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Were Roman Crucified Victims Always In The Nude?

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hammers

Governor
As for reactions of Roman crowds when confronted to such sights that, far from being prurient, were instead hurting each one's dignity as individuals, please let me report an extract from the writings of Tertullian (theologist 155-222AD) on the passion of Christian martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas who were killed in Carthage arena on 7th March 203AD :
quote
"For the young women,however,the Devil had prepared a mad heifer. This was an unusual animal, but it was chosen that their sex might be matched with that of the beast. So they were stripped naked, placed in nets and thus brought out into the arena. Even the crowd was horrified when they saw that one was a delicate young girl and the other was a woman fresh from childbirth with the milk still dripping from her breasts. And so they were brought back again and dressed in unbelted tunics.
unquote
 

Eulalia

Poet Laureate
Staff member
It all depends of the attitude of the rulers. Invaders with a more 'live and live' mentality may observe local sensitivities, and perhaps, leave justice to the locals and just monitor it.
Invaders with the mentality of being superior in race and culture, will bother little about the sensitivities of the 'inferior' locals. They do fear a rebellion, since they consider themselves strong enough to crush it at any cost.
I'm sorry but I have to disagree. The "Roman" occupying armies were not actually Romans. They didn't care about local cultures. More likely that the occupying forces would be recruited from peoples that were already hostile to the country that they were occupying.
Thus, the Roman Empire was able to continue by subjugating its colonies.
I wasn't suggesting they were 'sensitive to local cultures', but that such a fear of the sight of a naked body spread out from the middle eastern heartlands, and influenced attitudes throughout the Empire. While it was associated with the spread of Christianity, that wasn't the only or primary influence. Other 'mystery' cults with similar puritan outlooks, were influential (not least in the Army), as well as more general shifts in social mores.
 

WhiteGirl

Assistant executioner
At its height, more than with legions, Rome controlled the provinces by a uniform law, including penal law. That was one of the unifying agents of the empire, and implementation of these laws likely kept little account of local habits.
No one could hide for a sentence in the province. Justice would have found them.

So, why would implementation of death sentences have taken into account local sensitivities?
That is what I have been trying to say. Few people in the Roman empire were actually Roman citizens so the local rulers could inflict whatever penalties they chose. Pontius Pilate was not a Roman (Suetonius implies that he may have been a Jew) but he had absolute power over Judea. This may account for why Jesus was executed by Jewish law rather that Roman law.
 

Loxuru

Graf von Kreuzigung
I wasn't suggesting they were 'sensitive to local cultures', but that such a fear of the sight of a naked body spread out from the middle eastern heartlands, and influenced attitudes throughout the Empire. While it was associated with the spread of Christianity, that wasn't the only or primary influence. Other 'mystery' cults with similar puritan outlooks, were influential (not least in the Army), as well as more general shifts in social mores.
That is what I have been trying to say. Few people in the Roman empire were actually Roman citizens so the local rulers could inflict whatever penalties they chose. Pontius Pilate was not a Roman (Suetonius implies that he may have been a Jew) but he had absolute power over Judea. This may account for why Jesus was executed by Jewish law rather that Roman law.
I think both viewpoints are correct, but we are most likely talking about two habits in two different epochs within Roman Times, between which the mores had evolved.
 

WhiteGirl

Assistant executioner
I wasn't suggesting they were 'sensitive to local cultures', but that such a fear of the sight of a naked body spread out from the middle eastern heartlands, and influenced attitudes throughout the Empire. While it was associated with the spread of Christianity, that wasn't the only or primary influence. Other 'mystery' cults with similar puritan outlooks, were influential (not least in the Army), as well as more general shifts in social mores.
Around the same time as the birth of Christianity, the cult of Mithraism was growing with the Roman military. It was not a particularly puritan cult but it was powerful at the time. A few centuries later, when the Christians were more powerful, all traces of Mithraism were brutally eliminated.
 
