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caldrail

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Everything posted by caldrail

  1. caldrail

    What Made Caligula Crazy?

    I really dislike this 'disease' paradigm. I've sen all sorts of preposterous ailments put forward for just about every notable historical character that attempts to justify why he was so colourful. It seems to be a facet of human psychology that some seek diverse answers that sound clever and satisfy a need for diversity in thinking. I'm not convinced at all. The Roman sources are very keen to point out character flaws and love anecdotes of odd behaviour. The truth is that humanity is not quite sane and sensible. In any modern society you will find plenty of oddballs and powerful maniacs. It's that oddness that helps propel someone to positions of note - those of us less able to tolerate or exhibit unconventional behaviour do seem to find something beyond their conformity hard to understand. it's why they remain among the faceless crowd whilst those prepared to be different take centre stage. It happens in all walks of life. But necrotic viruses eating people? Strange mental conditions causing aggression and domination? It's all hokum.
  2. It depends on the period. Republican era gladiators, at least before Spartacus' revolt, were not viewed as especially valuable because slaves were so common, primarily prisoners of war. After Spartacus, more effort was made in training and practises introduced to prevent them becoming a threat, such as keeping speakers of the same language (other than latin) apart. Principate era gladiators were the professionals we normally think of. Note the photograph above. Neither conforms to an established class and are dressed incorrectly. No gladiator wore a breastplate - the chest was left bare as the major vulnerable area (thus a quick thrust ended the fight in a clean manner). Nor did gladiators wear tunics or robes under their equipment, for various reasons, including the possibility that bladders could be hidden and a false result concluded. Neither gladiator has a padded right arm (this was to protect the fighter from bruising himself on his own shield, the same reason for padding the left leg) Dominate era gladiators suffered from a change in emphasis. Gone were the days when the crowd thrilled at the sight of a real swordfight. Now they wanted more theatre, thus more exotic weapons designed to wound rather than kill were introduced, leading to fights where it was down to who had the best endurance against wounding as much as fitness. But then, these were also the days when gladiatorial combat was increasingly looked down upon. Septimius Seversus had already banned female gladiators, and in 393 theodosius banned pagan rituals (which was what the gladiator fights were about in theory at least) whilst in 404 Honorius banned them outright - though fights in remote areas persisted where christians weren't able to stop them. Value depended on success. A tiro gladiator had roughly a one third chance of dying in his first fight, and good chance of being paired with a veteran fighter. Eventually, with survival and experience, a gladiator could reach survival chances of about 8 in 9. Only a small proportion of human beings are natural fighters and this was reflected in the survival rates. Typically a volunteer could expect to sign on for five years. Shorter or longer contracts existed, but five was the norm. It was also usual for a gladiator who survived four years (the life expectancy of a gladiator incidentially) to be set aside as a Doctores, a trainer, such as the character Marcellus in the Kirk Douglas film Spartacus. Gladiators were owned as troupes either by lanistas or private individuals (Cicero praises his friend Attalus in a letter for his excellent troupe of fighters). When fighters for games were required, a contract would be arranged between the games organiser and the owner. It was usual for compensation at fifty times the rental price for a fighters death. In other words, the games editor had to weigh carefully which was preferable when the crowd booed a contestant who could not continue - to please the crowd, or avoid a massive bill. Some gladiators were owned as bodyguards, some by military officers who used them to train soldiers in fighting tricks - laughable when you read how useless gladiators were in battle. The gladiator was allowed to keep a proportion of the prize money. This was how gladiators got wealthy if they survived. In fact, the potential money was the biggest draw for volunteers, though some clearly dreamt of super stardom in the arena. It was possible for a gladiator to buy his freedom though in truth I haven't seen much evidence for that. In fact, it was noted that gladiators formed strong ideas about performance and pleasing their owners. Although the troupe was a familia, men fought their best friends if need be. there's an inscription on one funerary monument that a man should be careful who he spares - since although a fighter could spare an opponent, refusing an order to kill him was rebellion and the normal practice was to bring in a fresh opponent until the refuser lost. Fights to the death? Well, they did happen, because Augustus banned fights sine missione (without mercy) but these weren't the norm. A fight was supposed to continue until one or the other could not manage any more, either by exhaustion or wounds, and a decision was made on his fate. Missio, the honourable release of a loser, was quite common - costs being what they were. Obviously swordfighting was dangerous and hence a man could be killed outright. Demo fights in the morning would end at the first blood, professional bouts in the afternoon were serious, with rest periods if the match went on a long time (this practice tended to vanish in the Dominate where exhaustion was part of the drama). On the other hand, we have Seneca visiting the arena one lunchtime and he was horrified at the spectacle of death. Hoping to see some entertainment, he reports that "It was sheer murder out there". So sometimes, orderly contests went by the board.
  3. caldrail

    Gladiatrix - source?

