translated by Shlomo Felberbaum

photographs by Shane Solow

Text and photographs Copyright © 1999—2003 Lost Trails
all rights reserved

Installment 3

The young man answered with this: “Although pardon, o father, is yours, since you saw a vision like that, for keeping guard concerning me, yet what you do not understand, but has escaped your notice in respect to the dream, it is just for me to point out to you. You say the dream said to you by an iron spear I would meet with my end, but of a boar, what kind of hands are there, and what kind of iron spear, of which you are afraid? For, if by a tusk it had said to you I would meet with my end, or by anything else that is like that, you would, of course, have had to do what you are doing; however, as it is, it said by spear. Since, therefore, the battle for us proves not against men, set me free.” Croesus answered, “O son, there is some way in which you prevail over me by declaring your judgement concerning the dream. Therefore, on the ground that I am prevailed over by you, I change my mind, and set you free to go to the hunt.”

After he had said that, Croesus summoned the Phrygian Adrastus, and to him on his coming said this: “Adrastus, you, stricken by unagreeable misfortune, for which I do not reproach you, I purified, and have entertained in the palace and keep doing so, while I supply every expense. At present then, since you are bound, because I previously did benefits for you, with benefits to repay me, I desire you to become guardian of my son as he starts off for the hunt, lest along the road any villainous thieves appear to you for mischief. In addition to that, you, too, for yourself must go where you will become brilliant by your actions. For it is your forefathers’ way, and moreover the strength belongs to you.” Adrastus answered, “O king, although, in another circumstance, I, for my part, would not go to a contest like this, since, for one that has experienced my kind of misfortune, neither is it seemly to go to contemporaries who fare well, nor is the yearning present—in short, for many reasons I would restrain myself, however, as it is, because you urge and I must gratify you—for I am bound to repay you with benefits—I am ready to do that, and your son, whom you exhort me to guard, unharmed, so far as depends on his guardian, expect to return to you.”

When with words like that he had answered Croesus, the party started out after that, furnished with picked young men and hounds. On coming to Olympus, the mountain, they began to search for the beast, and after they had found and stood round it in a circle, they proceeded to throw javelins at it. Hereupon the stranger, that very one who had been purified from the killing, and was called Adrastus, trying to smite the boar with a javelin, although it he missed, yet hit Croesus’ son.

He then, struck by the spear, fulfilled the saying of the dream, and someone ran to announce to Croesus what had happened. On coming to Sardis, the battle and the doom of his son he indicated to him. Then Croesus, confounded by the death of his son, complained somewhat more indignantly, because he slew him, whom he himself had purified from killing. Terribly aggrieved by his misfortune, he called on Zeus who presides over purification—he called him to witness what he had suffered at the hands of the stranger—and called on who presides over the hearth and who presides over companionship, and that same god he named; he called on him as who presides over the hearth, precisely because, by entertaining the stranger in the palace, he was the keeper of the killer of his son unaware, and on him as who presides over companionship, since, by sending that man to join the party as guardian, he had found him the greatest enemy.

There were present after that the Lydians with the corpse, and behind, the killer followed it. Then, he stood before the corpse, surrendered himself to Croesus by holding out his hands, bade him to cut his throat over the corpse, and spoke of the earlier misfortune of his, and that on top of that he had destroyed his purifier and it was not livable for him. Croesus, on hearing that, had mercy on Adrastus, even though he was involved in so great an evil of his own, and said to him, “I have, o stranger, from you full satisfaction, since you sentence yourself to the death penalty. You, to me, are not the cause of this evil of mine, except insofar as you unwillingly worked it out, but someone of the gods, I suppose, who to me very long had been indicating in advance what was to be.” Now, Croesus buried, as was seemly, his own son, and Adrastus, the son of Gordias, the son of Mides, that very man who had proven the killer of his own brother and killer of his purifier, when quiet at the departure of the human beings had fallen round the grave, acknowledged that he was, of human beings that he himself knew of, the most weighed down by misfortune, and killed himself by cutting his throat over the tomb.

