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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Vandal Wars


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. II) Procopius
Vandal Wars

Book I (continued)

 p73  8 1 And Honoric, the eldest of his sons, succeeded to the throne, Genzon having already departed from the world. During the time when this Honoric ruled the Vandals they had no war against anyone at all, except the Moors. 2 For through fear of Gizeric the Moors had remained quiet before that time, but as soon as he was out of their way they both did much harm to the Vandals and suffered the same themselves. 3 And Honoric shewed himself the most cruel and unjust of all men toward the Christians in Libya. 4 For he forced them to change over to the Arian faith, and as many as he found not readily  p75 yielding to him he burned, or destroyed by other forms of death; and he also cut off the tongues of many from the very throat, who even up to my time were going about in Byzantium having their speech uninjured, and perceiving not the least effect from this punishment; but two of these, since they saw fit to go in to harlots, were thenceforth no longer able to speak. 5 And after ruling over the Vandals eight years he died of disease; and by that time the Moors dwelling on Mt. Aurasium​1 had revolted from the Vandals and were independent (this Aurasium is a mountain of Numidia, about thirteen days' journey distant from Carthage and fronting the south); and indeed they never came under the Vandals again, since the latter were unable to carry on a war against Moors on a mountain difficult of access and exceedingly steep.​a

6 After the death of Honoric the rule of the Vandals fell to Gundamundus, the son of Genzon, the son of Gizeric. For he, in point of years, was the first of the offspring of Gizeric. 7 This Gundamundus fought against the Moors in numerous encounters, and after subjecting the Christians to still greater suffering, he died of disease, being now at about the middle of the twelfth year of his reign. 8 And his brother Trasamundus took over the kingdom, a man well-favoured in appearance and especially gifted with discretion and highmindedness. 9 However he continued to force the Christians to change their ancestral faith, not by torturing their bodies as his predecessors had  p77 done, but by seeking to win them with honours and offices and presenting them with great sums of money; and in the case of those who would not be persuaded, he pretended he had not the least knowledge of what manner of men they were.​2 10 And if he caught any guilty of great crimes which they had committed either by accident or deliberate intent, he would offer such men, as a reward for changing their faith, that they should not be punished for their offences. 11 And when his wife died without becoming the mother of either male or female offspring, wishing to establish the kingdom as securely as possible, he sent to Theoderic, the king of the Goths, asking him to give him his sister Amalafrida to wife, for her husband had just died. 12 And Theoderic sent him not only his sister but also a thousand of the notable Goths as a bodyguard, who were followed by a host of attendants amounting to about five thousand fighting men. 13 And Theoderic also presented his sister with one of the promontories of Sicily, which are three in number, — the one which they call Lilybaeum — and as a result of this Trasamundus was accounted the strongest and most powerful of all those who had ruled over the Vandals. 14 He became also a very special friend of the emperor Anastasius. It was during the reign of Trasamundus that it came about that the Vandals suffered a disaster at the hands of the Moors such as had never befallen them before that time.

