The Smallest Empires in History

Jul 2018
4
France, Lyon
#31
Your understanding about names of political entities is very intriguing. First of all, as Romans put it in their language, nomen est omen, the name is a sign.

If you want to look at it this way, you could also assume that the opposite is also subjective in the same manner by its assumption.
[...]
Another case in point!
Why you think they would want calling it "Roman empire" when in reality it wasn't?
[...]
That by itself does not make them Romans either!
The popes were doing it for political reasons, and not in reality due to actuality!
[...]
They would have liked to believe that probably for prestigious reasons, but that in itself did not make them Romans in reality, as was also the case with the Byzantines.
No. I argumented my opinion, but you cut it down into pieces. The opposite of subjective is objective. I insist the Holy Roman Empire of the German people was so called because it claimed a political continuity with the Roman Empire (of Augustus, Claudius, Caligula etc.). This claim is not just a caprice, it has a logic. As you know, in 476 the regalia of imperial power were sent to Constantinople and there was no more Western Roman Empire. In 800 Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by the Pope, in Rome, of course. Now, note the Latin style of his title: Imperator Romanorum, i.e. Emperor of the Romans. He didn't claim he was Roman, he claimed he was the Emperor of the Romans. This distinction is important.

Later Holy Roman Emperors pursue Charlemagne's tradition in quite a continuous and logical way.

So, once again, neither the citizens nor the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire claimed to be Romans. The Popes were crowning these emperors for political reasons and this was enough to make them Imperator(es) Romanorum (and not Imperator Romanus, as the English translation maybe makes you believe).

By the way, if Byzantine Emperors were Greeks, why didn't they call themselves that way? In your logic (where people call themselves one way or another because it "pleases" them), it would appear these emperors were unpleased to be Greeks, so they prefered to be Romans. Quite clumsy.

Calling it for different reasons as the case might be, does not make it necessarily so.
Other people that they were in close contact (Arabs & Persians) with the Byzantine Empire as early as the 6th c. realized with whom they were dealing with and called the "Empire of the Greeks".
Once again, do you distinguish political identity and ethnic identity? It really appears to me that you don't. This distinction is no more operant in the consciousness of most Westerns nowadays, but it was very clear before the XIX century and the nation-states. This distinction is kind of necessary when empires are discussed (a defitinion of empire was discussed in this thread): in an Empire you have different ethnic groups. Here goes an example: not all of the inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire were Turks. There were Turks, Arabs, Armenians, Serbians, Bulgarians... even Greeks. They were not all Turks, but all were subjects of the Sultan.

So was the situation in the Byzantine Empire: it was home to many ethnic groups. This is proved even by the origin of the emperors. Here are a few examples: Leo I the Thracian (of Bessian or Dacian origin), Leo IV the Khazar (his mother was Khazar), Leo V the Armenian (his father was Armenian), Tiberius III (of Germanic origin).

Claiming that X is of X ethnic origin because he speaks the X language is the typical way XIX century nationalism explains things. In Empires you have a lingua franca, i.e. a language that is used for communication without any implication on ethnic identity. The lingua franca of the Byzantine Empire was Latin, later Greek; but this was not a Greek empire. Greece is probably the only place in the world where this wouldn't be rejected and the reasons are obvious and far from being scientific: Modern Greece was born in the XIX century and feeds its national pride claiming a continuity with the Byzantine Empire.

I hope I have been objective enough.
 
Nov 2014
931
USA
#32
Well LeChevalier, let's see how your arguments stand up!

Your understanding about names of political entities is very intriguing. First of all, as Romans put it in their language, nomen est omen, the name is a sign.
An omen does not necessarily represents reality, or the truth about something.

No. I argumented my opinion, but you cut it down into pieces.
The reason for this was to show you that starting with wrong assumptions you are bound to end with the wrong conclusion.

The opposite of subjective is objective.
Absolutely!

I insist the Holy Roman Empire of the German people was so called because it claimed a political continuity with the Roman Empire (of Augustus, Claudius, Caligula etc.).
What did the German people had in common with Augustus, Claudius, Caligula etc. or better yet Julius Caesar and other actual and real Romans who fought them for a long time to subjugate them, as is the case with the Franks also in Francia, a Germanic tribe where you eventually live?
How do you assume political continuity?

