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Roman freedwomen as patrons: memoria et familia, the construction of identity/Sanat Himayecisi Olarak Azat Edilmis Kadin Koleler: Ani ve Aile, Kimligin Yaratilmasi.


Although the art of freedmen in the early Imperial period has received much scholarly attention, the aim of this study is to reexamine the funerary monuments with respect to the specific interests of freedwomen as patrons who commissioned these reliefs. The Augustan Legislation, lex Lulia Maritandis, lex Aelia Sentia, and lex Papia Poppaea, formed legal restraints and implicit threats that seemed to have created an atmosphere in which legal marriage and freed status became a catalyst for the commissioning of enduring monuments to family status. Since slave unions, contubernales, were unrecognized in Roman law, Roman freedwomen commissioned reliefs proudly proclaiming the family relationships between husband, wife and offspring.

In summation, the inventive variety, of mechanisms demonstrated in these selected examples of patronage by freedwomen reveals a spectrum of specific intentions with regard to social and legal status. The predominant intention expressed in these monuments concerned the legitimization and recognition of the status of the newly freed family. Additionally, the social and financial security of the family was also addressed in the examples of funerary reliefs commissioned by freedwomen.

Key Words: Freedwomen, funerary relief, Augustan marriage, family status, patronage of freedmen


Gercekte Imparatorluk dOneminde azat edilmis erkek kolelerin sanati akademik arastirmalarda cok kez ele alinmissa da Ozellikle azat edilmis kadin kolelerin himayesinde yapilan mezar anitlar yeniden ele alinarak bunlar uzerinde yeni yorumlar yapmak dusuncesi ile bu calisma yapilmistir. Augustus kanunlari, lex Lulia Maritandis, lex Aelia Sentia, ve lex Papia Poppaea, gercekte hukuki evlilik ve azat edilmis olma konumundakilere karsi hukuki engeller ve gizli tehditleri ile yarattigi baskici ortam sonucunda bu Olumsuz anitlarin ortaya cikmasinda kiskirtici bir etken olmustur. Contubernales denilen kOleler birligi Roma hukukunda taninmadigi icin, Romali azat edilmis kadin koleler buyuk bir onurla kari-koca ve cocuklari arasindaki iliskiyi ifade etme amaci ile bu rOlyefleri yaptirmislar.

Ozetle azat edilmis kadin kOlelerin himayesinde yapilan bu eserlerden burada secilen Orneklerde sergilenen yaratici yontemler sosyal ve hukuki statuleri ile ilgili Ozel amaclarinin degisik ifadeleri olmustur. Bu anitlarda ifade edilen baslica amac gercekte yeni azat edilmis ailenin mesrulugu ve taninmasi ile ilgili idi. Buna ek olarak, bu mezar anitlar araciligi ile ailenin sosyal ve guvencesi varligi aciklikla ifade ediliyordu.

Anahtar Kelimeler: Azat edilmis kadin koleler, Augustus usulu evlilik, ailenin konumu, azat edilmis erkek koleler, himayecilik, mezar rolyefleri.

Roman Freedwomen as Patrons: Memoria et Familia, the Construction of Identity

Although the art of freedmen in the early Imperial period and the period following has received much scholarly attention, the aim of this study is to reexamine the funerary monuments with respect to the specific interests of freedwomen as patrons who commissioned these reliefs. (1) The marriage and family legislation of Augustus in 18 B.C., the lex lufia maritandis and the confirming of this in A.D. 4 in the lex Aelia Sentia and the lex Papia Poppaea of A.D. 9 (2) had a resounding impact on the patronage of freedmen in the early Empire. This familial regulation was refined in the Senatus Consultum Claudianum of A.D. 52. (3) In Augustan legislation, concerning the importance of marriage, all women and men able to bear and father children were to be married. The significance of legally recognized unions in moral legislation was underscored by the legal definition of stuprum and its consequences under law where, the unsanctioned sexual conduct of unmarried women and widows was punished. As an added threat and deterrent under the senatus consultum Claudiarum of A.D. 52, an unmarried woman cohabiting with a slave could be claimed as slave by the owner of the slave, and any children of the union claimed as slaves as well. These legal restraints and threats seemed to have created an atmosphere in which legal marriage and freed status became a catalyst for the commissioning of enduring monuments to family status, since slave unions, contubernales, (4) were unrecognized legally. Thus we find funerary monuments commissioned by freedwomen proudly proclaiming the family relationships between husband, wife, and offspring. That the husband often had predeceased the wife is apparent in her being the donor and founder of the monument.

