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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Variety: Mike Piazza takes swing at ancient Rome

Do you like movies about gladiators?

Ralph Winter and Terry Botwick’s 1019 Entertainment are heading to ancient Rome and teaming with former Major League Baseball player Mike Piazza to produce “Constantine.”

David Franzoni, a producer and screenwriter on “Gladiator,” has written the screenplay, which centers around the complicated power struggle between rival claimants to the empire after the death of Galerius in 311 A.D. Under his reign, Rome’s capital was moved to the newly named Constantinople as he attempted to unite his empire through the spread of Christian doctrine.

...Producers credited Piazza’s involvement with getting the screenplay written.

“I’ve always been interested in this history of the Roman Empire, and this peaked when I visited Rome,” Piazza said. “The spread of Christianity during Constantine’s reign struck me as a huge turning point in human history and I think film is the best medium to capture such a significant moment.”

Repoz Posted: February 20, 2013 at 05:46 AM | 157 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 20, 2013 at 04:33 PM (#4372866)
It's complicated, though, Esoteric. Stephen Greenblatt recently won a Pulitzer Prize for a fine book (The Swerve) that takes quite a "Renaissance" view of the Renaissance, so the view is current enough, though as you say it is a contested view.


Here's an attack on Greenblatt from the LA Review of Books that takes on Kermit (the man looks like the frog) for his "Renaissance" view of the Renaissance.

My impression is that the view is current among a set of cranky senior scholars who think that the elevating of the Medieval and the depreciation of the Medieval/Modern gap has gone too far. It probably has in certain circles, but Greenblatt oversells it badly.
   102. Rennie's Tenet Posted: February 20, 2013 at 04:43 PM (#4372888)
I'm sure the Turks have made such a film. The anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople is to them like Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July day all rolled into one for us.


This movie exists, it's called Fetih 1453 (Conquest 1453) and was just released in 2012. It hasn't been released in the States or on Region 1 DVD yet.

Fetih 1453 Trailer - Youtube
   103. Greg K Posted: February 20, 2013 at 05:31 PM (#4372926)
The Roman Empire falls well outside my area of expertise, but how confident are we of army-size estimates? I know guesses of army sizes are a controversial element of the "Military Revolution" debate of the 16th and 17th centuries.

On a general history note, my second draft today was met with mixed, but generally positive reactions. Looks like a finish date before this summer is in the works, huzzah!
   104. Greg K Posted: February 20, 2013 at 05:36 PM (#4372930)
What cultural legacy did the middle ages leave us, except what NOT to do? Criminy, even when the things there were really good, like the printing press, the church tried to control and suppress. From the Council of Toulouse, 1229 AD:

I assume snapper is referring to the "medieval industrial revolution" of the 12th century.
   105. Ron J2 Posted: February 20, 2013 at 05:40 PM (#4372931)
#93 Could be. Picture quality sucks.
   106. Greg K Posted: February 20, 2013 at 05:42 PM (#4372934)
Also, let me second, third, or fourth the notion that this is a great history thread!

All this talk of medieval/renaissance (plus the fact that I'm been drinking Angostura for about 4 hours now) makes me want to re-watch James Burke's "Connections".

EDIT: Though perhaps "The Day the Universe Changed" is more apt in this case.
   107. Copronymus Posted: February 20, 2013 at 05:54 PM (#4372941)
This movie exists, it's called Fetih 1453 (Conquest 1453) and was just released in 2012. It hasn't been released in the States or on Region 1 DVD yet.


I'll be honest, if it doesn't have a scene where Constantine XI sees that the Theodosian Walls are breached and that it's hopeless, strips off his imperial regalia, and follows his cousin headlong into the battle lines, it won't meet all of my needs. That said, I was pretty excited at the bit in that trailer where the Ottomans were dragging ships overland into the Golden Horn.
   108. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: February 20, 2013 at 06:11 PM (#4372958)
Sancti cacas, haec PETCO filum?