This claim is not just a caprice, it has a logic.
….and what is supposed to be the logic about it?

As you know, in 476 the regalia of imperial power were sent to Constantinople and there was no more Western Roman Empire. In 800 Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by the Pope, in Rome, of course. Now, note the Latin style of his title: Imperator Romanorum, i.e. Emperor of the Romans.
Do you think that Charlemagne and in general, taking the title or name of something make you a Roman, or the Roman empire for that matter?

He didn't claim he was Roman, he claimed he was the Emperor of the Romans. This distinction is important.
If he didn't claim he was an actual "Roman", on what basis he claimed that he was the "Emperor of Romans"?
The only thing I can think of, is only in his dreams and for prestigious reasons to satisfy his conceit.

Later Holy Roman Emperors pursue Charlemagne's tradition in quite a continuous and logical way.
I sure like to know what was the logical way about it?

So, once again, neither the citizens nor the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire claimed to be Romans. The Popes were crowning these emperors for political reasons and this was enough to make them Imperator(es) Romanorum (and not Imperator Romanus, as the English translation maybe makes you believe).
If they realized that they were not Romans, did the title made them believe they were "Emperors of Romans" like in the old Roman empire? on what basis, since they were actually Germans?

By the way, if Byzantine Emperors were Greeks, why didn't they call themselves that way? In your logic (where people call themselves one way or another because it "pleases" them), it would appear these emperors were unpleased to be Greeks, so they prefered to be Romans. Quite clumsy.
Since you are new in the forum, you may have missed what I have said many times before, that in the founding of the Byzantine Empire the original ruling class was of Roman/Romanized extraction, while the overwhelming population was of Hellenic/Hellenized extraction. This situation continued up until the last quarter of the 6th century; by that time however even the ruling class had changed to its natural Greek/Hellenic identity, because it was something unrepresentative of its character!

Now with regards of not calling themselves Greeks/Hellenes originally, it was because to be a Hellene also meant that you were a pagan at that time, since the old religion persisted in mainland Greece, and being fanatic Christians in other parts of the empire, they considered it an insult to be thought as pagans. In later centuries when paganism was eliminated they were proud to be called Hellenes, descendants of their glorious background.

Once again, do you distinguish political identity and ethnic identity? It really appears to me that you don't. This distinction is no more operant in the consciousness of most Westerns nowadays, but it was very clear before the XIX century and the nation-states. This distinction is kind of necessary when empires are discussed (a defitinion of empire was discussed in this thread): in an Empire you have different ethnic groups. Here goes an example: not all of the inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire were Turks. There were Turks, Arabs, Armenians, Serbians, Bulgarians... even Greeks. They were not all Turks, but all were subjects of the Sultan.
Being a subject of the Sultan does not make you necessarily a Turk, you are still ethnically different inside the Turkish/Ottoman empire.

So was the situation in the Byzantine Empire: it was home to many ethnic groups. This is proved even by the origin of the emperors. Here are a few examples: Leo I the Thracian (of Bessian or Dacian origin), Leo IV the Khazar (his mother was Khazar), Leo V the Armenian (his father was Armenian), Tiberius III (of Germanic origin).
Originally there were more different ethnic groups, later after the Arabs got most of the middle East it became overwhelmingly a Greek/Hellenic empire, and as I already told you very proud for their background.

With regards to the emperors you referred, Leo I ruled when the ruling class was still of Romanized extraction;
the others were all Hellenized or else they would have never gotten on the throne in Constantinople.
A case in point Leo V who had not really any connections to his ancestry traditions being a Greek Orthodox, instead of a monophysite of the Armenian Orthodox church.

Claiming that X is of X ethnic origin because he speaks the X language is the typical way XIX century nationalism explains things. In Empires you have a lingua franca, i.e. a language that is used for communication without any implication on ethnic identity. The lingua franca of the Byzantine Empire was Latin, later Greek; but this was not a Greek empire. Greece is probably the only place in the world where this wouldn't be rejected and the reasons are obvious and far from being scientific: Modern Greece was born in the XIX century and feeds its national pride claiming a continuity with the Byzantine Empire.
The lingua franca in the Byzantine Empire (BE) was Greek coming down the centuries from the Hellenistic period, except only originally for its ruling class which was Latin.
When Heraclius made Greek the official language of the BE, he was actually some 40 years late when even its ruling class was using Greek as its first language.