15 There was a certain Cabaon ruling over the Moors of Tripolis, a man experienced in many wars and exceedingly shrewd. This Cabaon, upon learning that the Vandals were marching against him, did as  p79 follows. 16 First of all he issued orders to his subjects to abstain from all injustice and from all foods tending towards luxury and most of all from association with women; and setting up two palisaded enclosures, he encamped himself with all the men in one, and in the other he shut the women, and he threatened that death would be the penalty if anyone should go to the women's palisade. 17 And after this he sent spies to Carthage with the following instructions: whenever the Vandals in going forth on the expedition should offer insult to any temple which the Christians reverence, they were to look on and see what took place; and when the Vandals had passed the place, they were to do the opposite of everything which the Vandals had done to the sanctuary before their departure. 18 And they say that he added this also, that he was ignorant of the God whom the Christians worshipped, but it was probable that if He was powerful, as He was said to be, He should wreak vengeance upon those who insulted Him and defend those who honoured Him. 19 So the spies came to Carthage and waited quietly, observing the preparation of the Vandals; but when the army set out on the march to Tripolis, they followed, clothing themselves in humble garb. 20 And the Vandals, upon making camp the first day, led their horses and their other animals into the temples of the Christians, and sparing no insult, they acted with all the unrestrained lawlessness natural to them, beating as many priests as they caught and lashing them with many blows over the back and commanding them to render such service to the Vandals as they were accustomed to assign to  p81 the most dishonoured of their domestics. 21 And as soon as they had departed from there, the spies of Cabaon did as they had been directed to do; for they straightway cleansed the sanctuaries and took away with great care the filth and whatever other unholy thing lay in them, and they lighted all the lamps and bowed down before the priests with great reverence and saluted them with all friendliness; 22 and after giving pieces of silver to the poor who sat about these sanctuaries, they then followed after the army of the Vandals. 23 And from then on along the whole route the Vandals continued to commit the same offences and the spies to render the same service. 24 And when they were coming near the Moors, the spies anticipated them and reported to Cabaon we had been done by the Vandals and by themselves to the temples of the Christians, and that the enemy were somewhere near by. 25 And Cabaon, upon learning this, arranged for the encounter as follows. He marked off a circle in the plain where he was about to make his palisade, and placed his camels turned sideways in a circle as a protection for the camp, making his line fronting the enemy about twelve camels deep. 26 Then he placed the children and the women and all those who were unfit for fighting together with their possessions in the middle, while he commanded the host of fighting men to stand between the feet of those animals, covering themselves with their shields.​3 27 And since the phalanx of the Moors was of such a sort, the Vandals were at a loss how to handle the situation; for they were neither good with the javelin nor with the bow, nor did they know how to go into battle  p83 on foot, but they were all horsemen, and used spears and swords for the most part, so that they were unable to do the enemy any harm at a distance; and their horses, annoyed at the sight of the camels, refused absolutely to be driven against the enemy. 28 And since the Moors, by hurling javelins in great numbers among them from their safe position, kept killing both their horses and men without difficulty, because they were a vast throng, they began to flee, and, when the Moors came out against them, the most of them were destroyed, while some fell into the hands of the enemy; and an exceedingly small number from this army returned home. 29 Such was the fortune which Trasamundus suffered at the hands of the Moors. And he died at a later time, having ruled over the Vandalsº twenty-seven years.

9 1 And Ilderic, the son of Honoric, the son of Gizeric, next received the kingdom, a ruler who was easily approached by his subjects and altogether gentle, and he shewed himself harsh neither to the Christians nor to anyone else, but in regard to affairs of war he was a weakling and did not wish this thing even to come to his ears. 2 Hoamer, accordingly, his nephew and an able warrior, led the armies against any with whom the Vandals were at war; he it was whom they called the Achilles of the Vandals. 3 During the reign of this Ilderic the Vandals were defeated in Byzacium by the Moors,  p85 who were ruled by Antalas, and it so fell out that they became enemies instead of allies and friends to Theoderic and the Goths in Italy. 4 For they put Amalafrida in prison and destroyed all the Goths, charging them with revolutionary designs against the Vandals and Ilderic. 5 However, no revenge came from Theoderic, for he considered himself unable to gather a great fleet and make an expedition into Libya, and Ilderic was a very particular friend and guest-friend of Justinian, who had not yet co to the throne, but was administering the government according to his pleasure; for his uncle Justinus, who was emperor, was very old and not altogether experienced in matters of state. And Ilderic and Justinian made large presents of money to each other.

6 Now there was a certain man in the family of Gizeric, Gelimer, the son of Geilaris, the son of Genzon, the son of Gizeric, who was of such age as to be second only to Ilderic and for this reason he was expected to come into the kingdom very soon. 7 This man was thought to be the best warrior of his time, but for the rest he was a cunning fellow and base at heart and well versed in undertaking revolutionary enterprises and in laying hold upon the money of others. 8 Now this Gelimer, when he saw the power coming to him, was not able to live in his accustomed way, but assumed to himself the tasks of a king and usurped the rule, though it was not yet due him; and since Ilderic in a spirit of friendliness gave in to him, he was no longer able to restrain his thoughts, but allying with himself all the noblest of the Vandals, he persuaded them to wrest the kingdom from Ilderic, as being an unwarlike  p87 king who had been defeated by the Moors, and as betraying the power of the Vandals into the hand of the Emperor Justinus, in order that the kingdom might not come to him, because he was of the other branch of the family; for he asserted slanderously that this was the meaning of Ilderic's embassy to Byzantium, and that he was giving over the empire of the Vandals to Justinus. And they, being persuaded, carried out this plan. 9 Thus Gelimer seized the supreme power, and imprisoned Ilderic, after he had ruled over the Vandals seven years, and also Hoamer and his brother Euagees.