    Interesting, because the padding would only apply to one leg (the one leading which would be under her shield and therefore prone to bruising injuries). Sources mention female gladiators in passing, from their arrival as comedy sets during the reign of Nero to their ban as proper fighters by Septimius Severus. I don't know the source you're looking for but it would seem to be a private letter.
  4. caldrail

    Overlaps, Based on True Events, and Historical Fictions

    Giants are universally present in ancient literature in some form or fashion. Even the Bible mentions a race of them (There is currently a belief in many researchers that a race of giant hominoids lived on Sardinia. So far real evidence is lacking among accusations of cover-ups and conspiracy theories, but to be honest, giant species wouldn't normally evolve on an island - the small enviroment tends to promote smaller individuals). But culture can adopt literature all too easily. The classic example is the "Holy Grail". There was a 'Holy Chalice' mentioned in three biblical gospels, but the Grail - not originally holy, first arrives in the late twelth century as a prop in a story called Perceval written by Chretien Des Troyes. The hero witnesses a ritual in which the grail is used, but the author died before finishing it, so we don't discover exactly what it is. Some time later Robert De Boron wrote Joseph D'Aramathie, which describes the Grail in a christian context for the first time. The christian church has long been happy to fuse the two objects together and now around two hundred objects are claimed to be the Grail. Then of course you have that silly Blood Royal alternative. In other words, people are seeking reality from a prop in a medieval romance. Just don't get me started on the Bible
  5. That sort of parallel has been on forums for the last twenty years. Strictly speaking, the context is wildly different thus a true comparison is not possible. However, the recent indecisive politics in British Parliament has made me wonder about the parallel with the senate of the late Republic. Of itself, merely a phase we're going through, since really it's effective and charismatic leadership we lack. But on the other hand, the chaotic factionalism makes me wonder if we're risking extremist government in the same way that the Senate failed to obstruct the rise of warlords in the period I previously mentioned. If so, we're in danger of a government we really don't want. On the other hand, as has been said a number of times on television interviews with politicians and members of the public, we're British, and therefore will eventually muddle through irrespective of the ridiculous situation we've created for ourselves.
  6. caldrail

    Heirs of Augustus

    I really need to reread the sources at some point - I can't find the quote I was thinking of. However, I did note that Casius Dio mentions the suspicion of her involvement in the death of Marcellus and Tacitus is none too full of praise of her. Augustus was said to have died while kissing her, telling her to remember their marriage as he said goodbye, but one suspects this was normal Roman dramatics and the anecdote shouldn't be taken too seriously.
  7. caldrail

    Heirs of Augustus

    Suetonius reported that many thought Livia was guilty of machinations to get her son (by a previous husband) Tiberius into succession. There were some suspicious deaths. Marcellus died of an illness - Augustus had apparently caught the same bug but survived, and so did his sons Gaius and Lucius.
  8. caldrail

    What would happen if a commoner wore Toga Picta

    The Romans were intensely aware of social status and the privileges accrued. Sitting in the wrong seat at the theatre in the days of the Principate was seen as breaching this sort of thing. Wearing a toga you weren't entitled to was likely to end in something ridiculously harsh (Caligula executed a visiting foreign king because he wore an especially fine purple cloak to a public event). Much depended on who you were. A commoner, humiliores, would expect the most extreme punishments anyway. According to degree of offence, the guilty man (or rather ignorant victim) could be burned alive, set upon by wild beasts in the arena, required to fight over a dagger in the arena as a noxus, the winner required to pass the dagger to the next criminal ushered into the arena, or enslavement in manual labour (the least deadly option and even then not survivable for any length of time, and please note, galley oarsmen were professional sailors in ancient Rome, not slaves)
  9. caldrail