I hope I have been objective enough.
I am not as sure in general about that...…., that this is the case!
 
Jan 2016
1,137
Victoria, Canada
#33
This situation continued up until the last quarter of the 6th century; by that time however even the ruling class had changed to its natural Greek/Hellenic identity, because it was something unrepresentative of its character!
The ruling class of late 6th century Constantinople didn't identify as Hellenic, such an identity having effectively disappeared centuries ago at that point, and most certainly didn't identify as Hellenic as opposed to Roman. I know you understand this full well, but others might not so I figured I would point it out.

Now with regards of not calling themselves Greeks/Hellenes originally, it was because to be a Hellene also meant that you were a pagan at that time, since the old religion persisted in mainland Greece, and being fanatic Christians in other parts of the empire, they considered it an insult to be thought as pagans.
The reason "Hellene" could come to mean "Pagan" in the first place is because Hellenic identity among Greek-speakers had, by the 4th century, been almost entirely superseded by a strong and entrenched Roman identity, only really holding on within a small clique of educated pagans, and even they had abandoned it by the 5th. Zosimus, for example, was a zealous Pagan and open advocate of returning to the old gods, and yet he never refers to himself or his contemporaries in New Rome as anything but Roman. "Fanatic Christians" didn't somehow convince him to abandon Hellenic identity and yet stood by while he blamed the fall of the west of Christianity, he just didn't see any real connection between himself and the ancient Greeks. Such radical changes in identity, loyalty, and perspective cannot be imposed on a population by a minority, especially not in antiquity; they can only come willingly, from the bottom, and over centuries.

In later centuries when paganism was eliminated they were proud to be called Hellenes, descendants of their glorious background.
Paganism had ceased to be a running concern by the mid 8th century or thereabouts, the first inklings of Hellenic identity start appearing in literature around the mid 12th century, 400 years later (at this time mostly based on education and sophistication, not language), and ethno-linguistic Hellenic identity only really gets going among the aristocracy in the early-mid 13th century, 500 years later. The rebirth of Hellenic identity in the high medieval period was the result of a multitude of factors and circumstances coming together in stages, of which the elimination of paganism was only one, and a rather minor one too. More relevant was the emergence of a fascination with ancient Greece among a section of the nobility in the mid-late 11th and especially 12th century, increasing mutual hostility between Romans and westerners who didn't accept their identity, ultimately culminating in the 4th Crusade, and, most of all, a need for a rhetoric of unity after the division of the Roman empire and body politic in the aftermath of that cataclysm.

It should also be emphasized that the development of medieval Hellenic identity was quite limited in scope and consequence, especially before the 14th century, and occurred against the background of a Roman culture and identity whose existence was taken for granted by both the general population and elite proponents of Hellenism. The emergence of Hellenic identity was not some great revelation, wherein the entire Roman citizenry simultaneously came to believe they weren't Romans after all and declared to the heavens their Hellenic culture, ethnicity, society, and history, despite what you would like to have happened. The Hellenic was a layer above the Roman, a preserve of the noble and educated sometimes applied by them to the people - it didn't precede it. The nationalist rebellions of the in Thrace immediately following 1204 were carried out by Roman citizens of Roman identity with the goal of remaining part of the Roman Empire, and their failure was lamented by the Hellenophile writer Choniates as a failure of the Romans to work together to preserve their unity.

Though Hellenic identity technically existed at this time, the common people of Thrace knew nothing of it, and its very inventors saw these events through the traditional lens of the Romans and Rome, a perspective that still served as a default even if they cultivated others. Even the most educated Hellenophiles went from calling themselves and the masses Hellenic to referring to their "Roman genos" and equating themselves and their culture with Classical Rome in a matter of paragraphs, seeing no contradiction (see Metochites, Lament on the Decline of Rome), and they could do this because Hellenic was something they could be, while Roman was something they were, a self-evident truth for millenia and cultural default. This is easy to forget in a time when language and identity are often synonymous and there has existed a "Greece" for centuries, but we are talking about a different world with different people, different assumptions, and different standards, upon which we should not impose our own.
 