Croesus for two years in great sorrow sat still, bereft of his son, but afterward, the putting down of Astyages the son of Cyaxares’ hegemony by Cyrus the son of Cambyses, and the growing of the affairs of the Persians, stopped Croesus from sorrow, and set him to thinking that, if he could somehow, before the Persians proved great, he should restrain the growing of their power. Therefore, after that thought, at once he began to make trial of the seats of prophecy, those in the Greeks’ land and that in Libya, by sending off different groups to different places, one to go into Delphi, one into the Abae of the Phocaeans, one into Dodona; and some men were sent to Amphiareus and to Trophonius, some to Branchidae in Milesian land. Now, those are the Greek seats of prophecy to which Croesus sent away men to get prophetic responses, and in Libya to Ammon he dispatched others to consult the oracle. So he sent off to make trial of the seats of prophecy, as to what they had in mind, that, if they were found to have in mind the truth, he might ask them next, when he sent men, whether he should set his hand to advance with an army against the Persians.

Now, he enjoined on the Lydians the following, when he sent them away to the trial of the oracles, that, from that day whenever they set out from Sardis, they should count by days the future time, and the hundredth day consult the oracles and ask what the king of the Lydians, Croesus, the son of Alyattes, in fact did, and whatever each of the oracles prophesied, they should have written down and bring back to himself. Now, what the rest of the oracles prophesied is said by none, but in Delphi, as soon as the Lydians had come into the hall to consult the god, and asked what had been enjoined, Pythia in hexametric meter said this:

I know sand’s number and the dimensions of sea;
Both the mute I understand and the speechless hear.
An odor comes to my mind of hard-shelled tortoise,
As it boils in bronze together with pieces of lamb;
Under it bronze is spread; above with bronze it’s capped.

When that Pythia had prophesied, the Lydians had it written down, and went travelling off to Sardis, and after all the others sent round, also, were present with their responses, then Croesus unfolded and looked over each of the writings. Of the others, indeed, none moved him, but when he had heard the one from Delphi, at once he offered prayer, and received it favorably, in the belief that the seat of prophecy at Delphi was unique, because it had found out for him what he himself had done. For, right after he had sent off to the oracles the messengers to inquire of them, he waited for the appointed of the days, and contrived like this: he devised what there was no way of contriving to find out and have cognizance of, and thus cut up a tortoise and a lamb together, boiled them himself in a bronze cauldron, and with a bronze cover covered it.

The above proclamation, then, from Delphi thus was made to Croesus, but concerning the answer from Amphiareus’ seat of prophecy, I am unable to say anything about what it proclaimed to the Lydians, on their doing at the shrine what conformed to the law (for that, too, in fact, is not said)—at any rate other than that that man, too, he believed to posses an undeceitful seat of prophecy.

After the above, with great sacrifices he tried to propitiate the god at Delphi; for three thousand cattle of all kinds he sacrificed, and with couches overlaid with gold and overlaid with silver, golden libation bowls, and purple cloaks and tunics, he piled up a large pyre, and burnt it down, in the expectation that he would gain the favor of the god somewhat more by that; moreover, he ordered all Lydians to sacrifice, every one of them, that which each had. When he was done with the sacrificing, he had an immense amount of gold melted down and drew half-bricks from it; on the longer side, he made them six palms’ measure, on the shorter, three palms’ measure, in height, a palm’s measure and, in number, a hundred seventeen; and of those, four were of refined gold, each weighing two and a half talents, and all the others were half-bricks of white gold, in weight, two talents. He also had made a lion’s likeness of refined gold that had a weight of ten talents. (That lion, while the temple in Delphi was burning down, fell down from the half-bricks—for on them it was set up—and now is placed in the Corinthians' treasury, and has a weight of six and a half talents, since there was melted from it three and a half talents.) Now, Croesus brought those works to completion, and sent them away to Delphi, and these other works with them: two bowls, large in size, a gold and a silver, of which the gold was placed on the right as one went into the temple, and the silver, on the left. (They, too, changed their places at the time of the temple’s burning down: the gold is placed in the Clazomenians’ treasury, and has a weight of eight and a half talents and twelve minae beside, and the silver, at the fore-temple’s corner, and holds six hundred amphorae; for wine is mixed in it by the Delphians at Theophania. The Delphians say it is Theodorus the Samian’s work, and I think so, since it appears to me to be not the work met with everyday.) He also sent away four silver jars, which stand in the Corinthians’ treasury, and dedicated two sprinklers, a gold and a silver, on the gold of which there is an inscription that asserts it is an offering of the Lacedaemonians, although it is an incorrect statement; for that, too, is Croesus’, and one of the Delphians made the inscription, because he wanted to gratify the Lacedaemonians, whose name I know and will not mention. (However, the boy, through whose hand the water flows, is the Lacedaemonians’, but neither of the sprinklers.) Many other unremarkable offerings Croesus sent away with these, and silver circular cast vessels, and especially a woman's image of gold three cubits tall, which, the Delphians say, is the baker of Croesus’ likeness. In addition, also his own wife's necklaces Croesus dedicated, and her girdles.