(Bad machine translation for "Holy crap, is this the PETCO thread?")
   109. smileyy Posted: February 20, 2013 at 06:26 PM (#4372968)
[106] I did not know that drinking straight bitters was a thing. I assume that's what you mean by "Angostura"?
   110. Greg K Posted: February 20, 2013 at 06:40 PM (#4372979)
Actually it's a rum from Trinidad. A friend of mine apparently knows the heir to the company so he's always going on about it. I've never had it before it tonight. Whenever I bring it up with anyone else the bitters are what come to mind, so I presume they are more famous for that.


A quick google search confirms...the rum and the bitters are made by the same company. I wish I could endorse the rum and say it is as wothty of notoriety as the bitters...but I know next to nothing abou rum. It has successfully made me pleasanty drunk, that is the best I can say for it.
   111. Publius Publicola Posted: February 20, 2013 at 06:43 PM (#4372983)
You sure it wasn't a black bear? Adult brown bears are lousy climbers...


That was a black bear.

Here's a Youtube clip of a white rhino ramming the snot out of a cape buffalo. The poor bastard, he had 5 buddies with him and none of them had the cherries to get involved (and after watching the clip, you'll note they felt that way not without good reason):

Rhino Kills African Buffalo

   112. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 20, 2013 at 07:18 PM (#4373007)
Google books shows this awesome book, The Rhinoceros in Captiviy: A list of 2439 rhinoceroses kept from Roman times to 1994 by L. C. (Kees) Rookmaaker, Marvin L. Jones, Heinz-Georg Klös, and Richard J. Reynolds III. (It's available as crappily scanned PDFs! Well, much of it is; there are gaps, and the last PDF is bad.) It was in 80 A.D. that a rhino in the arena tossed a bear on its horn. Poor bear. No rhino appeared in Europe between antiquity and Durer's famous Lisbon rhino of 1515.

As there were no rhinos in Europe during the Middle Ages, I take back my claims that it was not a backwards and ignorant period.
   113. phredbird Posted: February 20, 2013 at 07:34 PM (#4373020)
111, the link didn't work, but i found it anyway. i had to turn it off.
   114. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 20, 2013 at 07:46 PM (#4373028)
As to how Greco-Roman culture got to Western Europe (which I assume means Western Europe, Southern Europe AND Central Europe), there's really various sources: one was Byzantium (particularly after its fall in the 15th Century). Another one was Al-Andalus (the translation work done there was amazing). Some it came from other Arab and/or Byzantine sources. And I suspect some was just pure damn luck (i.e., certain Monasteries having kept crucial parchments in their vaults/dusty libraries, etc., etc., etc.).

Yes, there were also Irish monasteries that preserved and copied classical texts, although my understanding this was a distant third behind the Byzantine and Arab sources.
   115. phredbird Posted: February 20, 2013 at 08:03 PM (#4373035)
Yes, there were also Irish monasteries that preserved and copied classical texts, although my understanding this was a distant third behind the Byzantine and Arab sources.


naw, the irish are gonna go ahead and take credit for it.
   116. Publius Publicola Posted: February 20, 2013 at 08:23 PM (#4373051)
The capture of the Al-Andalus should not be underestimated. Arabic words like "algebra" and "chemistry" and "azimuth" slipped into the intellectual vernacular of Europe.
   117. BDC Posted: February 20, 2013 at 08:32 PM (#4373054)
there were also Irish monasteries that preserved and copied classical texts, although my understanding this was a distant third behind the Byzantine and Arab sources

Manuscripts in libraries in Ireland or Britain would have been Latin; Byzantine libraries, largely Greek. That's a big distinction, because there are really two quite separate literatures being preserved through the separate "dark ages." As noted upthread, there's an unbroken tradition of reading and copying the Aeneid in the Latin West, while Homer was basically unknown there at first-hand for many centuries.
   118. Brian Posted: February 20, 2013 at 09:06 PM (#4373077)
"Do ya like Gladiator movies Tommy?"
   119. RollingWave Posted: February 20, 2013 at 09:55 PM (#4373106)
ooooooooo a history thread, and one not about the US civil war! (rub hands)

When DID the classical era end? that is highly debatable too, there's no argument that after the rise of Islam it was certainly done for, but the point before that up to say... the fall of the WRE is certainly debatable. that's a span of nearly 200 years.