As I recall, Roman citizens could have a quick death.
Crucifixion was not just for heavy crimes. Petty theft could earn crucifixion. If a slave killed his or her master, all the master's slaves (men, women and children) would be crucified,
Jesus was clearly not guilty of any heavy crime -- but then he was not crucified by the Romans.
We really don't know why Jesus was crucified. All we have are the gospel accounts, which contradict each other and go out of their way to blame "the Jews". John in particular is anti-Jewish, because the community in which it was composed had apparently been kicked out of the synagogue. The involvement of Pilate is really problematic. There are lots of things the evangelists couldn't have known: the discussion inside the Sanhedrin during the (illegal under Jewish Law) night trial--in John there is no trial, what Pilate and Jesus discussed in John after Jesus was taken inside the Praetorium (where the priests didn't follow because they wanted to eat Passover--although the three other gospels say Passover had already occurred--and Pilate specifically asks Jesus "Am I a Jew?", implying he's not), the report of Pilate's wife's dream in Matthew, which it is unlikely she made in public. The Gospels specifically say the Jews needed permission to execute Jesus (their preferred method was stoning, not crucifixion) because they needed Roman approval.
In John there is no "agony in the garden" and those who come to arrest Jesus "fall down before him". Clearly there are Jewish authorities present because the High Priest's servant loses his ear. As Paula Fredriksen says, the crowd howling for blood "comes from nowhere"--especially given what happened the Sunday before. It is highly unlikely that a person like Barabas as the gospels describe him would have been released (by a governor who had a reputation for brutality).
The gospel accounts disagree on the day (John vs. the others), the time (third hour in Mark, darkness from the sixth to the ninth hours; Pilate is still dithering at the sixth hour in John, and no darkness is noted). Only Luke has a "good thief", called an "evildoer" in Luke's Greek. In John the "two others" "crucified with him" say nothing, and nothing is said about them or their crimes--they are just "two others". In Matthew, both thieves (here called laestaes, "brigand", implying rebellion) berate Jesus. Mark also calls them "laestes" and they also both berate Jesus. John would never have Jesus say "My God, why have you foresaken me" and doesn't. John's Jesus needs no help with his cross, no Simon of Cyrene. John's Jesus looks after his mother (who has other children and doesn't need the attention really) and only says "I thirst" to "fulfill the scriptures" (and only in John are the brigands' legs broken but not Jesus's, whose side is pierced instead in order to "fulfill scripture"--the others say nothing about this). The others have no one near Jesus' cross, because the disciples are in hiding and only some Galilean women are watching from "afar off--"makrothen"). Matthew has a torn temple curtain, and earthquake, and resurrections when Jesus dies. No one else does.
Given all this, it is pretty clear that all the accounts have a heavy "PR" component, blaming Jews and exonerating Romans, John likening Jesus to the Pascal lamb on Passover, all stressing the foreordained sacrificial death of Jesus, and John stressing how calm and in control Jesus is. Each evangelist adds his own details to make the case for Jesus' innocence and conform to each evangelist's own religious views. (Jesus wasn't actually enthroned God and part of the Trinity until early in the fifth century or so.)
The crucifixion was a hard thing for Christians to explain--it isn't something that happens to ordinary criminals, it is something that Romans do to their enemies, so if it happens to your founder you need to come up with a reason. The gospels all try to exonerate the Romans, blame the Jews, and make Jesus an innocent man.
What really happened is speculation. A lot of people think that Palm Sunday worried the Romans--they always had troops in Jerusalem for Jewish "festivals" to nip any unrest in the bud. When Jesus overturns the money changers' tables in the temple (in John he had already done this some time before, and "the Jews" only decide to kill him (and Lazarus) after he raises the latter from the dead--Maurice Casey for one wrote a whole book claiming the Gospel of John is just not true but merely theology), the authorities are alarmed. The priests are responsible for keeping order, and under pressure from Pilate (giving Pilate some political cover) they arrest Jesus as a possible "laestes", and Jesus is crucified (for religious crimes he should be stoned under Jewish law). Thus, Christians had a Roman crucifixion to explain, and they tried hard to do so. Whether Jesus was actually a rebel or not, the Romans felt he acted like one and his following was very worrisome, so they got rid of him. The Jewish authorities for their part had every incentive to avoid a violent Roman police action against aroused inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Note that in his epistle to the Romans Paul urges obedience to the "authorities" ("all authority comes from God"). Jewish/Christian conflict in Rome had already lead Claudius to expel at least one synagogue from the city. Paul apostle to the Gentiles doesn't want to look anti-Roman.
 

