Latest update: 12/2/2004; 4:51:28 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem xvii kalendas decembres

  • ludi Plebeii (day 12) -- the Jupiterfest goes on and on and on ...
  • 305 A.D. -- martyrdom of Gurias
  • 1907 -- birth of Nicholas G.L. Hammond (The Genius of Alexander the Great, among others)

::Monday, November 15, 2004 5:41:25 AM::

~ Classical Words of the Day

Today we can return to, which offers a couple of suggestions for 'ice cream' in Latin:  lac gellidum, gelatum. Elsewhere:

sylph @

::Monday, November 15, 2004 5:29:24 AM::

~ Assorted Powerful Women

Some excerpts from a review articleish thing at RedNova of a pair of books dealing with race and gender it seems:

MacDonald traces the disappearance of dark-skinned women in early modern texts, which often turn African women white. Considering drama primarily, she argues that this metamorphosis served the interests of early colonialism by indoctrinating English female spectators into a model of white womanhood as domestic, maternal, sentimental, and sexually pure, an ideology which facilitated and justified the sexual and economic exploitation of nonEuropean women in the colonies. The position offered to these spectators was constructed by the drama as gendered, since it taught obedience to patrilinear authority, but also raced, because it taught English women their moral superiority to others.

MacDonald analyzes representations of Cleopatra in early modern texts and some recent accounts to make visible the whiteness that in large part determines these portraits. In her translation of Robert Garnier's Antonie (1592), Mary Sidney creates an exemplary and sexually pure Cleopatra, but that character is also represented as white. On the other hand, Samuel Daniel's Letter from Octavia to Marcus Antonius (1599) and Tragedie of Cleopatra (1602) structure the Egyptian queen's racialized difference as a challenge to "rightful" European imperial rule. Daniel's account is similar to William Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece (1593-94), which also racializes female chastity as white in contrast with the barbaric tyranny and "black blood" of Tarquin (42). The significance of this is brought home through a consideration of a set of modern texts: Henry Louis Gates's disagreement with Afrocentric claims that Cleopatra was black ("Beyond the Culture Wars," Profession [1993], 6- 11), and the criticism of Martin Bernal's Black Athena (1987) by classicist Mary Lefkowitz (Not Out of Africa [1996]). MacDonald argues that, whereas Gates is right to take issue with such "transhistorical" identifications on the basis of skin color, Lefkowitz is quite wrong to dismiss, simply because Cleopatra may not have been black, Afrocentrist claims that Europe is traditionally and unjustly put at the center of all scholarship (27, 35). MacDonald asks whether skin color is synonymous with race, and argues that Lefkowitz is ignoring the more significant claim that the Hellenic world was strongly influenced by African culture. As an alternative, MacDonald considers Shelley Haley's account of her journey from an all-black community into a preprofessional career as a classicist, where the work of black people and women were denigrated, and Haley's subsequent struggle to reevaluate her education through considering the possibility of Cleopatra's blackness with her students ("Black Feminist Thought and Classics" in Feminist Theory and the Classics [1993] ). MacDonald shows that, in the work of Sidney, Daniel, and Lefkowitz, white European interests determine what is considered normal and legitimate- whether in imperial rule or historical methodology.

In opposition to the recurring claim that race is insignificant in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra (1606-07), MacDonald argues that the play uses racial difference to explode traditional views of the couple. She demonstrates that, whereas Elizabeth Cary's Tragedy of Mariam (1613) places a brown Cleopatra offstage to highlight the white-skinned, chaste heroine Mariam, Shakespeare's play racializes cultural difference to imagine an alternative order. Antony's vision of the couple as an immortal Dido and Aeneas rewrites the masculinist certainties of the epic, illuminates the weakness in Roman identity, and "alters the pattern of gender and racial dominance" inherent to early modern texts with African queens (67). MacDonald also considers other literary works, including Thomas May's translation of Lucan's Pharsalia (1631), John Fletcher's The False One (c. 1620), and John Dryden's All for Love (1678), which either obscure issues of empire by focusing on gender and sexuality or explore them by coordinating Cleopatra with the land she rules. MacDonald suggests that the paucity of black actresses playing Cleopatra may result from anxieties about interracial couples on stage and from the desire to limit expressions of difference (in race and sexuality) within an acceptable Anglicized range.