The Augustan legislation addressed the impact that great numbers of newly freed citizens would have a significant part on the incipient Empire. In the war with Sextus Pompeius, Augustus himself freed 20,000 slaves to serve as rowers in the Imperial fleet, Suet. Aug. 16. (5) The lex Aefia Sentia was an attempt to limit the manumission of slaves by testamentary means. The estimated population of 12,000,000 in Italy in 28 B.C. included approximately one-third composition of slaves. (6) The marriage and moral legislation was also linked to the burgeoning class of newly enfranchised citizenry since it encouraged freeborn status by making marriage imperative for men and women citizens and discouraged unmarried relations and therefore children possibly born without established parentage and inheritance rights. Additionally, Augustus restricted marriage between the senatorial class and the newly freed or libertini. Since according to Suetonius, maternal grandfather of Augustus, was a freedman rope-maker, this effective limitation on the aspirations of the freed class to the ruling elite was in some respects after the fact. (7)

Even though no comprehensive review of more than 39,000 inscriptions from Rome in the 'Corpus Inscriptionum Latinorum'(CIL) has addressed women as patrons, Lily Ross Taylor, who has made a complete review of the entire series, estimated that the number of recorded epitaphs for freed status exceeded the freeborn by two to one. (8) An example from this group which seems to provide a clear rationale for the aim of this study is reported by Beryl Rawson. In the epitaph cited by Rawson, Munatius Aphrodite is identified as the wife of Munatius Felicianus, and it is further stated that she had lived with him for 34 years from her virginity to his death at age 66. (9) The evidence of intention to establish legitimate union in the inscription clearly places the identity and worth of Munatius Aphrodite in her status as a legal wife when her husband died and her status as univira, having only one man. She is clearly the patron since the inscription shows her as the subject of fecit and her statement about his age at death. Her ability to inherit and make this lasting memorial to a family and, legal status as a citizen, is also part of the implied meaning. The alternative to commemoration and inhumation was known and evident to anyone of plebian or slave status. Without a patron, owner or family to provide for a funeral and burial, the open burial pits, so-called puteculi of Varro, were the location where unclaimed human bodies would have been thrown along with refuse and the bodies of animals and allowed to decompose exposed to the open air and elements. (10)

The form of the tomb, a relatively small walled enclosure, allowed the placement of the bust-length portraits of the type Paul Zanker refers to as "Fensterstuck" above eye level. (11) His explanation of this point of view is clarified by the inscription he quotes, "Here is the eternal house, here is the estate, here are the gardens, and here is the memorial." (12) The measurements of the estate may also be included in the inscription as in the following inscription, "In f(ronte) pedes XIII, in a(gro) p(edes) XV." (13) The woman Prima Turus, identified as fiberta, has indicated the space of her eternal home where she is owner and occupant. (All examples cited here have references in the endnotes for illustrations that were unavailable at the time of publication). The aedicular (14) form of her tomb stele is pedimented and in the form of a frontally placed image; dressed in a tunica and palla, she greets the visitor from her inviolable home. She holds the edge of the palla in one hand which links the gesture to the virtue pudicitia. (15) This image was created ex testamento indicating that Prima Turus had left capital in her will for the monument and had been able to leave a will, the prerogative of Roman citizenship.

After establishing an enduring home as in this example, the Roman freedwoman could present her family in the context of the domestic realm of eternity. In the following example, the family was created from the freed slaves of the central figure, Publius Gessius, who wears a cuirass and paludamentum, instead of a toga. The military dress relates to his career in the Roman army. The woman, his wife, Fausta, was also his former slave and freedwoman, as was their son, Primus, his freedman. The inscription refers to the will of Publius Gessius, who was freeborn since his father's name and tribe are also included in the epitaph, and the execution of the whole on the direction of Gessia Fausta. (16) The entire history of this family was clarified in the inscription and portraits. Publius Gessius had a relationship with Fausta that predated the birth of their son Primus. Both mother and son had been freed by Publius Gessius and became his family, sharing his name legally and partaking in his inheritance as fully recognized family members. Primus on the right side of Publius Gessius wears a toga, the sign of citizenship. Fausta wears the tunica and palla and, as in the previously mentioned relief commissioned by Prima Turus, with her hand in the edge of the palla which implies pudicitia. Fausta has honored Publius Gessius as both her patron and husband who gave her freedom and her son as well as undeniably creating her own identity as legal wife and mother, a status not available to her as a slave.