Nov 2014
931
USA
#34
By the late 6th century in the Byzantine Empire (BE) the ruling class was changed from being of Roman/Romanized extraction from its inception of the BE, to its natural Hellenic/Greek extraction not only in its language being Greek, as it was the case with the overwhelming majority of the people from the very beginning of the BE, but also in religion since there were signs of difference with the Latin church in Rome in practices and rituals.
Hellenism never ended or died throughout the centuries from the Homeric times that we have recordings from, to the Classical times of the Hellenic period, and over to the Hellenistic period which produced eventually its Greek character in the Byzantine Empire.

Zosimus (Zωσιμος) whom you referred to, was a Greek historian who wrote in Greek even though he lived during the time of the Romanized ruling class when even the official language at the time was Latin; he was very critical of its emperors from the time of Constantine I for persecuting the polytheism of the Hellenes.
How can you think that he thought of himself as an actual Roman and not a Hellene?
If that was the case he would have been a lot more comfortable if he had written in Latin, but that wasn't the case!

Nicetas Choniates (Νικήτας Χωνιάτης) also known as "Ακομινάτος" due to his birthplace whom you also referred to, was another genuine Greek Byzantine historian and writer who achieved even the office of Grand Logothetes (prime minister) in the BE and also governor in Philippopolis.
During his time with the fall of Constantinople in 1204 by the fourth crusade, the different states that were created, you could not call them as the continuation of the original Roman Empire (RE).
You were dealing actually with French, people from the Holy Roman Empire (HRE?), Flemish, Burgundians, Venetians etc. A better name for all of them is Latins and that's how were known by the Byzantines, and due to their actions were hated by the Greek Byzantines in the BE.

Metochites (Μετοχιτης) was another Greek Byzantine, he was a politician, philosopher and he also achieved the office of Grand Logothetes like Choniates.
I don't think either he ever thought was a Roman!
 
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Jul 2018
4
France, Lyon
#35
Apollon, I'm annoyed to say it, but you keep repeating the same erroneous statements. As it was said multiple times, language, ethnicity, political identity and religion are different things, that were merged into one only in the XIX century, when nation-states immerged. There are countless examples of this but you keep ignoring them in favour of some modern conception of continuous (and proud, of course) Hellenism.

I had an experiment with wikipedia and read the introductory part to the article "Byzantine Empire" in many languages (French, English, Russian, Greek, Italian). The article in Greek is the only one (but is this a surprise?) which insists on how Greek Byzantium was. The article in French even warns against such assessments.

It is more than clear that modern Greek official history will claim strong link with Byzantium, as this is highly prestigious. Historical facts, however, differ and this is why you talk about "reality" and "actuality", putting in these terms whatever suits you.

Reading historical sources doesn't mean assessing them as "correct" and "wrong". History is what it was, there is no place for assigning them marks.

The fact is that the Byzantine Emperors always styled them as Βασιλεὺς καὶ Καῖσαρ τῶν Ῥωμαίων. You can read this title on the medal of emperor John VIII Palaoiologos, struck in Italy, who was one of the last Byzatine emperors.

You say Byzantine emperors didn't refer to themselves as Greeks, because this would have implied they were pagans. This is extremely false. The first Christians in the Roman Empire were Greeks. As a matter of fact, the first bishops of my city (Lyon) were Greeks, as were the first martyrs in Gaul (II century). So no, Byzantines were not avoiding calling themselves Greeks, they were calling them Romans and one more proof is that medieval Bulgarian call them Romei.

You say that the ruling class of Early Bizantium was of Roman extraction. Then you say their "natural origins" were Greek. This is illogical.

As for language: will you tell Irish people that they are no more Irish because they speak English? Does this make them part of the English nation? Is most of South America of Spanish ethnicity because of speaking Spanish? How does it happens that Belgium and Switzerland have many languages and none of these are called Belgian nor Swiss languages?

For one thing, I'm pretty satisfied with this discussion because I'm learning about the way history is taught nowadays in Greece. Please, step out of fierce nationalism and try to look at the facts in a more scientific way (where words like "pride" and "feeling good" have no place).
 