    Treatment of conquered land and peoples

    Cassius Dio mentions a number of times how someone was made a slave of. He's not talking about legal servitude as a servant, but rather that the individual was in a position such that he was obliged to do as he was told. My views on colonialism are guided very much by archeology but also the sources, which occaisionsally give off clues. The ownership of a roman pot does not make you Roman. What matters is context, in this case, the nature of settlement and who lived there. Often the Roman state didn't want external land - an expedition was punitive and designed to quell a security threat before marching home again. This was more true of the imperial period than republican. The Italian tribal lands had retained their status as parts of a loose federation within the empire because originally Rome had won a war with them and accepted their good behaviour as allies afterward, based on comparable civilisation. When dealing with 'barbarian' lands, there was far less consideration. The incorporation was not about land but about population. Wilderness - of which there was plenty in Roman times - was of no concern to the Romans whatsoever, and areas were used to bundle more important land such as settlements or resources. Transformation of land was always a later initiative, particularly since the Augustan Franchise, in which the state rewarded settlements with tax breaks and concessions (or other important benefits) for emulating Rome, which clearly favoured urban development. The estates of the wealthy tended to be in certain regions, particularly Italy, but also Sicily, Greece, North Africa, southern France, and parts of Spain. This was as much to do with convenience as availability or suitability. OF course there were always exceptions, thus one can find large estates in the SE of England where Romanesque culture was strongest - but beware - some, if not the majority - of these provincial estates were in fact owned by wealthy locals who would have not necessarily have been exhibiting total conversion to Roman lifestyles but enjoying as much as they preferred and could afford. War veterans were not usually well served with gifts of land. One of the complaints that led to mutinies on the death of Augustus was the poor land they knew they would get on retirement.
  10. Recently Decanus_Canada asked...
  11. caldrail

    Treatment of conquered land and peoples

    Rome was not concerned with lifestyles at all other than loyalty and tribute to Rome were observed. For instance, in my home area, a hillfort was occupied by the local Britons throughout the occupation and the Romans don't seem to have bothered them. Remember that free will and self determination were extremely important in Roman culture - it was what made human beings superior in their eyes - anything else was either a slave or an animal. Of course obedience was necessary sometimes such as military discipline in the legions, but these were accepted exceptions. Note what happened in Germania after Publius Varus took control. He was sent there to administer the occupied territories (Rome had not officially annexed them) and to secure tax revenue for Augustus, keen to fund games and civic improvements. Although Varus was told that the German tribes were going to revolt, he believed that they would see Roman law as superior and adopt the invaders culture willingly, an impression aided by the apparent complicity of the tribes. He was well and truly fooled. People often talk about 'Romanisation' today, declaring that within a generation or two Roman culture was adopted and to all intents and purposes the empire was solidly Roman from one end to the other. This is a very deep misinterpretation. It didn't matter if the locals chose not to Romanise - that was their choice. Tacitus sneers at the Britons for their attempts to mimic Roman culture, and mentions the Gauls as most closely emulating them. It was an example of the bell curve. At the extremes, a local might discard anything Roman, or adopt the culture completely. In between, the majority took on board whatever level of Roman ways that suited them. Naturally the Romans offered their culture both as a reward and a means of compatibility, thus they persuaded local leaders to become 'Roman' and thus they could be plugged straight into the Roman political network and employ their local networks of loyalty usefully. Then again, malcontents might expect something a great deal harsher.
  12. caldrail