The middle ages certainly had some innovation, especially in the later half and in agriculture / metallurgy / husbandry , but proportionality speaking it was no where near the breakthroughs in antiquity, of course one must also note that most classical era innovation was done by the time the Roman Empire was formed, there wasn't much technological difference between Augustus to the end of the Western Empire, and in fact one could easily argue that there was already a decline by then. (one can look at the quality of marble bust of emperors for example, there was a noticable decline after the Crisis of the 3rd century, of course it was still eons better than anything else Europe had for the next 1000 years.


From Archaeological survey we see that shipping in the Med was essentially a strait downward fall from late Republic time with some very mild bounce backs here and there, and it hit rock bottom by around Justinian (who saw the last dead cat bounce) until something like the 10th century.

It is a complex thing, but one can argue that one possible / probable cause was that once the empire was formed, social mobility began to stagnate and then fall backwards, this shouldn't be surprising as the lack of big wars meant that wealthy family are unlikely to die off while less well off once have much reduced chances of improving their prospect (as the biggest way of doing it was through military ranks). This began a ugly cycle that gained momentum until it threw everyone off the cliff.

For example, as the wealth divide widen, the middle class decline and it becomes a clear divide, the poor keep getting poorer and the rich relatively speaking gets richer, this turns into a ugly cycle as the poor no longer can afford imported grain (Rome's population in it's hey day was largely supported by grains from Tunisia and Egypt) and thus move out of the city, the rich eventually realized that it's kinda hard to live in a city without servants also moved out. all this in turn destroyed trade as now only high luxury goods would be of any real worth in long distance trade. quantity decline eventually lead to all out decline,

meanwhile, without the imported grain, obviously population will take a downward spiral, which in turn gives the Empire a huge headach in maintaining it's vast borders. or even maintaining proper contact with far off land. as trade decline previously profitable colonies cease to be so, and also loses the incentive to stay politically united to Rome.

the spiral effect from those point on isn't hard to imagine.




One should note that a climate change theory is acceptable to an extend, for example, the Han dynasty of China also collapsed in the 3rd Century AD, leading to an extended period of crap, but they had recovered by the late 6th century and saw another huge peak. of course, part of the reason is that China had a lot of room to go south, part of the reason for the revival by then was that they shifted economic center southward big time, though that effect wasn't fully evident until after the 7th century peak.
   120. Publius Publicola Posted: February 20, 2013 at 10:18 PM (#4373114)
When DID the classical era end? that is highly debatable too, there's no argument that after the rise of Islam it was certainly done for, but the point before that up to say... the fall of the WRE is certainly debatable.


I think certainly by 546, when Totila and the Ostrogoths sacked and depopulated Rome. Many historians would put it earlier than that, somewhere in the mid-400s, I think, around the Vandal sacking.
   121. RollingWave Posted: February 20, 2013 at 10:49 PM (#4373123)
The Roman Empire falls well outside my area of expertise, but how confident are we of army-size estimates? I know guesses of army sizes are a controversial element of the "Military Revolution" debate of the 16th and 17th centuries.


It's more reliable then later medieval figures to be sure, we're pretty confident that on average a Roman army was much bigger than anything the west saw until early modern time. an general look into logistics of the period should easily lead us to that conclusion anyway.



   122. puck Posted: February 20, 2013 at 10:58 PM (#4373132)
There's a youtube video of a wolverine treeing an adult brown bear.

Speaking of Red Dawn, did anyone see the remake?
   123. Depressoteric Posted: February 20, 2013 at 11:03 PM (#4373137)
I think certainly by 546, when Totila and the Ostrogoths sacked and depopulated Rome. Many historians would put it earlier than that, somewhere in the mid-400s, I think, around the Vandal sacking.
I actually think Gibbon has a decent answer for this question, at least in cultural and intellectual terms, when he states that Boethius (AD 480-524) was the last writer/philosopher whom classical Romans would have recognized as one of their own. Given that he represented the dying gasp of this tradition, a date of the mid-to-late 400s doesn't seem too far off.