Another example in which a military career is the central motif of a group of funerary portraits is that of the Appuleius family. (17) In the center is the bust-length portrait of a young man with a paludamentum over his shoulder. He is flanked by his father Appuleius Asclepiades on the left and his mother on the right, the patron according to the inscription--Appuleia L. Sophaouba de suo fecit. Since a Roman military career was open only to freeborn citizens, it is clear from his identification in the epitaph, Tr. Mil, Tribunus Militarium, that he was a military tribune and a citizen. His parents are identified as freed and it can be inferred from their names, Asclepiades, a Greek and Sophanoba, a Phoenician, they had likely been contubernales. They were freed by the same patron, Appuleius, and thereafler contracted a legal marriage and had their son, born after they were manumitted and therefore able to advance in a military career. Sophanoba had then been able to celebrate the establishment of a free family lineage and the success of their heir.

Minor children who were born free were also represented in Roman freedwomen's commissions of memorial monuments. The Epictes family, now in the Museo Gregoriano Profano, has both parents and a freeborn child, wearing a bulla, the round neck ornament worn by freeborn Roman children, depicted as an actual sculpted figure between the parents. (18) The woman wears a short-sleeved tunica and the palla covers her head. She grasps in her right hand the edge of the balteus, cross fold, of her husband's toga, emblem of citizenship and turns to the right to face his portrait. Valentin Kockel likens the gesture to the dextrarum iunctio, or joining of right hands which demotes marriage in Roman relief sculpture. (19) From the inscription, the woman, Melissa Europa was the survivor from the use of vivit in the inscription. Kockel correctly suggests, in view of the study, that the gesture was included on the part of the patron to add an emotional element to the relief. Although many of the portraits are rigidly frontal and extremely realistic, in some instances, such as this one, the sentimental nature of the feelings of the patron adds poignancy to the enduring facts of manumitted versus freeborn status.

The variety of relief types includes those which make reference to the occupation of individuals portrayed. Many professions and skilled crafts were filled with both slaves and freedmen. (20) The relief of the Clodii, with portraits of the father, Clodius Tertius, Medicus and son, A. Clodius Metrodomus, Medicus, was made by Clodia, A. L. Hilara, the wife, mother and freedwoman. (21) In the monument of the Antestius family, the tools of the trade which are metal instruments are carved on the sides of the relief with the inscription. (22) Another aspect of the inclusion of depictions of the family occupation is the Ampudius Philomusus sepulchral relief. (23) The central figure is L. Ampudius Philomusus, the freedman of Lucius Ampudius and jointly with his wife, since the inscription includes a retrograde C, the signifier that the patron who manumitted the slave was a woman. His wife is on the right and his daughter on the left. The sides of the relief have grain measures on them. It would seem at first appraisal that they simply refer to the labor of the father as a miller. In the view of this study, it has an additional significance. Claudius is reported by Suetonius to have released a woman with four children who was engaged in the corn trade from tutela but excluded the rights of patron over freedwomen. It is assumed that this right was extended to men with two children. (24) The grain measures then add the dimension of ensuring that the business would remain under the control of the Ampudius Philomusus clan and not revert to a patron named by a magistrate or the ex-owners. Not all representations of trade are as straightforward as they first appear. (25) The age of the woman may also be significant since women over fifty were also exempt from tutela. The ius liberorum, or freedom to exercise individual rights for women was extended to freeborn women with three children and manumitted women with four children. (26)

While the reliefs already addressed include the domus aeterna and the family of the freedwoman, there are some which reflect the earthly achievements of the freedwoman and her family. Naevoleia Tyche was the patron of a tomb made without portraits but carved in the form of an altar in the cemetery of the Porto Ercolano at Pompeii. The tomb took the form of a bisellium, an honorific chair awarded to her husband, C. Munatius Faustus who was a member of the seviri augustales, the officials of the imperial cuh initiated by Augustus. (27) The inscription, as well as a depiction of the corona civica, indicate the further honors and status which the family had achieved through membership in this influential brotherhood. A familial funerary relief includes the representation of the wife holding a sistrum, an instrument associated with the priestesses of Isis. (28) With these examples, it is clear that freedwomen, in addition to defining a home and family and professional association, used the mechanism of the sepulchral relief to establish the social mobility of themselves and their families in the area of public and religious service.