10 But when Justinian heard these things, having already received the imperial power, he sent envoys to Gelimer in Libya with the following letter: "You are not acting in a holy manner nor worthily of the will of Gizeric, keeping in prison an old man and a kinsman and the king of the Vandals (if the counsels of Gizeric are to be of effect), and robbing him of his office by violence, though it would be possible for you to receive it after a short time in a lawful manner. 11 Do you therefore do no further wrong and do not exchange the name of king for the title of tyrant, which comes but a short time earlier. 12 But as for this man, whose death may be expected at any moment, allow him to bear in appearance the form of royal power, while you do all the things which it is proper that a king should do; and wait until you can receive from time and the law of Gizeric, and from them alone, the name which belongs to the position. 13 For if you do this, the attitude of the Almighty will be favourable and at the same time our relations with you will be friendly."

 p89  14 Such was his message. But Gelimer sent the envoys away with nothing accomplished, and he blinded Hoamer and also kept Ilderic and Euagees in closer confinement, charging them with planning flight to Byzantium. 15 And when this too was heard by the Emperor Justinian, he sent envoys a second time and wrote as follows: "We, indeed, supposed that you would never go contrary to our advice when we wrote you the former letter. 16 But since it pleases you to have secured possession of the royal power in the manner in which you have taken and now hold it, get from it whatever Heaven grants. 17 But do you send to us Ilderic, and Hoamer whom you have blinded, and his brother, to receive what comfort they can who have been robbed of a kingdom or of sight; 18 for we shall not let the matter rest if you do not do this. And I speak thus because we are led by the hope which I had based on our friendship. 19 And the treaty with Gizeric will not stand as an obstacle for us. For it is not to make war upon him who has succeeded to the kingdom of Gizeric that we come, but to avenge Gizeric with all our power."

20 When Gelimer had read this, he replied as follows: "King Gelimer to the Emperor Justinian. Neither have I taken the office by violence nor has anything unholy been done by me to my kinsmen. 21 For Ilderic, while planning a revolution against the house of Gizeric, was dethroned by the nation of the Vandals; and I was called to the kingdom by my years, which gave me the preference, according to the law at least. 22 Now it is well for one to administer the kingly office which belongs to him and not to make the concerns of others his own. 23 Hence  p91 for you also, who have a kingdom, meddling in other's affairs is not just; and if you break the treaty and come against us, we shall oppose you with all our power, calling to witness the oaths which were sworn by Zeno, from whom you have received the kingdom which you hold." 24 The Emperor Justinian, upon receiving this letter, having been angry with Gelimer even before then, was still more eager to punish him. 25 And it seemed to him best to put an end to the Persian war as soon as possible and then to make an expedition to Libya; and since he was quick at forming a plan and prompt in carrying out his decisions, Belisarius, the General of the East, was summoned and came to him immediately, no announcement having been made to him nor to anyone else that he was about to lead an army against Libya, but it was given out that he had been removed from the office which he held. 26 And straightway the treaty with Persia was made, as has been told in the preceding narrative.4

