425-457.