    Treatment of conquered land and peoples

    The Romans took a very practical view on this, although considerable greed was evident. They did not ordinarily set out to capture territory, rather to defeat the threat against them. Acquisition was made not for the victory itself, but for the advantages of bringing the territory under Roman control. So for instance Trajan wages war upon the warlike Dacians. Hadrian, his successor, creates a peaceful resolution by returning occupied territory - but kept the areas with gold mines. Or consider the events leading to disaster. Warlike Germanic tribes were constantly raiding Gaul. After Julius Caesar had conquered Gaul for booty to pay debts and kudos in his career, Germanians attacked and defeated the 5th legion garrison under Marcus Lollius. Augustus sent an expedition to teach them a lesson and they stayed in occupied areas after the victory against the Germnians, with Publius Varus - known to be a greedy man after his governorship of Syria - to administer those territories before they had become provinces of Rome (Something the Romans noted in their histories). The Germanians didn't like the Romans trying to tell them how they ought to be living and rebelled. For ten years Germanian provinces were out of reach until Germanicus re-conquered them, but most of this was punitive and the territories not kept. Indeed, Augustus would later advise Tiberius not to extend the frontiers. Or consider client states. This was a legal means of acquiring new territory by making a tribal state a client state. The ruler was allowed to continue as a friend of Rome, only that when he died he was supposed to bequeath his land to Rome for the privilege. This was the source of the Boudiccan revolt. The Iceni king had done this but left half his realm to his family. The Romans considered the Iceni lands to be theirs. Bear in mind that Roman control of territory was not uniform. They had provinces of different levels of civic status, military districts (two created in lesser Germania by Augustus), client states, and Tribal states (such as most of Italy into the imperial period - only after the fall of the west were Italian tribal lands called 'provinces' although from Augustus onward they were increasingly less independent)
  13. caldrail

    Vestal Virgins

    Worth a read without being too academic about this.... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestal_Virgin
  14. caldrail

    I need Gladiator Names for game Database

    Some gladiators received fanciful stage names, others effeminate ones, for theatrical reasons rather than performance. So matching #Flower' against Panther' was probably not unknown. Please remember however that your game may well be second rate if you go down the 'Hollywood' route and simply create a fantasy deathmatch arena. I've played games like that before - they're awful. Gladiators became professional fighters with rules, referees, rest periods, and local variations. One on one fights were standard in fixed classes. Fights were until one contestant could not continue and asked for mercy (or died). There were fights to the death (sine missione), but these were banned by Augustus although they returned later for extra drama. Equipment was strictly defined within classes. Note that many fighters had padded left legs or right arms. Not for defence, as you might imagine, but to prevent injuries against shields. Some fight styles had fixed areas a fighter could not leave. Other men were sometimes chained to each other to prevent cowardice (this happened in Britain) with the chains going through a central stone to stop them cooperating. There were wooden platforms defended by one man and attacked by more than one opponent. Criminals were sent into the arena with no protection and one knife bwteen them. The winner had to pass the knife to a fresh criminal contestant and continue.
  15. caldrail

    Republican marching camps

    I've considered this a lot over the years. We know Roman infantry carried two sticks but this would not be enough for a camp palisade or sturdy enough, given they must be carried along with other gear, to fend off any attack. In fact the Romans merely say they carried sticks to help build the camp so we might actually be looking at measuring implements rather than defensive assets. The camp was primarily defended by a ditch and rampart. No gate as such, but guards posted at the gaps used to access the site. This was a marching camp after all and not a permanent defensive work. If they did erect a fence around it, for practical reasons it could not have been much better than one you might use around your garden. Note that the Roman sources do not discuss the defensive strength of camps. They do however discuss the behaviour of guards.
  16. caldrail

    Serving in home province.

    Given the unstable nature of political and military security in the north of England - which the Romans never completely suppressed - the risks of sending british tribesmen north as auxillaries would not seem particularly clever. Off he goes with his fellow recruits to Gaul, etc, with a few sestercii travelling money and serving soldiers as guides.
  17. Forces were allocated to regions on the basis of perceived security risk. The Romans were well aware that long garrison duty meant troops became lazy and ill-disciplined (there are sources that mention these issues). Thus when a situation arose, it was wise to send a new commander with a mission, someone with the talent to lead and the will to shake up the unit into some order. This is especially so in the case of Corbulo, sent by Nero to Syria to pick up a legion to march to Armenia and settle the government there. He arrived to find an army that had not even bothered undertaking basic military duties. He went on to win the war in Armenia. However, his methods may well have been very heavy handed although some historians put this down to poor regard and reporting (Nero ordered Corbulo to commit suicide despite his victory)
  18. caldrail