10 1 And when the Emperor Justinian considered that the situation was as favourable as possible, both as to domestic affairs and as to his relations with Persia, he took under consideration the situation in Libya. 2 But when he disclosed to the magistrates that he was gathering an army against the Vandals and Gelimer, the most of them began immediately to show hostility to the plan, and they lamented it as a misfortune, recalling the expedition of the Emperor Leon and the disaster of Basiliscus, and reciting how many soldiers  p93 had perished and how much money the state had lost. 3 But the men who were the most sorrowful of all, and who, by reason of their anxiety, felt the keenest regret, were the pretorian prefect, whom the Romans call "praetor," and the administrator of the treasury, and all to whom had been assigned the collection of either public or imperial​5 taxes, for they reasoned that while it would be necessary for them to produce countless sums for the needs of the war, they would be granted neither pardon in case of failure nor extension of time in which to raise these sums. 4 And every one of the generals, supposing that he himself would command the army, was in terror and dread at the greatness of the danger, if it should be necessary for him, if he were preserved from the perils of the sea, to encamp in the enemy's land, and, using his ships as a base, to engage in a struggle against a kingdom both large and formidable. 5 The soldiers, also, having recently returned from a long, hard war, and having not yet tasted to the full the blessings of home, were in despair, both because they were being led into sea‑fighting, — a thing which they had not learned even from tradition before then, — and because they were sent from the eastern frontier to the West, in order to risk their lives against Vandals and Moors. 6 But all the rest, as usually happens in a great throng, wished to be spectators of new adventures while others faced the dangers.

7 But as for saying anything to the emperor to prevent the expedition, no one dared to do this except John the Cappadocian, the pretorian prefect,  p95 a man of the greatest daring and the cleverest of all men of his time. 8 For this John, while all the others were bewailing in silence the fortune which was upon them, came before the emperor and spoke as follows: "O Emperor, the good faith which thou dost shew in dealing with thy subjects enables us to speak frankly regarding anything which will be of advantage to thy government, even though what is said and done may not be agreeable to thee. 9 For thus does thy wisdom temper thy authority with justice, in that thou dost not consider that man only as loyal to thy cause who serves thee under any and all conditions, nor art thou angry with the man who speaks against thee, but by weighing all things by pure reason alone, thou hast often shewn that it involves us in no danger to oppose thy purposes. 10 Led by these considerations, O Emperor, I have come to offer this advice, knowing that, though I shall give perhaps offence at the moment, if it so chance, yet in the future the loyalty which I bear you will be made clear, and that for this I shall be able to shew thee as a witness. 11 For if, through not hearkening to my words, thou shalt carry out the war against the Vandals, it will come about, if the struggle is prolonged for thee, that my advice will win renown. 12 For if thou hast confidence that thou wilt conquer the enemy, it is not at all unreasonable that thou shouldst sacrifice the lives of men and expend a vast amount of treasure, and undergo the difficulties of the struggle; for victory, coming at the end, covers up all the calamities of war. 13 But if in reality these things lie on the knees of God, and if it behoves us, taking example from what has happened in the past, to fear the outcome of war, on  p97 what grounds is it not better to love a state of quiet rather than the dangers of mortal strife? 14 Thou art purposing to make an expedition against Carthage, to which, if one goes by land, the journey is one of a hundred and forty days, and if one goes by water, he is forced to cross the whole open sea and go to its very end. So that he who brings thee news of what will happen in the camp must needs reach thee a year after the event. 15 And one might add that if thou art victorious over thy enemy, thou couldst not take possession of Libya while Sicily and Italy lie in the hands of others; 16 and at the same time, if any reverse befall thee, O Emperor, the treaty having already been broken by thee, thou wilt bring the danger upon our own land. In fact, putting all in a word, it will not be possible for thee to reap the fruits of victory, and at the same time any reversal of fortune will bring harm to what is well established. 17 It is before an enterprise that wise planning is useful. For when men have failed, repentance is of no avail, but before disaster comes there is no danger in altering plans. Therefore it will be of advantage above all else to make fitting use of the decisive moment."

18 Thus spoke John; and the Emperor Justinian, hearkening to his words, checked his eager desire for the war. But one of the priests whom they call bishops, who had come from the East, said that he wished to have a word with the emperor. 19 And when he met Justinian, he said that God had visited him in a dream, and bidden him go to the emperor and rebuke him, because, after undertaking the task of protecting the Christians in Libya from tyrants, he had for no good reason become afraid. 20 "And yet," He had said, "I will  p99 Myself join with him in waging war and make him lord of Libya." 21 When the emperor heard this, he was no longer able to restrain his purpose, and he began to collect the army and the ships, and to make ready supplies of weapons and of food, and he announced to Belisarius that he should be in readiness, because he was very soon to act as general in Libya. 22 Meanwhile Pudentius, one of the natives of Tripolis in Libya, caused his district to revolt from the Vandals, and sending to the emperor he begged that he should despatch an army to him; 23 for, he said, he would with no trouble win the land for the emperor. And Justinian sent him Tattimuth and an army of no very great size. 24 This force Pudentius joined with his own troops and, the Vandals being absent, he gained possession of the land and made it subject to the emperor. And Gelimer, though wishing to inflict punishment upon Pudentius, found the following obstacle in his way.