Returning to the first figure, Prima Turus, the more subtle aspect of freedwomen as patrons, emerges, that is the way that women have themselves depicted and the way they have other women represented. There area number of related images of single female figures in aedicular stele from the area of northern Italy. (29) Acutia Blanda's aedicule has, besides the image of Acutia Blanda herself, two additional reliefs on the sides of the monument. They are the standing figures of two young girls, differentiated by hairstyle, dress, age and pose. Although neither one is named in the inscription, they obviously represent either the daughters of Acutia Blanda or young women extremely close to her, conliberti, perhaps. The one on the left is younger with a round face and her arms crossed around her waist; the girl on the right side is in the pudicitia pose and wears a palla over her tunica. The interest on the part of a female patron in subtleties of dress and personality expressed in mannerism can be extrapolated from this relief.

The Furia clan relief contains not one but three female portraits and the three images of women alternate with two male figures. Their names reveal that the women were all manumitted by the same female patron and the similarity in physiognomy has led most scholars to the conclusion that they are birth sisters as well. (30) The women share similar hairstyles, the nodus coiffure connected with portraits of Livia, Augustus' wife, and wear their palla covering their heads as veils. All three also display their left hands with rings on the third finger. The pairing of the older man and woman and younger couple on the right has been made. The younger woman on the extreme left has no male counterpart, yet she wears a ring on the traditional finger for wedding or betrothal. Again, while general characteristics are shared, dress, hairstyle, and family resemblance, each woman is individualized by her relative age and through variation of pose. The center figure is drawing up the edge of the palla in an even more modest gesture. By way of contrast, the younger women have the palla fall free of one shoulder and the tunica of each molds over the curvature of their shoulders and right breasts. Here as well, one can recognize the interplay of personality and identity which are expressed in each figure even though the names in the inscription are identical.

In summation, the inventive variety of mechanisms demonstrated in these selected examples of patronage by freedwomen reveals a spectrum of specific intentions with regard to social and legal status. In general, the aedicular format and reference to eternal domesticity have a clear relation to Roman funerary beliefs and practices. The realistic, frontally-posed portraits create the impression of the images found in Roman upper class homes that reminded the family of their patrilineal descent. Since the newly formed families of freedmen and freedwomen take their names from their patrons, then the nascent familial groups, occasionally founded by women as in the case of the Furia relief portraits mentioned above, are in some measure establishing with these portraits the incipient images of patrimony. The predominant intention expressed in these monuments concerned the legitimization and recognition of the status of the newly freed family.

The social position and financial security of the family were also addressed in the examples of funerary reliefs commissioned by freedwomen as patrons. Particularly in the reliefs which include explicit references to the trades practiced by the male members of the family, the inclusion of those elements, grain measuring cups or medical instruments as cited previously, can provide substantial claim to establish the future sovereignty of the family trade or business. The elements of trade were also related to the source of income that allowed the slaves to purchase their freedom and as freedmen to maintain a business independently. Both the military motifs and the references to position in religious cults denoted the advancement of the people depicted and the contributions that were being made to the Roman state. In effect, they testified to the inclusion of the new Roman citizens in the commercial, military and religious life of the community and their part in the Senatus et Populus Que Roman (SPQR). (31) The expressive quality of the reliefs provides us an insight into the sentimental value of the monuments. Each woman has added details of dress or gesture that individualize the character and nature of the person portrayed. Clearly, aside from the aforementioned societal and legal issues addressed by the patrons, the monuments are commemorative and allowed the patron to express publicly the depth of feeling for the deceased and the intensity of longing for the figure memorialized. Not only are we allowed access to the eternal home, but we are also witnesses to the enduring bonds of emotional intensity that often were sustained from slavery to freedom and, as implied here, to eternity.