Those things he sent away to Delphi, and to Amphiareus, after he had learned by inquiry of his virtue and suffering, he dedicated a shield, all of gold, and similarly a solid spear, all of gold, the shaft, like the point, being of gold; they both, still even to my time, were placed in Thebes, and at Thebes in the temple of Ismenian Apollo.

On those of the Lydians who were to bring those gifts to the shrines, Croesus enjoined to ask the oracles whether he should advance with an army against the Persians, and whether he should win over any army of men as a friend. So, when, on their coming to where they had been sent out, the Lydians had dedicated the offerings, they consulted the oracles by saying, “Croesus, the king of the Lydians and other nations, in the belief that the seats of prophecy here are unique among human beings, gave you gifts worthy of what you had found out, and now asks you whether he should advance with an army against the Persians, and whether he should win over any army of men as an ally.” They asked that, and of both seats of prophecy, the judgement concurred in the same thing, since they predicted for Croesus that, if he advanced with an army against the Persians, he would break down a great empire; also, the most powerful of the Greeks they advised him to find out, and to win over as friends.

After Croesus had learned by inquiry the messages brought back from the oracles, not only did he take excessive pleasure in the oracles, but also, fully in the expectation that he would break down the kingdom of Cyrus, he sent men again to Pytho, and presented the Delphians, on learning by inquiry their multitude, man by man, with two staters of gold each. Then the Delphians, in return for that, gave Croesus and the Lydians the right of consulting the seat of prophecy first, freedom from tax, the right of sitting in front at public gatherings and permission, to whoever of them wanted, to become a Delphian at any time.

When he had given presents to the Delphians, Croesus consulted the oracle the third time. For, right after he had ascertained the seat of prophecy's truth, he took his fill of it. So he asked this, when he consulted the oracle, whether his monarchy would be long lived. And Pythia proclaimed to him this:

Well, whenever a mule becomes king of the Medes,
Yea then, Lydian tenderfoot, to pebbly Hermus
Flee and don’t stay, and don’t be ashamed to be bad.

In those words, on their arriving, Croesus took pleasure in somewhat far the highest degree of all, since he expected that a mule not at all, in place of a man, would reign over the Medes, and therefore not he himself, nor those descended from him, would ever cease from the rule.

After that, he thought and inquired whom of the Greeks, being most powerful, he should get on his side as friends. Inquiring, he found the Lacedaemonians and the Athenians surpassed, the former the Doric race, the latter the Ionic. For those peoples were judged the first, being anciently, the latter the Pelasgic nation, the former the Greek.

Although the one nation nowhere yet went out, the Lacedaemonian was very much wandering. For, in the time of King Deucalion, it was settled in the land of Phthia, and in the time of Dorus, the son of Hellen, in the country under Ossa and Olympus, the so-called Histiaean. From the Histiaean, after it had been expelled by the Cadmeians, it was settled in Pindus among the so-called Macedonian nation. Thence again it changed its place to the Dryopian land, and from the Dryopian thus it came to Peloponnesus, and was called Doric.

Which tongue the Pelasgians uttered, I am unable exactly to say, but if one has to speak, by taking as evidence the still now existing of the Pelasgians settled over the Tyrsenians in the city of Creston, who were at some time bordering those now called Dorians (and they were at that time settled in the land now called Thessalian) and of the Pelasgians once settled in Placia and Scylace in the Hellespont, who became fellow settlers with the Athenians, as well as all the other boroughs, being Pelasgian, that changed their name, if, by taking those as evidence, one must speak, the Pelasgians were utterers of a barbarian tongue. If, then, the Pelasgian people were entirely like that, the Attic nation, being Pelasgian, together with its change into Greeks, changed its tongue and learned a new one. For, in fact, clearly neither the Crestonians, to any of those now settled round them, are of similar tongue, nor the Placians, but to themselves are of similar tongue, and thus, they make clear that that character of tongue which they brought with themselves, when they changed their earlier places and went to new ones, they held under guard.