Loxuru

Graf von Kreuzigung
Whether Jesus was actually a rebel or not, the Romans felt he acted like one and his following was very worrisome, so they got rid of him. The Jewish authorities for their part had every incentive to avoid a violent Roman police action against aroused inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Two Roman legionaries, Gaius and Loxurus, are guarding the crucifixion site of three men, on the Golgotha, Jerusalem.

“So, that went well, after all! For a moment I feared a riot, with that lot of onlookers! For just two murderers and some, … well, rioter, as they say. Do you know why this guy in the middle was crucified, Loxurus?”

“Like you said, Gaius! Riot! He seems to have made some trouble at the stock exchange last week!”

“I have been told that he is innocent, but some people wanted to settle a bill for that incident!”

“I heard something else, Gaius!”

“What do you mean, Loxurus!?”

“He was a rabbi, remember! And above all, one such rabbi that combines religious enthousiasm with personal charisma! Did you see the number women mourning him!?”

“What do you mean!”

“He had that strange kind of attraction to his women followers….”

“He did not look hansom!”

“No, but did you see that glow in his eyes? For me it looked like some madness! He called himself the son of god! For his women followers, he was the son of god, and they fell for him!”

“I’ll never understand women, I am afraid!”

“Neither will I, but you see, that’s the point! He has slept with half the women of Jerusalem! Lots of them were married women! And according to local law, a married woman that is unfaithful will be stoned! So, they meanwhile would have to stone half the number of married females of the city. They just looked for a pretext to nail him, and that incident on the stock market was a very convenient one to accuse him of riot! That’s why he hangs here now!”
 
Two Roman legionaries, Gaius and Loxurus, are guarding the crucifixion site of three men, on the Golgotha, Jerusalem.

“So, that went well, after all! For a moment I feared a riot, with that lot of onlookers! For just two murderers and some, … well, rioter, as they say. Do you know why this guy in the middle was crucified, Loxurus?”

“Like you said, Gaius! Riot! He seems to have made some trouble at the stock exchange last week!”

“I have been told that he is innocent, but some people wanted to settle a bill for that incident!”

“I heard something else, Gaius!”

“What do you mean, Loxurus!?”

“He was a rabbi, remember! And above all, one such rabbi that combines religious enthousiasm with personal charisma! Did you see the number women mourning him!?”

“What do you mean!”

“He had that strange kind of attraction to his women followers….”

“He did not look hansom!”

“No, but did you see that glow in his eyes? For me it looked like some madness! He called himself the son of god! For his women followers, he was the son of god, and they fell for him!”

“I’ll never understand women, I am afraid!”

“Neither will I, but you see, that’s the point! He has slept with half the women of Jerusalem! Lots of them were married women! And according to local law, a married woman that is unfaithful will be stoned! So, they meanwhile would have to stone half the number of married females of the city. They just looked for a pretext to nail him, and that incident on the stock market was a very convenient one to accuse him of riot! That’s why he hangs here now!”
Yes, the "stock exchange".
One other note about this.
Stephen is stoned in Acts for "blasphemy". The Sanhedrin is not involved, and the Romans don't do anything.
Josephus relates that "James the Just", the "brother of the Lord" (some say Jesus' real brother, who is only mentioned as such in the Gospels and has no other role there but in Acts is a major figure in the Jerusalem church) was stoned after a Sanhedrin trial. This happened after the governor Festus had left the province but before his replacement Albinus had arrived. Apparently James had admirers, and some leading people met Albinus as he entered the province and (successfully) asked him to intervene. The high priest was replaced by King Herod Agrippa as a result.
So, it seems that the Sanhedrin (at least 30 years after Jesus) executed people by stoning. It also seems that the Roman governor wanted to be informed, but didn't insist on carrying out the execution himself. It also seems that he didn't much care what the Jews did unless their actions caused others to object. Steven was stoned "unofficially" (while Pilate was still governor) and he did not intervene or take action after the fact.
This seems to indicate that Pilate was not just trying to placate the Jewish authorities, but had his own reasons for wanting Jesus dead. So he didn't just let the Jews stone Jesus (as they had tried to do before) and as they successfully did with Stephen and James and look the other way. He also made a point of executing Jesus publicly by a degrading method of execution .
So I think the gospels are at best leaving something out.
 