Dido and Sophonisba of Carthage are analyzed as African women defeated by Rome, but whose stories announce the central importance of the exchange of women and racial purity to the development of empire. Although Carthage is a reminder of the instability of Roman power, Dido is actually a mirror of Aeneas in her founding of a new city, and, to some extent, in her marriage practices. Other sources aside from the Aeneid (19 BCE) stress her fidelity to her father and first husband and her willingness to kill herself rather than marry a Moorish prince. Just as Aeneas rejects Dido, so Dido rejects Iarbas for the sake of racial purity. MacDonald's account of other sources on Dido is quite useful, especially in her discussion of the reference in the Tempest (1611) to Ausonius's virtuous "widow Dido" (74). Except for the multitude of texts already in the mix, one could wish for a consideration of Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage (1587). Stories of Sophonisba, Hannibal's niece, by Petrarch (c.1338), John Marston (1606), Thomas Nabbes (1635), Nathaniel Lee (1676), and Joseph Addison (1713), reveal that this African princess most often appears with blue eyes and blonde hair, but the racial difference in Livy's text (trans. Holland, 1600) is displaced onto the men surrounding her. The sensuality of Sophonisba's African lovers yields to Roman self-discipline, but the story at the center is the formation of bonds between men that maintain empire.


 The first part of the book lays out these fascinating claims and their implications: scholars have mistaken sunburn as the climate theory's explanation for dark skin, whereas the belief was that the sun draws out heat and moisture, leaving the body externally black. Greeks and Romans made no claims that Africans were overly sexualized; if anything, they were seen as verging on impotence whereas it was the northerners, including the English, who were seen as licentious. This illuminates the characters of Aaron in Titus Andronicus (1592-94) and Morocco in Merchant of Venice (1596-97): Aaron is less interested in sex than the northerner Tamora, and Portia may actually fear Morocco's impotence rather than his excess heat. The British were defined not only as warlike and courageous (Edmund Spenser and others link them with Scythians), but also impressionable, inconstant, and vulnerable to outside influences. Self-fashioning, then, included the process of overcoming the incivility and extremes of the northern disposition. The goal of the temperate body had implications for class and gender, because it made the ideal of aristocratic masculinity so elusive and difficult to maintain. The vogue for melancholy in England included a desire for African qualities that the English lacked: firmness and wisdom. But this vogue, which defined blackness as internal rather than external, was also part of the process by which the tripartite structure was transformed into a simple binary. The geohumoral theorists Jean Bodin (1606), Juan Huarte (1594), and Pierre Charron (1612) redefined the classical view to celebrate their own countries. English writers like William Harrison (1587) and Robert Burton (1621) rejected the negative representation of the British and developed a new ideal. As they claimed independence from environmental theories, they developed the notion of the autonomous body, which was defined as white. The melancholy of Hamlet and his alienation from his northern disposition is analyzed as part of this trend. This autonomy emerged at the same time that nonfluid categories of racialism took shape. Finally Floyd-Wilson is convincing in her analysis of Francis Bacon (1627) and Thomas Browne (1646) as natural philosophers who redefined blackness as no natural result of environment but as a scientific mystery. She cites Carolus Linneaus's System of Nature (1758) as signaling the end of geohumoralism and the beginning of modern scientific racism: Europeans are united under the rubric "fair" and Africans associated with the qualities originally attributed to the English.

In the second part of the book, on "English ethnographic theatre," Floyd-Wilson brings to light surprising aspects of well- known texts. Tamburlaine (1587) celebrates the Scythian aspects of the British character. Tamburlaine's rise from shepherd to ruler includes a reassessment and rejection of the Mediterranean claim to superiority. The union of Zenocrate from Egypt and Tamburlaine from Scythia defeats the tripartite structure. Other writers like Burton and Samuel Daniel, and other texts mentioning Tamburlaine, are shown to be making similar arguments. In the chapter on Ben Jonson's The Masque of Blackness (1604), Jonson's work is seen as dramatizing the association between blackness and wisdom, as well as the transmission of southern wisdom and culture to a region that eventually grants them external whiteness. The daughters of Niger and their pilgrimage to England refer indirectly to the Egyptian lineage that the Scots claimed, as well as to the Picts' painted bodies. The masque therefore comments on King James's plans for unification between England and Scotland. "Blackening" and "blanching" were powers of the Scottish monarch, either requiring military duty from subjects or replacing it with a nominal fee (116). Dudley Carleton's famous complaint about the ugliness of court ladies painted black could refer to his own opposition to unification. The masque offers whiteness to the Scots as the shared and temperate complexion of all the inhabitants of Britannia. [more]