The Greek nation, although in respect to tongue, since it came into being, on each and every occasion from of old has been constantly using the same, as to me plainly appears to be, however, split off from the Pelasgian, being without strength, from a small origin at the beginning started off, and has grown into a multitude of nations, especially since the Pelasgians have gone over to it, and numerous other barbarian nations. Besides to me, at any rate, it seems that the Pelasgian nation, while it was barbarian, not at all grew greatly.

It was one of those nations, then, the Attic, that was kept down and torn asunder, Croesus learned by inquiry, by Peisistratus, son of Hippocrates, who during that time was tyrant of the Athenians. For, to Hippocrates, being a private person and spectator of the Olympic games, a great portent came into being, in that, after he had sacrificed his sacred victims, the cauldrons, which stood near and were full of meat and water, without fire boiled and overflowed. Chilon, the Lacedaemonian, happening by and beholding the portent, advised Hippocrates, best of all, not to bring home a wife able to produce offspring to his house, and if he, in fact, had one, the next best thing, to send out his wife, and if any son, in fact, was his, to renounce him. However, it is said at Chilon’s recommending that, Hippocrates refused to obey; that there was born to him after that that Peisistratus who, when the coastal Athenians and those of the plain were factious, and Megacles, the son of Alcmeon, was chief of the former, and Lycourgus, the son of Aristolaides of those of the plain, fixed his thoughts on the tyranny and gathered a third faction, and, when he had collected the men of his faction and in speech was chief of those over the heights, he contrived like this: after he had wounded himself and his mules, he drove to the public square his chariot, as if he had fled from his enemies, who wished to kill him as he drove to the field forsooth, and he asked of the people to get a guard from it, since he had been of good repute in the office of general performed against the Megarians, where he had taken Nisaea and shown forth other great actions. The Athenian people, completely deceived, gave him some of their townsmen by selecting those men who proved not lance-bearers of Peisistratus, but club-bearers; for with clubs of wood they followed him behind. Then they, joined together with Peisistratus, stood up in opposition and got hold of the acropolis. Hereupon Peisistratus was ruler of the Athenians, without confounding the existing honors or altering statutes; in short, on the established principles he governed the city, and ordered it beautifully and well. After not much time, having in mind the same object, the men of Megacles’ faction and those of Lycourgus’ drove him out. Thus Peisistratus got hold of Athens the first time and, since he was trying to hold the tyranny, when it was not yet very rooted, he lost it, and those who drove Peisistratus out again anew were factious against each other. Driven about by the faction, Megacles sent Peisistratus a message by herald and asked whether he wanted to have his daughter as wife in return for the tyranny. After Peisistratus had consented to what had been said and agreed on that condition, they then contrived, for his return from exile, the silliest deed by far, as I find, at least since the rather ancient period, when there had been separated from the barbarian nation the Greek, being both cleverer and more removed from foolish silliness, in that at that time, indeed, they, among the Athenians, who were said to be the first of the Greeks in wisdom, contrived like this: in the Paeanian deme was a woman, whose name was Phye, in height falling three fingers short of four cubits and in other respects a possessor of good looks. That woman they dressed with a panoply, made go into a car and showed by example a kind of very comely bearing, which she was manifestly to have, and they drove into the town, after sending before heralds as forerunners, who spoke publicly what had been enjoined, on coming to the town, in words like this: “O Athenians, receive with good mind Peisistratus, whom Athena herself honors most of human beings, and brings back from exile to her own acropolis.” They, then, went all over and said that, and at once to the demes a report came, that Athena was bringing back Peisistratus from exile, and those in the town, convinced the woman was the god herself, offered prayer to the human being and received Peisistratus.