25 There was a certain Godas among the slaves of Gelimer, a Goth by birth a passionate and energetic fellow possessed of great bodily strength, but appearing to be well-disposed to the cause of his master. 26 To this Godas Gelimer entrusted the island of Sardinia, in order both to guard the island and to pay over the annual tribute. 27 But he neither could digest the prosperity brought by fortune nor had he the spirit to endure it, and so he undertook to establish a tyranny, and he refused to continue the payment of the tribute, and actually detached the island from the Vandals and held it himself. 28 And when he perceived that the Emperor Justinian was eager to make war against Libya and Gelimer, he wrote to him as follows:

 p101  29 "It was neither because I yielded to folly nor because I had suffered anything unpleasant at my master's hands that I turned my thoughts towards rebellion, but seeing the extreme cruelty of the man both toward his kinsmen and toward his subjects, I could not, willingly at least, be reputed to have a share in his inhumanity. 30 For it is better to serve a just king than a tyrant whose commands are unlawful. 31 But do thou join with me to assist in this my effort and send soldiers so that I may be able to ward off my assailants."

32 And the emperor, on receiving this letter, was pleased and he sent Eulogius as envoy and wrote a letter praising Godas for his wisdom and his zeal for justice, and he promised an alliance and soldiers and a general, who would be able to guard the island with him and to assist him in every other way, so that no trouble should come to him from the Vandals. 33 But Eulogius, upon coming to Sardinia, found that Godas was assuming the name and wearing the dress of a king and that he had attached a body-guard to his person. 34 And when Godas read the emperor's letter, he said that it was his wish to have soldiers, indeed, come to fight along with him, but as for a commander, he had absolutely no desire for one. And having written to the emperor in this sense, he dismissed Eulogius.

11 1 The emperor, meanwhile, not having yet ascertained these things, was preparing four hundred soldiers with Cyril as commander, who were to assist Godas in guarding the island. 2 And with  p103 them he also had in readiness the expedition against Carthage, ten thousand foot soldiers, and five thousand horsemen, gathered from the regular troops and from the "foederati." 3 Now at an earlier time only barbarians were enlisted among the foederati, those, namely, who had come into the Roman political system, not in the condition of slaves, since they had not been conquered by the Romans, but on the basis of complete equality.​6 4 For the Romans call treaties with their enemies "foedera." But at the present time there is nothing to prevent anyone from assuming this name, since time will by no means consent to keep names attached to the things to which they were formerly applied, but conditions are ever changing about according to the desire of men who control them, and men pay little heed to the meaning which they originally attached to a name. 5 And the commanders of the foederati were Dorotheus, the general of the troops in Armenia, and Solomon, who was acting as manager for the general Belisarius; (such a person the Romans call "domesticus." 6 Now this Solomon was a eunuch, but it was not by the devising of man that he had suffered mutilation, but some accident which befell him while in swaddling clothes had imposed this lot upon him); and there were also Cyprian, Valerian, Martinus, Althias, John, Marcellus, and the Cyril whom I have mentioned above; 7 and the commanders of the regular cavalry were Rufinus and Aïgan, who were of the house of Belisarius, and Barbatus and Pappus, while the regular infantry  p105 was commanded by Theodorus, who was surnamed Cteanus, and Terentius, Zaïdus, Marcian, and Sarapis. 8 And a certain John, a native of Epidamnus, which is now called Dyrrachium, held supreme command over all the leaders of infantry. 9 Among all these commanders Solomon was from a place in the East, at the very extremity of the Roman domain, where the city called Daras now stands, and Aïgan was by birth of the Massagetae whom they now call Huns; 10 and the rest were almost all inhabitants of the land of Thrace. 11 And there followed with them also four hundred Eruli, whom Pharas led, and about six hundred barbarian allies from the nation of the Massagetae, all mounted bowmen; 12 these were led by Sinnion and Balas, men endowed with bravery and endurance in the highest degree. 13 And for the whole force five hundred ships were required, no one of which was able to carry more than fifty thousand medimni,​7 nor any one less than three thousand. 14 And in all the vessels together there were thirty thousand sailors, Egyptians and Ionians for the most part, and Cilicians, and one commander was appointed over all the ships, Calonymus of Alexandria. 15 And they had also ships of war prepared as for sea‑fighting, to the number of ninety‑two, and they were single-banked ships covered by decks in order that the men rowing them might if possible not be exposed to the bolts of the enemy. 16 Such boats are called "dromones"​8 by those of the present time; for they are able to attain a great speed. On these sailed two thousand men of Byzantium, who were all rowers as well as  p107 fighting men; for there was not a single superfluous man among them. 17 And Archelaus was also sent, a man of patrician standing who had already been pretorian prefect both in Byzantium and in Illyricum, but he then held the position of prefect of the army; for thus the officer charged with the maintenance of the army is designated. 18 But as general with supreme authority over all the emperor sent Belisarius, who was in command of the troops of the East for the second time. 19 And he was followed by many spearmen and many guards as well, men who were capable warriors and thoroughly experienced in the dangers of fighting. 20 And the emperor gave him written instructions, bidding him do everything as seemed best to him, and stating that his acts would be final, as if the emperor himself had done them. The writing, in fact, gave him the power of a king. 21 Now Belisarius was a native of Germania, which lies between Thrace and Illyricum.​b These things, then, took place in this way.