::Monday, November 15, 2004 5:16:07 AM::

~ Today's Alexander Hype

Today's bit o' hype is an interesting piece from the Age in which we find out that competition from Baz Luhrman is what drove Oliver Stone to get the project done:

The advertising tagline for Alexander, Oliver Stone's entry in Hollywood's current run of swords and sandals movies, is "fortune favours the bold". Expect to see it on buses and billboards - below Colin Farrell now as blond as the great conqueror on antiquities - before the epic's scheduled release in early January.

The slogan could also apply to Stone's determination to get his $US150 million ($A196 million) movie out before Baz Luhrmann's rival project in which Leonardo DiCaprio is cast in the lead.

Luhrmann's project is at least two years away. Recently, he denied reports that the whole thing had been shelved - but the prospect of "Alexander fatigue", or confusion, makes a closer date a risk, even if Stone's 2 hour 53 minute marathon is judged underwhelming.

On the eve of the release of his film in the United States, Stone admitted that the prospect of being beaten into multiplexes on a film he had started work on years ago had been the incentive to go into overdrive. But he said that he hoped Luhrmann still went ahead.

"In the end, I guess it's a bit trite to say it turned out to be very helpful to have an impressive team like Baz and (producer) Dino DeLaurentis breathing down our necks," he told The Age. "We wanted to be first out and we achieved that and I needed a scare like that to get the thing locked in."

The Hollywood maverick - famous for standing firm whether it's over a young J-Lo going topless in U-Turn or facing down studio honchos wanting cuts - has a fear you might not expect. He's the man who makes big biographies on people as varied as Jim Morrison, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, but he gets cold feet, dithers even, over the sheer grief and anxiety that comes with films like those.

"I was scared of Alexander," he said. "I had backed off Evita a year or two back, after doing a lot of work on that project, because those sort of movies are hard to make and I just didn't feel confident.

"I was gun shy about Alexander, but I sure didn't want to lose something else I had sweated over. It came up in 1989 and then in 1995 and I couldn't get it right.

"Well, Baz arrived on the scene and there were no more excuses."

Stone said his edge in a race once judged neck-and-neck was that his script had been evolving over many years, while Luhrmann and his team, including playwright David Hare, were starting from scratch. Stone also said that reported difficulties with the script on the Luhrmann version were the main reason the film had fallen behind.

"We never lost sight of the script," he said. "You can't give a good actor a bad script. He can't save the writing. And Baz knows that because he's struggling with the script.

"If he does make the movie, I hope he makes a good one, a different one, an interesting one. He can make a musical, I don't care. As long as it doesn't repeat."

Actually the most combative words from the Stone camp about the Luhrmann script, or at least one version of it, came not from the director or his producers, but from the Oxford academic and author of several Alexander tomes, Professor Robin Lane Fox, whom Stone brought in as the project's full-time, historical arbiter.

Asked whether he had been required to sign a non-compete agreement, to keep him from defecting with secrets if both projects had gone head to head, Fox confirmed that his contract imposed such restrictions.

But he said there was never any chance of him deserting because he had seen an early script of the rival film and he thought it was an empty, plastic spectacle.

"I think Oliver is an amazing dramatist and filmmaker," he said. "I think the whole thing with that project was a bid to destabilise Oliver. It will never be made."

His loyalty is to be expected. Sweetening his deal to advice on accuracy, Stone had also granted Fox a fervent wish: to ride with the Greek cavalry in a couple of big battle scenes.

::Monday, November 15, 2004 5:07:59 AM::

~ Interview with Stephen Pressfield

Enter Stage Right has a lengthy interview with historical novelist Steven Pressfield (Gates of Fire). Here's a bit of a tease:

ESR: Why do you set your novels in ancient Greece? What do you find so fascinating about that place and period in history?