WhiteGirl

Assistant executioner
We really don't know why Jesus was crucified. All we have are the gospel accounts, which contradict each other and go out of their way to blame "the Jews". John in particular is anti-Jewish, because the community in which it was composed had apparently been kicked out of the synagogue. The involvement of Pilate is really problematic. There are lots of things the evangelists couldn't have known: the discussion inside the Sanhedrin during the (illegal under Jewish Law) night trial--in John there is no trial, what Pilate and Jesus discussed in John after Jesus was taken inside the Praetorium (where the priests didn't follow because they wanted to eat Passover--although the three other gospels say Passover had already occurred--and Pilate specifically asks Jesus "Am I a Jew?", implying he's not), the report of Pilate's wife's dream in Matthew, which it is unlikely she made in public. The Gospels specifically say the Jews needed permission to execute Jesus (their preferred method was stoning, not crucifixion) because they needed Roman approval.
In John there is no "agony in the garden" and those who come to arrest Jesus "fall down before him". Clearly there are Jewish authorities present because the High Priest's servant loses his ear. As Paula Fredriksen says, the crowd howling for blood "comes from nowhere"--especially given what happened the Sunday before. It is highly unlikely that a person like Barabas as the gospels describe him would have been released (by a governor who had a reputation for brutality).
The gospel accounts disagree on the day (John vs. the others), the time (third hour in Mark, darkness from the sixth to the ninth hours; Pilate is still dithering at the sixth hour in John, and no darkness is noted). Only Luke has a "good thief", called an "evildoer" in Luke's Greek. In John the "two others" "crucified with him" say nothing, and nothing is said about them or their crimes--they are just "two others". In Matthew, both thieves (here called laestaes, "brigand", implying rebellion) berate Jesus. Mark also calls them "laestes" and they also both berate Jesus. John would never have Jesus say "My God, why have you foresaken me" and doesn't. John's Jesus needs no help with his cross, no Simon of Cyrene. John's Jesus looks after his mother (who has other children and doesn't need the attention really) and only says "I thirst" to "fulfill the scriptures" (and only in John are the brigands' legs broken but not Jesus's, whose side is pierced instead in order to "fulfill scripture"--the others say nothing about this). The others have no one near Jesus' cross, because the disciples are in hiding and only some Galilean women are watching from "afar off--"makrothen"). Matthew has a torn temple curtain, and earthquake, and resurrections when Jesus dies. No one else does.
Given all this, it is pretty clear that all the accounts have a heavy "PR" component, blaming Jews and exonerating Romans, John likening Jesus to the Pascal lamb on Passover, all stressing the foreordained sacrificial death of Jesus, and John stressing how calm and in control Jesus is. Each evangelist adds his own details to make the case for Jesus' innocence and conform to each evangelist's own religious views. (Jesus wasn't actually enthroned God and part of the Trinity until early in the fifth century or so.)
The crucifixion was a hard thing for Christians to explain--it isn't something that happens to ordinary criminals, it is something that Romans do to their enemies, so if it happens to your founder you need to come up with a reason. The gospels all try to exonerate the Romans, blame the Jews, and make Jesus an innocent man.
What really happened is speculation. A lot of people think that Palm Sunday worried the Romans--they always had troops in Jerusalem for Jewish "festivals" to nip any unrest in the bud. When Jesus overturns the money changers' tables in the temple (in John he had already done this some time before, and "the Jews" only decide to kill him (and Lazarus) after he raises the latter from the dead--Maurice Casey for one wrote a whole book claiming the Gospel of John is just not true but merely theology), the authorities are alarmed. The priests are responsible for keeping order, and under pressure from Pilate (giving Pilate some political cover) they arrest Jesus as a possible "laestes", and Jesus is crucified (for religious crimes he should be stoned under Jewish law). Thus, Christians had a Roman crucifixion to explain, and they tried hard to do so. Whether Jesus was actually a rebel or not, the Romans felt he acted like one and his following was very worrisome, so they got rid of him. The Jewish authorities for their part had every incentive to avoid a violent Roman police action against aroused inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Note that in his epistle to the Romans Paul urges obedience to the "authorities" ("all authority comes from God"). Jewish/Christian conflict in Rome had already lead Claudius to expel at least one synagogue from the city. Paul apostle to the Gentiles doesn't want to look anti-Roman.
Rome was quite a small city. There is no way the Rome could have provided enough soldiers to command their empire. Most of the Roman army were mercenaries. mostly deployed in lands that were not their own. However, Suetonius implies that Pilate was a Jew.