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(1) The literature on this topic is extensive. Diana E. E. Kleiner (1977). Roman Group Portraiture: The Funerary Reliefs of the Late Republic and Early Empire, New York remains the basic work in English which established her methodology for addressing the imagery of freedmen in a funerary context. Important studies of these images with catalogue entries include Herman Pflug (1983). Romische Portratstelen in Oberitalien, Main am Rhein; Valentin Kockel (1993). Portratreliefs Stadtromischen Grabbauten, Mainz am Rhein; Hans Frenz (1985). Romische Grabrefiefs in Mittel- und Suditafien, Roma; Hans Wrede (1981). Consecratio in Formen Deorum: Vergottliche Privatspersonen in der Romischen Kaiserzeit, Mainz, A fundamental study with regard to methodology is Paul Zanker (1975). Grab Reliefs Romische Freigelassener, Jahrbuch des Deutsche Archaologishe Institut, 90 (1975): 267-315. All works mentioned in the text have citations included in notation for illustrations.

(2) Karl Galinsky (1996). The Augustan Age, Princeton. Pp. 128-138. This study was initiated in the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Seminar held in June-July 1997 in the Department of Classics, University of Texas at Austin, Director, Prof. Karl Galinsky, "The Augustan Age of Imperial Rome'. See also, Diana E. E. Kleiner & Susan B. Matheson, I. Claudia (1996). Women in Ancient Rome, Austin, p. 133. This catalogue and essays have been an invaluable resource for gaining perspective on the place of women in Roman society.

(3) P.R.C. Weaver (1986). The Status of Children in Mixed Marriages. In: Beryl Rawson (Ed.) (1988). The Family in Ancient Rome, London, pp. 145-150.

(4) Rawson (1988) records one poignant inscription which demonstrates that an entire family was freed from different households even though the minor child commemorated in the inscription died at a young age. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinorum (CIL) VI, 11924. "Anstestia Gylcera, age 3, Alius Potiuss and Munatius Paulina". This epigraphic evidence reveals that the child and parents were subsequently sold to different households since the freed person, having no family or ties legally as a slave, upon manumission acquired the name of the family to whom she/he belonged as a slave. (Rawson, 1988: 24).

(5) A.M. Duff (1928). Freedmen in the Early Empire, Oxford, p. 141.

(6) Alison Burford (1972). Craftsmen in Greek and Roman Society, London, p. 49.

(7) Burford (1972). p. 33. Suet. Aug. 2. Suetonius credited Marc Antony with the revelation that Augustus's great-grandfather was a freedman ropemaker.

(8) Lily Ross Taylor (1961). Freedmen and Freeborn in the Epitaphs of Imperial Rome, American Journal of Philology, 82:113-132, p. 117.

(9) Rawson [Ed.], (1988). p. 19, CIL VI, 22657.

(10) John Bodel (1994). Graveyards and a Grove, a Study of the Lex Lucernia, Cambridge, p. 40.

(11) Zanker (1975). p. 273.

(12) Zanker (1975). p. 276, CIL VI, 983.

(13) Pflug (1981). p. 158, Kat. 18, Lapidarium Civ. CIL V, 2480. Primae Turi I(ibertae)/ex testamento. In f(ronte) XIII in a(gro) XV.

(14) The structure incorporating both a roof and niche formed with columnar supports.

(15) W. Kohler (1965). Pudicitia, Enciclopedia dell'Arte Antica, Classica e Orientale (EAA), 6 : 534-540.

(16) L.D. Caskey (1937). Recent Acquisitions in Boston, American Journal of Archaeology (AJA), 41, pp. 527-31. See also, Kockel (1993). pp. 157-58. Kat. J 1, Taf. 68a and 69 c. Kockel includes the extensive bibliography on this relief.

(17) Zanker (1975). pp. 304-305 Abb. 44 CIL XIV,3948. L Appuleius L. L. Asclepiades /L Appuleius. L. F. Tr. Mil./Appuleis. C. Sophaouba de suo fecit. Kleiner, Fig, 55a.