Steven Pressfield SP: Ancient Greece to me is almost like a laboratory for modern times. Because so many of the states were democracies, or at least governments with freedom for their citizens, we see reflections over and over of our own era. The notorious "affair of the herms" at Athens during the Peloponnesian War … that's McCarthyism, complete with stoolpigeons, stooges, and crooked D.A.'s. The Sicilian Expedition holds parallel after parallel to the U.S.'s current adventure in Iraq. The Melian Dialogue, Pericles' Funeral Oration, the trial of Socrates: it's like a petri dish prefiguring our own world. And because Greece was pre-Christian, pre-Freudian, pre-Marxist, pre-materialist, we get prose that's wonderfully free of cant.

ESR: Would you say ancient Greeks are similar to us today?

SP: Yes and no. Certainly in ancient democracies, we can see the same strengths, as well as pathologies, that play out in our own. There was no scandal we have that the Greeks didn't have first -- and with much more color. The tendency to elevate leaders and then gleefully tear them down; corruption of the courts; price-fixing, you name it. There was once a trial in Athens where 13 witnesses (a gang of what they called sycophantai) took the stand, swearing that Citizen X had murdered his female servant. X promptly sent some of his buddies to a hiding place where the 13 had taken the girl and produced her, living, in court. That's right off Fox News. On the other hand, Greeks then and now are not like Americans. They're Mediterranean, much more passionate and volatile. And, in my opinion, far more principled. Wave a dollar bill under the nose of a Yank and he'll follow you anywhere, but a Greek will only go where his heart takes him. At Sparta today, we could find 300 volunteers to go and die at Thermopylae in about five minutes … and the line to join them would lap around the whole town. [the whole thing]

::Monday, November 15, 2004 5:03:49 AM::

~ The Trojan Horse in Britain

An Explorator reader passed this one along (thanks AM!) ... it seems illegal immigrants are taking a page out of the, er, Aeneid in their attempt to gain access to the UK. From the Sun:

ILLEGAL immigrants are sneaking into Britain hidden inside horseboxes.

Each day dozens of trucks cross the Channel with animals to stud, markets and races.

And foreigners desperate to enter the UK have found they are ideal for slipping past immigration controls.

Customs officers have equipment to check large vehicles for heartbeats or carbon dioxide exhaled in breath.

But they cannot tell the difference between humans and horses - so the illegals hide alongside the animals.

A similar trick was used by Greeks in 1200BC, hiding in a giant wooden horse to fool the inhabitants of the besieged city of Troy to let them in.

Transporter owner Jason Ratcliffe recently found two Iranians hiding in his horsebox when he arrived at Newmarket after a crossing from Calais to Dover.

He said: "It's a mystery how they got in. It has happened to several other companies."

Newmarket horse haulier Andrew Appleby said: "One driver stopped in Calais and when he opened the back he found eight illegal immigrants."

::Monday, November 15, 2004 4:59:38 AM::

~ Welsh Paganism

A documentary producer in the Western Mail reflects on his research for a program about religion in Wales and comments inter alia:

It was the Roman historian Tacitus who chronicled the battle between shrieking druids and the drilled power of Rome. It was crucial for the Romans that they should crush the druids in their Anglesey stronghold, because they were central to the command and control of British society.

The legions were eventually victorious - but Welsh paganism was resilient. It survived among the people and I found signs of that fact in the first of many discoveries of treasures and hidden places that were to come my way during the series.

Deep in a secluded valley above Beddau in the Valleys, we filmed at a rock-face known as Darren Deusant. It's a Celtic fertility shrine that overlapped with the coming of Christianity. In the roughly carved faces that surround the spring coming out of the rock, you see the tenacity of paganism amongst ordinary people.

But the big story for late Roman times is obviously the coming of Christianity. The first martyrs are recorded in the early fourth century but, by the end of the fifth century, Wales had a seminary and theological powerhouse to compare with any in Europe. It was at Llanilltud Fawr or Llantwit Major as it's now called in English. The Celtic memorial stones preserved in the parish church are gorgeously carved and one of them tells of some religious heroes, including a saint called Samson, who did huge things to spread the faith.