    Horses in Forum and Palatine Hill

    I've had a brief search on this and I can't find any specific restriction. The thing to bear in mind is that horses were used primarily by the Romans as assets of war or perhaps status - they did not use horses to pull wagons. It was more likely a matter of whether the rider was allowed to present himself on a horse rather than the horse itself, and as an act in itself, might have been seen as somewhat arrogant. On the Palatine, certainly, if the rider has the status and purpose to match. In the Forum - for special occaisions possibly.
  19. Part of this sort of thing is that it was expected. These days people are prone to acting in a very lazy and inconsiderate manner. Communal spirit was stronger back then purely because they needed support from each other and lived close enough to know who was who and what they did. Obviously human beings exhibited some of same poor behaviour - and indeed, Rome tolerated far more violence in their society than we would today. Another case in point. A city on the eastern Nile delta was a major strongpoint in Egypt's frontier security. Pi-Ramesse was a large and prosperous community. However, the delta often changes course and when that happened the city was left without a water supply. The Egyptians responded by moving the city stone by stone to Tanis, elsewhere on the delta. Think about that. Huge monuments and structures taken apart, moved across potentially difficult terrain, and rebuilt at a new site, all by manual labour in the face of need. But the 'Wall'. This would have been an ongoing project. We know much of the original stretch was made of turf because that was the material to hand when the Romans began construction. Parts of the wall have different thicknesses. as project management gradually ensured the wall would be built to a plan. What we don't know is how smooth the project went, other than it was completed with no apparent fuss worthy of a mention in the sources - although it is worth pointing out that there was a rebellion in Britain during Hadrian's reign. Evidence from the letters of Vindolanda suggests the Romans might have coped with some considerable issues with material supply (labour was taken care of as the military were engaged to do that). Later the wall would be whitewashed from one end to the other.
  20. The abilities of ancient civilisations are quite stunning but then they didn't have the machinery we take for granted in this day and age to make our working lives easy. Even in the Victorian era, an Irish navvie working on a railway was expected to move twenty tons of 'muck' a day. Try it. You won't get close. Their diet was extraordinary, consisting of several meals a day with steak and lashings of beer. The ancient Egyptians are a case in point. We often point to pyramids but they built other stuff too. Fort Buhen, now at the bottom of Lake Nasser since the sixties, had a circumference of more than a mile of thirty meter high walls and a dry moat. That's one substantial castle, even by medieval standards. Or perhaps Stonehenge, with larger monoliths dragged twenty miles to be uprighted, and smaller bluestones taken from quarries in South Wales before roads were constructed in Britain. Bear in mind that when discussing Roman legions, they were expected to march with campaign gear and at the end of twenty or so miles a camp enclosure with a ditch and rampart was always dug (though loose stones were also used to build low walls in the middle east - re: Titus' campaign in Judaea in 72ad. It is also worth pointing out that the Roman legions were being used as spare labour when not on campaign. Not because they were all expert engineers - they weren't, though they had capable men among them - but because a major project would otherwise require expensive recruitment of contractors and local labour. Always keep a military unit busy. Always.
  21. You'll see a lot of stuff written on the internet about individual skill, some claiming the Romans were martial artists or such. The truth is that the Romans were well aware that despite choosing the more robust members of their society as soldiers and rejecting anyone with either a weak physique or family background/profession, not everyone was going to be any good at fighting. What they did was boil things down to a set of standard moves they could instil in recruits by constant practice (actually many modern armed forces have long since come to the same conclusions). Although I haven't found any specific evidence, I do believe they taught swordplay 'by the numbers' - this was how fighting skills were taught to gladiators and we know that gladiators were occaisionally used in the training process. That sort of approach would suit a methodology geared toward strict and tight formations which we know the Romans favoured. The fly in the ointment is that whilst the late republican legionaries used close formation religiously (the tall rectangular shield was most common in that era) the imperial era legions were said to have swung their swords as much as thrusted, meaning they must have used looser formations - along with heavier armour such as the classic lorica segmentata and for a while, arm and leg pieces. This went hand in hand with sword lengths that were reducing in parallel with gladiatorial styles until the wars that saw Constantine come to power when generally the gladius was dropped in favour of the longer cavalry Spatha. In other words, the late empire demonstrates a loss of skills and the sources do tend to underline that. So the emphasis was on group effectiveness. Stand firm, show no fear, and thrust your sword into your opponents face from a few carefully thought out positions in formation. It worked. You didn't have kill the guy - one thrust in the face or stomach and he's in no state to continue. Attacks into the upper abdomen risked a sword sticking in the ribcage and therefore were discouraged. The legion practised this until every useless recruit got the idea and could do it at will, without thinking. However, legionaries loved their gladiator combats and they wanted to emulate their heroes. So some commanders used their slaves to teach soldiers fighting tricks to keep them amused. On the other hand, it's clear from the sources that sometimes the commander decided his men needed a little more panache and used their slaves deliberately to improve the skills of individual soldiers. Whether this was effective in the context of normal legionary practice isn't clear. But in both caes, improvements in the soldiers confidence and moral did no harm.
  22. Firstly have a read of this thread.... https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/8226/how-quickly-could-the-roman-legions-march-how-does-it-compare-to-the-mobile-cav Bear in mind that the terrain and weather could significantly restrict the ability of a legion to move. A forced march of men carrying their own gear along a road would cover substantial distances in a day. The idea that they found this easy is perhaps illusory since reconstructions and re-enactments show how physically demanding such marches would have been. Nonetheless they did undertake them. Or consider that usually legions on the march took animals to carry heavy gear - even weapons might by loaded onto a cart in some circumstances. The used of such a baggage train might reduce the range by anything up to 75%. Or consider the floodwater that troops encountered in Germanicus' revenge camaign against the German tribes. Some of them were trying to wade through floodwater up to their necks, quite literally, and many died, drowned because with marching gear and armour, they could not stand up when floundering after insecure footing.
  23. caldrail