(18) Kockel (1993). p. 126-127., Kat. F 12, CIL I, 3010, [...] M. L. Epictes, [...] M. L. Numerius/ [...] Melissa/ [...] Europa vivit.

(19) Kockel (1993). p.126. See also Rheinhard Stupperich 1981). Zur dextrarum iunctio ud fruhen romishcen Grabreliefs, Boreas 6 : 143-150.; Glenys Davies (1985). The Handshake Motif in Classical Funerary Art, (AJA) 89: 637-649; L. Reekmans (1960). Dextrarum lunctio, (EAA,) 3 (1960): 82-85. For the eternal nature of marriage in Roman funerary beliefs and inscriptions, see Franz Cumont (1942). Le Symbolisme Funeraires des Romains, Paris, p. 87, CIL X, 1310. For an example in which the minor children are also represented as portrait sculpture between their parents actually enacting the destrarum iunctio, see Kleiner Fig. 85, p. 244.

(20) Duff (1958) pp. 44-46. Although slaves and freedmen dominated the entertainment fields and the arena, monuments and commemorative reliefs are somewhat rarer than for professions and trades. See also, I. Calabri-Limentani (1958). Studi Sulla Societa" Romana: II Lavoro Artistico, Milano. She has a catalogue of inscriptions referring to actors, mimes and artists and architects. Even fewer commemoratives exist for the performers in the arena. One in particular, CIL, VI, 10177, is a marble urn dedicated by the liberta Ulpia Syntyche and her son in honor of Marcus Ulpis Felicis, veteran Myrmillon, most excellently deserving as she stated, a loving tribute to a gladiator from his devoted wife.

(21) Zanker (1975). p. 296. Abb. 33. CIL VI, 9574.

(22) Zanker (1975). p. 300 Abb. 37, CIL VI, 1896; Kleiner (1977). p. 222 Cat. 45.

(23) Kockel (1993). p. 157-158, Kat. J3, Taf. 68c, 69d, 70a, b, CIL VI: 11,595. See also A. H. Smith (1918). L. Apudius Philomusus, Journal of Roman Studies (JRS) 8 (1918): 177-182, III. II.

(24) Duff (1958). p. 44-46. Suet. CI. 19. Tutela is defined as the necessity for an unmarried woman to have a patron appointed to oversee her financial and personal affairs, in essence to act for missing husband or father. The obsequium et officium were the obligations of the freedmen to the manumitting patron.

(25) N. Kampen (1981). Image and Status of Working Women in Ostia, Berlin. In this work, Kampen defines the categories of representations of self-employed and working class women in reliefs from Ostia. Her research provides a basis for understanding the reliefs in the context of women's lives of that period. Her catalogue of the reliefs is invaluable.

(26) Rawson (1988). p. 19.

(27) Ellen Fantham, et. al. (1994). Women in the Classical World, Oxford, p. 340, Fig. 12.8.

(28) Zanker (1975). p. 303, Abb. 42. In note 127a, Zanker also cites a reference to a similar example with inscription that includes a patera as well as the sistrum. CIL VI, 2246.

(29) Pflug (1981). p. 248-249, Kat. 231, 232 Taf. 33, 2 and 3, 34, 1-3. He dates them in the 3rd and 2nd quarters of the first century A. D.

(30) Kleiner (1977), pp. 247-48, Cat. 89, CIL VI, 18795. Museo Gregoiano Profano, Inv. 10464. See also Kockel (1993), p.133 Kat. G 10, Taf. 44a-c, 45a-c, 46, a-b. Kleiner and Matheson (1996). I, Claudia, Cat.

(31) SPQR: Senatus et Populus Que Roman the official designation for the Senate and People of Rome.

* Editorial translation.

Jasmin W. Cyril *

Jasmine Cyril, Ph.D., Independent Scholar, 910 Albert St., No: 5, Winston Salem, NC 27101, U.S.A. e-mail:
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Author:Cyril, Jasmin W.
Publication:Kadin/Woman 2000
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Previous Article:The practice of marriage and the social status of Tahtaci woman/Tahtaci kadinin sosyal statusu ve evlilik ile ilgili uygulamalari.
Next Article:A journey towards the edge of life: traveling with three favorite male authors/Bir kadin yazar hayran oldugu erkek yazarlarla yasamin ucuna yolculuk...

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