Even though Pilate wanted to distance himself from the execution, he allowed the crucifixion to be under Jewish law.
 
I have not seen that in Suetonius (although I have not read much of him). I do know that Pilate when he first arrived sparked a riot in Jerusalem by bringing "idols" (imperial eagles) into the city. The Romans often did welcome people from the empire into the court (Herod Agrippa, for example). Flavius Josephus was Jewish traitor who went over to Vespasian during the Jewish War and was "adopted" into the "Flavian" family (Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian were the three emperors). He mentions Pilate (and Jesus), but says nothing about Pilate being a Jew. John's Gospel has Pilate respond to Jesus' question about whether Pilate had heard that Jesus was "king of the Jews" from others with the retort "Am I a Jew?" (John 18:35). Now this dialogue is almost certainly fiction, but it does show that the author of John at least does not think Pilate was a Jew--goes out of his way to cast him as a Roman in order to blame the Jews for Jesus' execution. Since Herod Agrippa was installed as a king by Tiberius in 41 AD and Herod the Great's son Archelaus had been deposed as "tetrach" by Augustus and a Roman prefect installed in Judea around AD 10, it makes no sense for Tiberius to install a Jewish official as prefect instead of just divvying up the province among Archelaus' brothers (notably Herod Antipas in Galilee). (Antipas was later deposed as well on suspicion of plotting a revolt.) It is highly unlikely that a "Jewish" prefect would have been installed by the Romans when other Jews were around with a greater claim to rule (Herod Agrippa did in fact rule the whole province for a brief time--41-44--and was close to the Julio-Claudian royal family). So I would be very surprised if Pilate were a Jew (especially since he was the fifth of seven or so clearly Roman prefects--clearly not a hereditary official with ties to the area). Can you give me a reference from Suetonius? (Pilate in fact was recalled to Rome after complaints about brutality from the Jerusalem authorities--indicating that he was a Roman.)
Herod the Great did indeed crucify political opponents, but crucifixion was a Roman punishment, and as my previous post indicated Jewish "heretics" were stoned--the standard biblical punishment. "The Jews" were more than once prepared to stone Jesus in the Gospels.
 

WhiteGirl

Assistant executioner
I have not seen that in Suetonius (although I have not read much of him). I do know that Pilate when he first arrived sparked a riot in Jerusalem by bringing "idols" (imperial eagles) into the city. The Romans often did welcome people from the empire into the court (Herod Agrippa, for example). Flavius Josephus was Jewish traitor who went over to Vespasian during the Jewish War and was "adopted" into the "Flavian" family (Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian were the three emperors). He mentions Pilate (and Jesus), but says nothing about Pilate being a Jew. John's Gospel has Pilate respond to Jesus' question about whether Pilate had heard that Jesus was "king of the Jews" from others with the retort "Am I a Jew?" (John 18:35). Now this dialogue is almost certainly fiction, but it does show that the author of John at least does not think Pilate was a Jew--goes out of his way to cast him as a Roman in order to blame the Jews for Jesus' execution. Since Herod Agrippa was installed as a king by Tiberius in 41 AD and Herod the Great's son Archelaus had been deposed as "tetrach" by Augustus and a Roman prefect installed in Judea around AD 10, it makes no sense for Tiberius to install a Jewish official as prefect instead of just divvying up the province among Archelaus' brothers (notably Herod Antipas in Galilee). (Antipas was later deposed as well on suspicion of plotting a revolt.) It is highly unlikely that a "Jewish" prefect would have been installed by the Romans when other Jews were around with a greater claim to rule (Herod Agrippa did in fact rule the whole province for a brief time--41-44--and was close to the Julio-Claudian royal family). So I would be very surprised if Pilate were a Jew (especially since he was the fifth of seven or so clearly Roman prefects--clearly not a hereditary official with ties to the area). Can you give me a reference from Suetonius? (Pilate in fact was recalled to Rome after complaints about brutality from the Jerusalem authorities--indicating that he was a Roman.)
Herod the Great did indeed crucify political opponents, but crucifixion was a Roman punishment, and as my previous post indicated Jewish "heretics" were stoned--the standard biblical punishment. "The Jews" were more than once prepared to stone Jesus in the Gospels.
Yes I was mistaken. Pilate was probably Roman although Herod was almost certainly Jewish.