Right along the Celtic seaboard in Britain and modern France such saints spread the Gospel. They had a huge influence on the art and church life of Ireland, Northern England and Brittany.

They kept a flame alive and the finest flower of the early Welsh Christianity was St David himself.

Dewi Sant was sometimes known as "Aquaticus", which either refers to his drinking only water or to his practice of doing penance by standing for hours in freezing cold pools. That kind of asceticism feels foreign and strange to us now, which is perhaps the reason we focus on his love of nature and his emphasis on the "small things".

However that may be, it's indisputable that he was a religious genius with a widespread following. The sublime cathedral at St David's is testimony to his signifi-cance in Wales and internationally.

Onwards through the centuries. It was heartening to learn of the tenacity of the Welsh in preserving their own religious forms against pressure from the centre in Rome - in some areas, right up to the Norman Conquest. [the whole thing]

::Monday, November 15, 2004 4:56:26 AM::

~ Myth at Virginia Wesleyan

From the Marlin Chronicle:

Mythological heroes come in all shapes and forms, so it was not surprising to find that Dr. Lynn Sawlivich’s favorite hero is Argos, Odysseus’ dog, mentioned in Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Argos waited 20 long years for his master to return from the Trojan War only to greet him, then die.

Sawlivich is the professor of mythology at Virginia Wesleyan. Before coming here, he taught in other places, arriving in the fall of 2003. He received his Ph.D. in classics and history from Harvard University in 1991.

Sawlivich was inspired to teach mythology when he was a teacher’s assistant in graduate school at Harvard. He said that the professor there could talk to everyone and get everyone interested.

“I try to give that kind of excitement to my students,” he said.

Sawlivich said that he would desire greatly to teach Latin but that mythology is where the students are: “Everyone wants mythology.”

When Sawlivich is not in the classroom and out of the office, he can likely be found at home reading a book or at the theater watching a movie.

“I go to the movies relentlessly,” he said. “Just about every day.”

Sawlivich never acted in any classical mythology plays. He said he would rather sit and read a book. He was the quiet type in class during his college-bound years, which is ironic in that he forces his students to get up in front of the class and do selected dramatic readings.

“It surprises me how many students come up to me saying ‘Please don’t make me do this’ after class,” he said.

Sawlivich feels it is important for them to do it. Plays are supposed to be watched, not read. It helps to give the class a better understanding of what has been spoken if the students read aloud and examine each passage. He has said in class, “Man must suffer to be wise.”

There are good and evil characters in classical mythology. The bad guys, the villains, are what make myth work, Sawlivich said when asked what character he disliked.

“We need to like the bad guys, because they are what make the story,” he said.

A hero, in his words, is someone who is remembered in myth or history. If someone was important enough to be noted in history or myth, Sawlivich said it was because of some heroic thing they did. “A hero has to be someone who died,” he said.

In today’s society, political figures who died for what they believed in, Sawlivich said, make the best heroes.

“Martin Luther King Jr. started great things but never knew how they ended,” he said.

National tragedies make way for heroes, as well, Sawlivich said. World War II is so far away that, until Sept. 11, it had been the biggest thing in people’s memory.

“It has become a national mythology,” he said. Sawlivich believes that people are still culturally affected by their society in much the same way that mythology had established an identity for its people.

“We live in a mythological-based society,” he said.

Sawlivich said that science tried, but cannot replace myth. Our heroes made us who we are, he said. When people suffer, heroes are formed. He said they give us our identity.

“The culture has a memory now,” he said in class. “The memory gives culture identity through myth.”

Sawlivich has traveled to many places and visited a number of sights, more historical rather than mythological settings. He has even traveled to Greece where classical mythology was popular.

“The Civil War in the south is history turned into myth,” he said. Historical events have to be turned into myth if that happens by building museums, establishing parks, producing plays, and writing books. They have to be brought back to life, Sawlivich said.

::Monday, November 15, 2004 4:52:40 AM::

~ More on Atlantis

There's a flood, so to speak, of Atlantis coverage this a.m., of which a piece in the Scotsman is probably worth checking out. Since we've already covered this ground, though, it might be salutary to include a sidebar piece from the Scotsman on 'Atlantis-in-general':

THE first accounts of Atlantis appear in Timaeus and Critias, two dialogues by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato.