Nov 2014
931
USA
#36
LeChevalier, first of all I'm not quite sure that you are who you appear to be in the forum, but it doesn't make any difference to me; I will still answer you, and maybe you would understand where you are making your mistakes in your thoughts in accordance to your teachings or your wishful thinking.
It make take more than one post, but will see !


Apollon, I'm annoyed to say it, but you keep repeating the same erroneous statements
.


I feel the same way! I have heard a lot of falsehoods about the Byzantine Empire (BE).
There was one guy here long time ago who was saying "that Romulus and Constantine XI were the same thing"; another one was saying that "there is nothing Greek about the BE"! Now these things are laughable and don't deserve an answer!


As it was said multiple times, language, ethnicity, political identity and religion are different things, that were merged into one only in the XIX century, when nation-states immerged.

Well, if these things were wrong and states were immerged and created on these false bases.....why don't they dissolve them now days to correct the wrong that has been done? so countries like Italy, Germany, Greece and others should not really exist!
Do you realize what you are saying?


There are countless examples of this but you keep ignoring them in favour of some modern conception of continuous (and proud, of course) Hellenism.

Can you give some examples of the countries you have in mind, and the continuous ignorance in relation to what?


I had an experiment with wikipedia and read the introductory part to the article "Byzantine Empire" in many languages (French, English, Russian, Greek, Italian). The article in Greek is the only one (but is this a surprise?) which insists on how Greek Byzantium was.

You won't believe in reading the Greek version how much smarter you would have gotten, if you had paid a lot more attention to it of how Greek Byzantium was!


The article in French even warns against such assessments
.


Did they ever give you the reason, why should be alerted of such an assessment?
or did they also ignore the reasons why the BE was actually Greek?
Did they explain why the Byzantines spoke Greek instead of Latin as they ought to have been as genuine Romans?
Did they also explain the reason why their religion was and ended up being Greek Orthodox, instead of Roman Catholicism as genuine good Roman obedients should have been?
Did they consider why the Byzantine culture was transplanted exactly in modern Greece, and nowhere else, as for example in France, where you are supposed to come from, or England, Germany, Italy etc.?


It is more than clear that modern Greek official history will claim strong link with Byzantium, as this is highly prestigious.

It's not because primarily it is prestigious, but because it is the truth that certain people refuse to see, probably because it is more convenient to their psyche, or because of their wishful thinking, or whatever complexes they might possess!


Historical facts, however, differ and this is why you talk about "reality" and "actuality", putting in these terms whatever suits you.

"Reality" and "Actuality" should be the first concern for everyone if he wants to be impartial about anything he deals with; instead what we see is distortions from people who refuse to see the truth (it may not be intended, or conscious about it) of inalienable rights for the GREEK BYZANTINES!


Reading historical sources doesn't mean assessing them as "correct" and "wrong".

What is all about it then?
if they are "incorrect" why read them? and if they are "wrong" one shouldn't consider them; and if they are intentionally distorted, ignoring at the same time real and actual facts...., then we have bad propaganda that ought to be contemptable!


History is what it was, there is no place for assigning them marks.

It depends on the kind of history we are talking about...…..


The fact is that the Byzantine Emperors always styled them as Βασιλεὺς καὶ Καῖσαρ τῶν Ῥωμαίων. You can read this title on the medal of emperor John VIII Palaoiologos, struck in Italy, who was one of the last Byzatine emperors.

The emperors of the "Holy Roman Empire" (HRE) said also the same thing, which HRE was neither Holy, Roman or Empire;
the Seljuk Turks with the "Sultanate of Rome" also thought they could be "Romans" too, and so did the Russians with Moscow being the new Rome.
Why do you think that we ought to believe these people?
because it is convenient for some? regardless if the truth is distorted?


You say Byzantine emperors didn't refer to themselves as Greeks, because this would have implied they were pagans. This is extremely false.

What you are saying was more true at the first 250 years when they were part of the Romanized ruling class, even though the majority of the people were of Hellenized extraction; it wasn't true however in later centuries where they were referring proudly to their Hellenic background.


The first Christians in the Roman Empire were Greeks. As a matter of fact, the first bishops of my city (Lyon) were Greeks, as were the first martyrs in Gaul (II century).

I know.