If the biblical description is accurate (which I rather doubt), Pilate had no reason to execute Jesus but allowed the Jews to use Roman soldiers to execute him -- probably to maintain peace.

Everything about the execution was according to Jewish law: the 39 lashes of the scourge and, of course, the fact the the body was removed from the cross and moved to a tomb. The normal Roman way was to leave the bodies on the cross until they decomposed and fell off (unless they needed the cross for another execution).
 

Naraku

Draconarius
Yes I was mistaken. Pilate was probably Roman although Herod was almost certainly Jewish.

If the biblical description is accurate (which I rather doubt), Pilate had no reason to execute Jesus but allowed the Jews to use Roman soldiers to execute him -- probably to maintain peace.

Everything about the execution was according to Jewish law: the 39 lashes of the scourge and, of course, the fact the the body was removed from the cross and moved to a tomb. The normal Roman way was to leave the bodies on the cross until they decomposed and fell off (unless they needed the cross for another execution).
Pontius Pilate was a Roman. His family name indicates he was a member of the gens Pontii, a plebeian family of Samnite origin.

Herod (Antipas) was a Jew, at least in his opinion. Many Jews, however, thought differently. The Herodian dynasty were Idumean, the Edomites of the Old Testament. They had converted to Judaism around 125 BCE. But many Jews did not consider them to be truly Jewish because they were not descendants of the original 12 tribes. The fact that they were allies of the Romans didn't help either.

Pilate had far more reason to want Jesus dead than the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders who tried Jesus. To the Sanhedrin, he was a blasphemer and an annoyance. But, to Pilate he was a threat to Rome because his followers declared him the Messiah, the King of the Jews. This was a direct defiance of Roman authority which required crucifixion. The earliest Gospel, Mark, makes Pilate a co-equal with the Sanhedrin in ordering Jesus' death. In the later Gospels, he becomes more of an unwilling participant, with the latest Gospel, John, shifting the blame almost entirely on the Jewish people. This change is probably due to Christianity changing from a Jewish sect into one dominated by, and solely concerned with converting Gentiles. To counter accusations of being disloyal to Rome, the Christians sanitized Pilate and demonized the Jews. This ultimately lead to apocryphal gospels of Pilate converting to Christianity.
 

WhiteGirl

Assistant executioner
Pontius Pilate was a Roman. His family name indicates he was a member of the gens Pontii, a plebeian family of Samnite origin.

Herod (Antipas) was a Jew, at least in his opinion. Many Jews, however, thought differently. The Herodian dynasty were Idumean, the Edomites of the Old Testament. They had converted to Judaism around 125 BCE. But many Jews did not consider them to be truly Jewish because they were not descendants of the original 12 tribes. The fact that they were allies of the Romans didn't help either.

Pilate had far more reason to want Jesus dead than the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders who tried Jesus. To the Sanhedrin, he was a blasphemer and an annoyance. But, to Pilate he was a threat to Rome because his followers declared him the Messiah, the King of the Jews. This was a direct defiance of Roman authority which required crucifixion. The earliest Gospel, Mark, makes Pilate a co-equal with the Sanhedrin in ordering Jesus' death. In the later Gospels, he becomes more of an unwilling participant, with the latest Gospel, John, shifting the blame almost entirely on the Jewish people. This change is probably due to Christianity changing from a Jewish sect into one dominated by, and solely concerned with converting Gentiles. To counter accusations of being disloyal to Rome, the Christians sanitized Pilate and demonized the Jews. This ultimately lead to apocryphal gospels of Pilate converting to Christianity.
I agree the Jesus was considered as a blasphemer and an annoyance. As a blasphemer the Jews wanted him dead. At the time of his death, the followers of Jesus were not sufficient to pose any problem to the Roman empire, nor were they for the next three centuries.
 
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