According to these, the island was described to the Athenian statesman Solon by an Egyptian priest, who claimed that Atlantis was larger than Asia Minor and Libya combined.

He maintained that the nation had conquered all the Mediterranean peoples except the Athenians.

According to Plato, Atlantis had "soil the best in the world, an abundance of water, and in the heaven above an excellently attempered climate".

Its people were so blessed that few were compelled to do physical work.

But they also became so decadent that the gods decided to destroy them and a great catastrophe plunged Atlantis under the waves.

Plato described a series of worldwide floods culminating in the deluge of the Deucalion, dated by Greek historians to the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 BC.

Theories abound as to why the city disappeared, from Atlantis being hit by a cataclysmic natural disaster to Greek mythology, which describes the civilisation as being so corrupted by greed and power that it was destroyed by the gods.

Most believers agree the ancient civilisation was probably destroyed in the biblical flood of about 9,000 BC.

Sceptics believe Atlantis was a figment of Plato’s imagination. The first modern attempt to prove Atlantis had existed was made in the 19th century by Ignatius Donnelly, an Irish American congressman.

He believed it had once been in the mid-Atlantic because Plato had said that it was "beyond the Pillars of Hercules", long assumed to mean the Straits of Gibraltar.

Some oceanographers in the 20th century theorised that Atlantis was once a Greek island in the Aegean Sea.

Some associated it with the Greek island, Thira, or Thera which geologists say experienced a massive volcanic eruption in about 1640 BC.

Other scholars have variously identified the island with Crete, the Canary Islands, the Scandinavian peninsula and the Americas.

This summer Rainer Kuhne, a German scientist working with satellite images of what appear to be man-made features buried in mud off the southern coast of Spain, concluded that he may have found Atlantis.

Another thought occurred to me in regards to potential predebunking of Sarmast's claims ... as I recall, Robert Ballard did a survey of the eastern Mediterranean five or so years ago while searching for a lost Israeli submarine (but I'm not sure if he went as far 'north' as Cyprus); perhaps some newsie types should be tracking him down and asking his opinion of all this ...

::Monday, November 15, 2004 4:50:41 AM::

~ Greek Threatened at Brandeis

From the Boston Globe:

Brandeis University is up in arms over an unusual cutback proposal put forward by Adam Jaffe, dean of arts and sciences. To free up money for new areas of study, Jaffe is proposing that Brandeis stop teaching ancient Greek, end its linguistics major, cut one of its music doctorate programs, and shrink the physics and the signature Near Eastern and Judaic studies departments. Jaffe says that as a relatively young and small institution, Brandeis needs to make strategic choices. ''The world of higher education is not growing the way it was in the '60s and the '70s," he said. ''You can't do new things by continually doing more things."

No one would get fired: Jaffe is looking at a long-term transition where about 15 professors would not be replaced when they retired. He says he picked programs to cut because they are either very small, or, in the case of physics and Judaic studies, particularly large compared with student interest. With the savings, he wants to boost faculty salaries and hire new people in such areas as East Asian studies, African-American literature, legal studies, and a program in health and society.

Students and professors quickly jumped to protect programs they see as critical to the school's mission. Students are circulating petitions, and the six professors who make up the school's humanities council signed a letter protesting the idea of cutting Greek. ''To not have anywhere on campus where ancient Greek can be accessed in my mind must diminish the value of the liberal arts at Brandeis," said Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, chairwoman of the classical studies department. ''The university has almost a social responsibility to protect these areas of knowledge."

::Monday, November 15, 2004 4:33:31 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Tonight

6.00 p.m. |HISTU|   Barbarians at the Gate
By the 2nd century AD, the empire had expanded as far as it could. Consolidation was at hand. Instead of plundering new territories, the Roman army reconstructed them. Because the army was the first Roman presence in a new land, the soldiers and their architects, surveyors, and engineers built their own defenses...some lasting 2,000 years. 

HISTU = History Channel (US)

::Monday, November 15, 2004 4:26:53 AM::

1. n. an abnormal state or condition resulting from the forced migration from a lengthy Classical education into a profoundly unClassical world; 2. n. a blog about Ancient Greece and Rome compiled by one so afflicted (v. "rogueclassicist"); 3. n. a Classics blog.

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