So no, Byzantines were not avoiding calling themselves Greeks, they were calling them Romans and one more proof is that medieval Bulgarian call them Romei.

It depends at what point in history you are referring to; It makes a lot of difference.
The Bulgarians as far as I know.....knew they were dealing with actual Greeks.



You say that the ruling class of Early Bizantium was of Roman extraction. Then you say their "natural origins" were Greek. This is illogical.

I never said any such thing; you probably misunderstood or confuse my actual references.


As for language: will you tell Irish people that they are no more Irish because they speak English?

Of course not! you are talking about different kind of people; you are dealing with descendants of Celts on the one hand and Anglo-Saxons on the other.


1) Does this make them part of the English nation? 2)Is most of South America of Spanish ethnicity because of speaking Spanish? 3)How does it happens that Belgium and Switzerland have many languages and none of these are called Belgian nor Swiss languages?

Here are my answers:

1) Of course not.
2) No they are not, except for a small percentage and not in all countries.
3) Belgium and Switzerland never had their own language to be called as such.

Well now then, I'm going to ask you a question:

Should the United States be called England? or Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand for that matter?
Be careful because there are different answers and reasons for them individually.


For one thing, I'm pretty satisfied with this discussion because I'm learning about the way history is taught nowadays in Greece.

I am also satisfied, because I learn what petty arguments or omissions are being used in different places by different people, in order to convince people for something that is wrong.
BTW it was not only in Greece or the US that I learned what I learned about the BE, but from other sources too in Europe.
One thing though that I learned to separate...….., was propaganda from books and wishful thinking from other people.


Please, step out of fierce nationalism and try to look at the facts in a more scientific way (where words like "pride" and "feeling good" have no place).

This has nothing to do with nationalism, but facing the truth in front of anyone's eyes.
Since though you assume I speak because of nationalism, tell me which is your ideology and you speak that way?
 
#37
No, the Byzantines are Romans, the term Byzantine only came into existance 100 years after their fall. No one in the empire when it existed called themselves Hellene or Greek and in official doucments when dealing with outsiders they are referred to as Romans and if you called one of them that they will assert they "don't worship Zeus"
 
Nov 2011
8,874
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
#38
No, the Byzantines are Romans, the term Byzantine only came into existance 100 years after their fall. No one in the empire when it existed called themselves Hellene or Greek and in official doucments when dealing with outsiders they are referred to as Romans and if you called one of them that they will assert they "don't worship Zeus"
If that's the case, why was the term for the gold solidus minted in Constantinople, widely called a "bezant" during the Middle Ages?
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,063
Republika Srpska
#39
If that's the case, why was the term for the gold solidus minted in Constantinople, widely called a "bezant" during the Middle Ages?
I believe the term was used in Western Europe, not in Byzantium itself. There it was called hyperpyron.

As far as the Romanness of Byzantium goes, one could make an argument that Byzantium was sort of a Roman nation-state. We have several examples:

1. when emperor Zeno died people of Constantinople gathered in the Hippodrome in order to sort out who the new emperor would be and the people demanded that the new emperor must be Christian and Roman. In fact, people cried out: "May you be blessed with all good things, Roman women, if no foreign element is added to the race of the Romans". The new emperor Anastasios Dicorus later went on to claim that he was a descendant of Pompey in order to prove his Romanness.

2. let's go all the way to the 13th century and the town of Melnik, contested between the Empire of Nicaea and the Bulgarians. Historian George Akropolites claimed that the inhabitants said: "we are pure Romans when it comes to our genos".

There are other examples.

Throughout the history of the Empire, the Byzantines distinguished themselves from other peoples of their empire (called ethnikoi) by claiming that they are pure Romans. By 1250 at latest, even the Greek language was renamed Romaic language.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,572
#40
No, the Byzantines are Romans, the term Byzantine only came into existance 100 years after their fall. No one in the empire when it existed called themselves Hellene or Greek and in official doucments when dealing with outsiders they are referred to as Romans and if you called one of them that they will assert they "don't worship Zeus"
I believe already old Gibbons in his "Decline and Fall..." made the observation that history has seen Greek speaking Romans in Constantinopolis square off against the Persian king Shapur, who by claim of being a descendant of Alexander the Great could refer to himself as Greek.
 

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