When he had regained the tyranny in the said manner, Peisistratus, in accordance with the agreement made with Megacles, married Megacles’ daughter. But inasmuch as sons belonged to him, who were young men, and Alcmeonidae were said to be under a curse, not wanting there to be born to him from his newly married wife offspring, he had intercourse with her not in accordance with law. Now, at the first, his wife hid that, but afterward, either at her inquiring or maybe not, she pointed it out to her own mother, and she to her husband. Of him, as something terrible, being dishonored by Peisistratus got hold, and angrily, as he was, he altered in his enmity to the men of faction. When Peisistratus had learned what was being done against himself, he departed from the country altogether, and on coming to Eretria, he took counsel with his sons. After Hippies had prevailed in his judgement to reacquire back the tyranny, then they gathered donations from whichever cities owed respect to them in some way or other. Although many supplied much money, the Thebans excelled them in the giving of money. Afterward, to say it in no long speech, time grew on and everything was furnished by them for the return from exile. For, in fact, Argive mercenaries came from the Peloponnesus, and a Naxian man, having come with them as a volunteer, whose name was Lygdamis, supplied himself the most eagerness in conveying both money and men.

So they started off from Eretria and, after an interval of eleven years, came back. Indeed first in Attic land they got a hold of Marathon. While they were encamped in that place, the men of their faction from the town came to them, and others from the demes flowed in, to whom tyranny, in preference to freedom, was more welcome. They, then, were assembled together, and those of the Athenians from the town, as long as Peisistratus gathered money, and subsequently after he had gotten hold of Marathon, accounted it nothing, but when they had learned by inquiry that from Marathon he was making his way to the town, just then they came to its rescue against him. Indeed they came with the whole army against those returning from exile, and Peisistratus and his followers, after they had started off from Marathon and were going against the town, going together to the same spot, came to Pallas Athena’s shrine and put their arms opposite. Then, divinely sent, Amphilytus, the Acarnian speaker of oracles, stood by Peisistratus, and he went toward him and proclaimed in hexametric meter these words:

The net has been cast, and the mesh has been spread out.
Tuna will dart along through the moonlit nighttime.

He, then, inspired, proclaimed to him this, and Peisistratus, on comprehending the oracle and saying he received what had been proclaimed, began to lead his army against the enemy. The Athenians from the town were turned to breakfast at that time, and after their breakfast several of them partly to dice, partly to sleep. So Peisistratus and his followers fell upon the Athenians and put them to rout. While they were fleeing, then Peisistratus devised the wisest plan, that the Athenians might be assembled no longer and so be disbanded. He mounted his sons on horses and sent them before. Then they overtook those fleeing and said what had been enjoined by Peisistratus, in that they bade take courage and go off, each to his own. As the Athenians were persuaded, just then Peisistratus the third time got hold of Athens, and rooted the tyranny, not only with many auxiliaries and money income, some coming in out of the very place, some from the Strymon river, but also because he had captured as hostages the sons of the Athenians who had remained by and not at once fled, and established them in Naxos, since, in fact, it Peisistratus had subjected in war and entrusted to Lygdamis, and besides, in addition to that, he had purified the island of Delos on the basis of prophetic speeches, and had purified it thus: so far as the view from the shrine reached, out of that place he dug the corpses, and changed their earlier spot and brought them to another place on Delos. So Peisistratus was tyrant of Athens, and of the Athenians, some in the battle had fallen, and some of them with the Alcmeonidae were exiles from their own land.

Now, as to the Athenians events like that during that time, Croesus learned by inquiry, kept them down, but the Lacedaemonians from great evils had fled, and were by then in war superior to the Tegeans. For, during the time when Leon and Hegesicles were kings in Sparta, in all the other wars the Lacedaemonians were of good fortune and against the Tegeans alone stumbled. Still earlier than that they were also possessors of the worst laws of all Greeks, by themselves and without mixing with foreigners. Then they changed in the following way to good laws. When Lycourgus, an esteemed man among the Spartiates, had come in to Delphi to the oracle, as he went into the hall, straightway Pythia said this:

You have come, o Lycourgus, to my rich temple,
Dear to Zeus and all who have Olympian homes.
I doubt whether I’ll prophesy you god or man,
But still more a god I expect, o Lycourgus.

Some, then, in addition to that, say Pythia also pointed out to him the now established order for the Spartiates, but, as the Lacedaemonians themselves say, when Lycourgus was guardian of Leobotes, his own nephew and king of the Spartiates, from Crete he brought it back. For, as soon as he had become guardian, he established all new usages and kept anyone from transgressing them. Afterward, what related to war, sworn bands, companies of thirty and common meals, and in addition to that, the ephors and elders, Lycourgus established.