    What Made Caligula Crazy?

    The office of Emperor is all illusion. We call them that, they didn't. Mary Beard will insist "of course they were emperors!" which she has written in her book SPQR, but I disagree intensely. They did the same job - but 'Emperor' wasn't a proper job anyway (As discussed by Greg Woolf in interview with Mary Beard on tv). The word 'emperor' descends from Imperator which meant 'Victorious General', a traditional honour given by soldiers to commanders who win wars, but later, used from Augustus onward to describe their status as de facto control over the legions - but then, legions were notoriously fickle and certainly not regiments in a state army organisation. All independent, and all prone to deciding loyalty for themselves. Please note that nearly half the major battles fought by Imperial Roman legions were against each other. The thing is the Romans didn't organise their political and military sphere as we do today. They compartmentalised everything. So that when Augustus hands power back to the Senate, it isn't actually a ruse as is often described but a traditional requirement he obliges the Roman state with and one that only parts company with a certain allocation of power. He still has his powerful CV, his authority and status in Roman society, his senatorial influence, his wealth, his catalogue of influential friends and contacts, and most telling of all, the adoration of the common folk. He could afford to lose a privilege or two. It made his career less contentious. Sorry, I'm getting distracted. Caligula. Well Claigula comes to power with the high hopes of Roman society but manages to alienate everyone except the remote common people within four years. He struggles to retain respect, and that black humour of his spoils everything. The elite tire of his antics and disrespect. But a few held grudges. Especially Cassius Chaerea, the Praetorian Prefect and war hero of the Germanic campaigns. Caligula ribbed him mercilessly for his soft voice, and for a man of action rewarded with the highest military post of the time, it was too much. Chaerea was among the leaders of the insurrection and helped murder Caligula in the passage leading from the theatre.
  24. caldrail

    Seutonius - Galba

    Not sure - Galba never attracted my attention. But you might try Tacitus Histories which deals with the year 69ad in quite some depth, or possibly Cassius Dio. Other sources might only be brief mentions.
  25. caldrail

    Seutonius - Galba

    Hardly whitewashed, and it might be worth pointing out that Galba took advantage of an existing breakdown in civil order that led to a senatorial decree that Nero was an enemy of the state, which meant anyone could legally kill him. Nero panicked, as he often did, and fled, eventually failing to commit suicide and commanding a slave to do it for him. Nero had abused elite Roman sensibilities with his artistic career and publicity stunts. Worse still, he had used the patricians as a cash cow, blackmailing to leave everything in their will to him and commit suicide rather than punish their families. His popularity with the masses was affected due to episodes such as the murder of his mother - yet he retained a very loyal following nonetheless as the rebellion of a slave who happened to resemble him would later show. Granted, Galba had already been given a death sentence by Nero and was effectively a rebel anyway, but Galba did not march on Rome until he had heard of Nero's death.
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