22 Gelimer, however, being deprived of Tripolis by Pudentius and of Sardinia by Godas, scarcely hoped to regain Tripolis, since it was situated at a great distance and the rebels were already being assisted by the Romans, against whom just at that moment it seemed to him best not to take the field; but he was eager to get to the island before any army sent by the emperor to fight for his enemies should arrive there. 23 He accordingly selected five thousand of the Vandals and one hundred and twenty ships of the fastest kind, and appointing as general his brother Tzazon, he  p109 sent them off. 24 And so they were sailing with great enthusiasm and eagerness against Godas and Sardinia. In the meantime the Emperor Justinian was sending off Valerian and Martinus in advance of the others in order to await the rest of the army in the Peloponnesus. 25 And when these two had embarked upon their ships, it came to the emperor's mind that there was something which he wished to enjoin upon them, — a thing which he had wished to say previously, but he had been so busied with the other matters of which he had to speak that his mind had been occupied with them and this subject had been driven out. 26 He summoned them, accordingly, intending to say what he wished, but upon considering the matter, he saw that it would not be propitious for them to interrupt their journey. 27 He therefore sent men to forbid them either to return to him or to disembark from their ships. 28 And these men, upon coming near the ships, commanded them with much shouting and loud cries by no means to turn back, and it seemed to those present that the thing which had happened was no good omen and that never would one of the men in those ships return from Libya to Byzantium. 29 Now if anyone should so interpret the incident with regard to these two commanders, Valerian and Martinus, he will find the original opinion untrue. 30 But there was a certain man among the body-guards of Martinus, Stotzas by name, who was destined to be an enemy of the emperor, to make an attempt to set up a tyranny, and by no means to return to Byzantium, and one might suppose that curse to have been  p111 turned upon him by Heaven. 31 But whether this matter stands thus or otherwise, I leave to each one to reason out as he wishes. But I shall proceed to tell how the general Belisarius and the army departed.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Jebel Auress.

2 i.e. to what sect or religion they belonged.

3 Cf. Book IV.xi.17 ff.

4 Book I.xxii.16.

5 The "imperial" taxes were for the emperor's privy purse, the fiscus.

6 These foederati were private bands of troops under the leadership of condottieri; these had the title of "count" and received from the state an allowance for the support of their bands.

7 The medimnus equalled about one and a half bushels.

8 i.e. "runners."

Thayer's Notes:

a In the twentieth century, the Aures Mountains would serve in much the same way, as a base for the Berber freedom-fighters who spearheaded the Algerian war of independence from France.

b Careful: this is not Germany, which is not now nor ever was between Thrace and Illyricum. It appears to be a town by that name somewhere in what is now Bulgaria: see Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders2, IV.605 n.

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