A more interesting question might be: when did the classical period (for the Romans, at least) begin? The standard answer is the late third century (i.e. 210-200BC) with Q. Fabius Pictor, the first Roman to write a history of Rome, but I feel the fact that he wrote in Greek -- and cast his work within a framework of Greek gods and Greek culture -- is a major argument against citing him as the first major author of the classical period. Plautus (who flourished ca. 205-184BC) is a better answer, but his plays were so imitative of their Greek models that they are more like Hellenic classicism translated into Latin.

The proper answer, IMO, is therefore Cato the Elder, who wrote exclusively in Latin (the Origines were the first history of Rome to be written in the native tongue) and pioneered a specific and ideologically-based effort to develop a style that distinguished Latin prosody from its Greek counterparts. Cato represents the beginning of the Roman classical era, at least as far as literature is concerned, while Boethius is its terminus.
   124. Publius Publicola Posted: February 20, 2013 at 11:18 PM (#4373145)
FWIW, I prefer the Hellenic period to the Roman period, particularly the peak of the Athenian era. The Greeks were more cerebral than the Romans, IMO, and the constitution of the Hellenic world, with its many city states each representing a unique flavor of thought and habit and the maritime. cosmopolitan nature of its culture, I find more interesting. Its sort of like modern European history in miniature.
   125. Cabbage Posted: February 21, 2013 at 12:10 AM (#4373160)
Echoing some earlier comments, I think the Byzantine period is very interesting, and generally the least appreciated part of Western history. The Byzantines, for all their faults, produced some fascinating characters -- Justinian, the Cappadocian Fathers, the Paeologis. As someone once put it, while Charlemagne was struggling to write his name, the bakers of Constantinople were debating charakter of the Logos.

Also, if anyone is unaware of one of the great gems of the internet, AskHistorians is a great place to waste time: reddit.com/r/askhistorians
   126. RollingWave Posted: February 21, 2013 at 01:22 AM (#4373170)
Byzantine : I'm also fascinated by Manuel Komnenos to an extend, I think he sums up a Chinese poem well.

"The sun set is unlimited in it's beauty, except that dusk is right on it's heel."

   127. OCF Posted: February 21, 2013 at 04:46 AM (#4373195)
FWIW, I prefer the Hellenic period to the Roman period, particularly the peak of the Athenian era.

Speaking with the prejudices of a mathematician, I find that there's a lot to say for Hellenistic rather than Hellenic culture. That is, a world in which Alexandria is a far more important city than Athens. Within mathematics, Apollonius was more interesting and significant than Zeno; Archimedes more profound than Plato. That Hellenistic culture continued for centuries under the political domination of Rome, even to such late-Roman times figures as Diophantus or Pappus.
   128. RollingWave Posted: February 21, 2013 at 10:04 AM (#4373238)
Yeah, strictly looking at just Greece isn't nearly as fun. It was quite amazing how far some of their colonies got though, like the Northern Black Sea coast...

   129. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 21, 2013 at 10:27 AM (#4373250)
I've always wondered how things would have gone in Rome if Germanicus had survived his illness/poisoning.
   130. zonk Posted: February 21, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4373282)
I did not know that drinking straight bitters was a thing. I assume that's what you mean by "Angostura"?


Angostura bitters in soda water is the among the best things for a hangover in the world....

...and gentlemen - this is a very fine thread, but if we could adjust the Roman/Rhino ratio perhaps 5% more towards the Rhinos, it would be about perfect.
   131. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: February 21, 2013 at 11:43 AM (#4373304)
Hellenistic history always drove me nuts. A bunch of different kingdoms and bazillion different kings, all named Seleucus, Antiochus, Ptolemy, or Philip. Antigonos the One Eyed was pretty bad ass. I actually think that's still my brother's BTF handle.

Oh yeah, and you get the Hannukah story thrown in there to boot.
   132. Rennie's Tenet Posted: February 21, 2013 at 11:57 AM (#4373317)
Speaking of Red Dawn, did anyone see the remake?