Thus they changed and had good laws, and to Lycourgus, after he had met with his end, they put up a shrine and reverenced him greatly. Inasmuch as they were in a good land and in multitude no few men, they shot up at once and flourished. And so for them it was not sufficient to be at rest, but they thought contemptuously that they were stronger than the Arcadians and consulted the oracle in Delphi with a view to getting the whole country of the Arcadians. Pythia proclaimed to them this:

Ask me Arcady? You ask much. I won’t give you.
Many acorn-eating men are in Arcady,
Who will hinder you. But I begrudge you nothing.
I will give you foot-struck Tegea to dance in
And a beautiful plain with rope to measure out.

When the Lacedaemonians had heard that had been brought back, although they kept themselves away from all the other Arcadians, yet they, bringing with themselves fetters, advanced with an army against the Tegeans, trusting in a deceptive response, with the intention that, of course, they would lead the Tegeans into captivity as slaves. But, worsted in the encounter, all of them who had been taken alive, while they wore the fetters that they themselves were bringing with themselves and with rope measured out the plain of the Tegeans, worked the land. Those fetters, in which they were bound, still even to my time, were safe in Tegea, hanging round the temple of Alean Athena.

During the earlier war, then, continually on each and every occasion they contended badly against the Tegeans, but during the time of Croesus and the kingdom of Anaxandrides and Ariston in Lacedaemon, by then the Spartiates were proven superior in war, since they had proven so in a manner like this: when on each and every occasion they were worsted in war by the Tegeans, they sent messengers to consult the oracle to Delphi, and asked by propitiating whom of the gods, would they prove superior in war to the Tegeans. And Pythia proclaimed to them by bringing in the bones of Orestes, the son of Agamemnon. When they proved unable to discover the grave of Orestes, they sent men again to the god to ask for the place in which Orestes lay. To the messengers sent to the oracle, after they had asked that, Pythia said this:

There’s a Tegea in Arcady on smooth ground,
Where two winds make breezes under strong necessity,
And blow and counterblow are, and woe on woe lies.
There life-giving earth keeps down Agamemnon’s son;
Carry him home, and you’ll be Tegea’s helper.

When the Lacedaemonians had heard that, too, they were distant from the finding out no less, although they searched everything, until right when Liches, one of the Spartiates who were called Benefactors, made the discovery. (The Benefactors are those oldest of the townsmen who go out from the rank of the horsemen, five annually; they must, during whichever year that they go out from the rank of the horsemen, not cease from being sent off by the Spartiates’ commonwealth, different men to different places.) So one of those men, Liches, made the discovery in Tegea by the use of both chance and wisdom. For, since there was during that time intercourse with the Tegeans, he went to a smithy and beheld the beating out of iron, and was in a state of marvel on seeing what was done. The smith learned that he marvelled much, and said on ceasing from his work, “Surely then, o Laconian stranger, if you had seen the very sight I did, you would marvel very much, inasmuch as you now thus, in fact, consider a marvel the working of the iron. For I, wishing to make a well in this court here, while I dug, happened on a coffin of seven cubits. Out of disbelief that indeed human beings were born at all taller than those now, I opened it and saw that the corpse was equal in length to the coffin. Then I measured and covered it back with earth.” The one, then, spoke to the other of the very sight he had seen, and the other, having in mind what was said, concluded that that was Orestes in accordance with the message from the oracle, by concluding this way: seeing the two bellows of the smith, he found they were the winds, and the anvil and the hammer the blow and the counterblow, and the iron that was beaten out the woe that on woe lay, since he conjectured in accordance with a reasoning like this, that to do evil to a human being iron was discovered. After he had concluded that and gone away to Sparta, he pointed out to the Lacedaemonians the whole matter. But they on the basis of a fabricated account brought a charge against and banished him. Then he, on coming to Tegea and pointing out his misfortune to the smith, offered to hire, from him who refused to let, the court. In time, when he had convinced him, he took up his quarters there, and when he had dug up the grave and collected the bones, he went off with them to Sparta. And from that time, whenever they made of trial of each other, the Lacedaemonians proved far superior in war, and to them even the greater part of the Peloponnesus was in subjection.

It was all that, then, that Croesus learned by inquiry and thus sent to Sparta messengers who carried gifts and were to ask for alliance, after he had enjoined what they had to say.

(to be continued)

installment 4

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