I haven't seen the remakes of either, but I suspect that Red Dawn is the worst movie ever to be remade, losing to the Wicker Man by a wriggling Britt Eklund.
   133. Ron J2 Posted: February 21, 2013 at 12:00 PM (#4373318)
#130 What more can be said about an animal whose problem solving toolkit is:

charge, gore, trample

For every situation.

Come to think of it though. A lot of meetings would go much more smoothly with a black rhino. And they would cut down the number of irritating calls to support.
   134. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 21, 2013 at 12:10 PM (#4373327)
Other great monarch nicknames:

Ivailo the Cabbage
Wladyslaw the Elbow High
Michael Minus-a-Quarter
   135. zonk Posted: February 21, 2013 at 12:22 PM (#4373335)

Come to think of it though. A lot of meetings would go much more smoothly with a black rhino. And they would cut down the number of irritating calls to support.


In fact, I am currently going through my cost center budget to see if I can slot 'black rhino' under anything... Do you think I could get away with categorizing it as 'hardware'?
   136. Ron J2 Posted: February 21, 2013 at 12:32 PM (#4373345)
#135 How does your consulting budget look?
   137. zonk Posted: February 21, 2013 at 12:40 PM (#4373352)
#135 How does your consulting budget look?


Well, currently I'm using it to pay for hookers...
   138. Ron J2 Posted: February 21, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4373365)
#137 hmm, hookers or rhinos. That's got to be a tough call.

EDIT: In one of Lois Bujold's books (Memory) the head of Imperial Security talks about what motivates agents.

"Money, power, sex ... and elephants."

   139. smileyy Posted: February 21, 2013 at 01:31 PM (#4373385)
[138] Someone's got to steer the rhino.
   140. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 21, 2013 at 01:48 PM (#4373392)
...and gentlemen - this is a very fine thread, but if we could adjust the Roman/Rhino ratio perhaps 5% more towards the Rhinos, it would be about perfect.


"I see a rhinoceros!" from Midnight in Paris. One of the high points of Adrian Brody's career.
   141. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: February 21, 2013 at 02:17 PM (#4373409)
Other great monarch nicknames:

Ivailo the Cabbage
Wladyslaw the Elbow High
Michael Minus-a-Quarter


I've always liked Ethelred the Unready.
   142. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: February 21, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4373418)

I've always liked Ethelred the Unready.


Of course, the Old English "Un-Raed" really means "poorly counciled," and was meant as a slight against his Witan.
   143. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: February 21, 2013 at 03:06 PM (#4373434)
Ivailo the Cabbage
Wladyslaw the Elbow High
Michael Minus
-a-Quarter 


Anything would be better than being "The Gouty" or "the Little Impaler"
   144. Ron J2 Posted: February 21, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4373438)
Tamerlane could be translated as roughly Timmy the Gimp. It was not a name used by anybody with any sense who lived anywhere near him.
   145. Copronymus Posted: February 21, 2013 at 07:17 PM (#4373638)
The Byzantines had a whole bunch of good ones: Basil the Bulgar-Slayer, Michael the Drunkard, Constantine Born in the Purple, Julian the Apostate, Michael the Caulker, Constantine the Poop-Named, Justinian Slit-Nose. They sound even better in Greek, too.

As far as the Hellenistic Period goes, the sculpture is also much more impressive than Hellenic sculpture. They weren't making stuff like Laocoön in the 5th century. Really, that whole idea of Classical Athens as the greatest time in human history doesn't really line up with the actual artistic, literary, and philosophical output of the time. A surprising amount of the stuff we think of as the glories of Ancient Greece were later or done elsewhere. The politics of the Hellenistic Period are incredibly tedious, but everything else was banging on all cylinders.
   146. BDC Posted: February 21, 2013 at 09:57 PM (#4373690)
whole idea of Classical Athens as the greatest time in human history doesn't really line up with the actual artistic, literary, and philosophical output of the time

You have to admit they weren't bad at playwriting, though :)
   147. phredbird Posted: February 21, 2013 at 09:58 PM (#4373691)
if we could adjust the Roman/Rhino ratio perhaps 5% more towards the Rhinos, it would be about perfect.


how about the roman emperor who appointed a rhino as a senator?

wait, that was a horse. oh well, i tried.
   148. RollingWave Posted: February 21, 2013 at 10:05 PM (#4373694)
A lot of the Islamic nick names are awesome, especially in the period after the Seljuqs got in.

Alp Arslan = Heroic Lion
Malik Shah = King King (Malik is Turkish for King and Shah is Persian for King)
Kilij Arslan = Lion Sword
Barkiyaruq = unwavering light
Sanjar = he who thrust
Aladin Jahansuz : Aladin the world burner

   149. Publius Publicola Posted: February 21, 2013 at 10:12 PM (#4373699)
Really, that whole idea of Classical Athens as the greatest time in human history doesn't really line up with the actual artistic, literary, and philosophical output of the time.


Oh come on. Here's a quote from Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy:

The achievements of Athens in the time of Pericles are perhaps the most astonishing thing in all history. Until that time, Athens had lagged behind other Greek cities; neither in art nor in literature had it produced any great man (except Solon, who was primarily a lawgiver). Suddenly, under the stimulus of victory and wealth, and the need of reconstruction, architects, sculptors and dramatists, who remain unsurpassed to the present day, produced works which dominated the future down to modern times. This is the more surprising when we consider the smallness of the population involved. Athens at its maximum, about 430 B.C., is estimated to have numbered about 230,000 (including slaves) and the surrounding territory of rural Attica probably contained a smaller population. Never before or since has anything approaching the same proportion of inhabitants of any area shown itself capable of work of the highest excellence.
   150. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 21, 2013 at 10:27 PM (#4373702)
Never before or since has anything approaching the same proportion of inhabitants of any area shown itself capable of work of the highest excellence.

Hmm, what was the population of Liverpool around 1960?
   151. Publius Publicola Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:44 AM (#4373743)
...and gentlemen - this is a very fine thread, but if we could adjust the Roman/Rhino ratio perhaps 5% more towards the Rhinos, it would be about perfect.


How about a honey badger video, sort of the drug-crazed cousin african savanna version of the wolverine, getting bit by a king cobra and shaking it off like he drank too much bad whiskey:

The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger (original narration by Randall)
   152. Cabbage Posted: February 22, 2013 at 01:55 AM (#4373754)
how about the roman emperor who appointed a rhino as a senator?

wait, that was a horse. oh well, i tried.


Reminds me of one of my favorite political one-liners:

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, upon being told that President-Elect Bill Clinton was considering appointing Hillary as Attorney General, remarks, "they say Caligula appointed his horse consul of Rome."
   153. PreservedFish Posted: February 22, 2013 at 03:13 AM (#4373762)
Never before or since has anything approaching the same proportion of inhabitants of any area shown itself capable of work of the highest excellence.


I can't help but be skeptical about a statement like this.
   154. Lassus Posted: February 22, 2013 at 08:28 AM (#4373778)
I can't help but be skeptical about a statement like this.

It's like they're straight-up trolling residents of the Bronx.
   155. Mefisto Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4373847)
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, upon being told that President-Elect Bill Clinton was considering appointing Hillary as Attorney General, remarks, "they say Caligula appointed his horse consul of Rome."


Rehnquist is very far from the first person to make such a comment. It's such an old line that these days, in order to impress anyone, you have to know the name of the horse. (Incitatus)
   156. RollingWave Posted: February 22, 2013 at 10:06 PM (#4374420)
Rome related, it is rather ironic that the Roman / Byznatium presence in North Africa's final end was a last stand in.... Carthage. (Against the Arab / Berbers)

Hannibal must have gotten a chuckle from that beyond the grave.

   157. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: February 22, 2013 at 10:23 PM (#4374424)
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, upon being told that President-Elect Bill Clinton was considering appointing Hillary as Attorney General, remarks, "they say Caligula appointed his horse consul of Rome."

The proper response to that would be "and they say that Nixon appointed his horse's ass to the Supreme Court"
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