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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 13

Section 1 Subsection 16

The Rise and Decollation [beheading]

of the Seventh Head



The Roman Empire of the West was extinguished A.D. 476-479, by the conquering sword of the king of the Heruli, Odoacer. This ruler reigned in Rome about fourteen years, when he was succeeded by the renowned Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, the Arian king of Italy. This prince was born in the neighborhood of Vienna, and educated at Constantinople with care and tenderness. On his father's death he had succeeded to the hereditary throne of the Amali, who were subsidized as defenders of the frontier by the government of Constantinople. His people murmured at this arrangement, until he found it necessary to withdraw from the service of the emperor, and to lead them to some enterprise by which their fortunes would be improved. Having determined on this course he wrote to the emperor Zeno in the following words:

"Although your servant is maintained in affluence by your liberality, graciously listen to the wishes of my heart! Italy, the inheritance of your predecessors, and Rome itself, the Heart and Mistress of the world, now fluctuate under the violence of Odoacer, the Mercenary. Direct me, with my national troops, to march against the tyrant. If I fall, you will be relieved from an expensive and troublesome friend; if, with the divine permission, I succeed; I shall govern in your name, and to your glory, the Roman Senate, and the part of the republic delivered from slavery by my victorious arms." Theodoric's proposal was accepted by the Byzantine Court. He marched against the tyrant in the depth of a rigorous winter, and after many obscure and bloody battles, he descended from the Julian Alps and displayed his invincible banners on the confines of Italy. The conflict between Odoacer and Theodoric was severe; but at length the former capitulated, and, being removed by death, the royalty of Theodoric was proclaimed by the Ostrogoths, "with the tardy, reluctant, ambiguous consent of the Emperor of the East."


After this manner the Seventh Head was developed and established upon the Seven Hills; the Dragon tardily, reluctantly and ambiguously ceding to it "his power, and his throne, and extensive jurisdiction (ch. 13:2). Theodoric reigned thirty-three years, from A.D. 493 to A.D. 526. Among the barbarian Horns of the West the victory of Theodoric had spread a general alarm. But as soon as it appeared that he was satiated with conquest and desired peace, terror was changed into respect, and they submitted to a powerful mediation, which was uniformly employed for the best purposes of reconciling their quarrels and civilizing their manners. A wife, two daughters, a sister and a niece, united the family of Theodoric with the kings of the Franks, the Burgundians, the Visigoths, the Vandals and the Thuringians, and contributed to maintain the harmony, or at least the balance, of the great western Republic of the horns. He reduced, under a strong and regular government, the unprofitable countries of Rhcetia, Noricum, Dalmatia and Pannonia, from the source of the Danube and the territory of the Bavarians, to the kingdom erected by the Gepidae on the ruins of Sirmium. His greatness awakened the jealousy of Anastasius, the emperor of the east, who ravaged the sea-coast of Calabria and Apulia, but the activity and moderation of Theodoric were soon rewarded by a solid and honorable peace. He maintained with a powerful hand the balance of the Horn-Powers of the west, till it was at length overthrown by the ambition of Clovis, king of the Franks, whose progress he checked in the midst of their victorious career. By the Visigoths he was revered as a national protector and guardian of their infant prince. Under this respectable character, the king of Italy restored the praetorian prefecture of the Gauls, reformed some abuses in the civil government of Spain, and accepted the annual tribute and apparent submission of its military governor. The sovereignty of the Seventh Head was established from Sicily to the Danube, and from Belgrade to the Atlantic ocean, and the Greeks themselves have acknowledged that Theodoric reigned over the fairest portion of the western empire.

"From a tender regard to the expiring prejudices of Rome," says the historian, "the barbarian declined the name, the purple and the diadem of the emperors; but he assumed, under the hereditary title of king, the whole substance and plenitude of imperial prerogative. His addresses to the eastern throne were respectful and ambiguous; he celebrated in pompous style the harmony of The Two Republics, applauded his own government as the perfect similitude of a sole and undivided empire (or Head), and claimed above the kings of the earth (the Diademed Horns) the same pre-eminence which he modestly allowed to the person or rank of Anastasius." "They worshipped the Dragon, and they worshipped the Beast," which is further illustrated by Gibbon, who continues: "the alliance of the East and West was annually declared by the unanimous choice of two consuls; but it should seem that the Italian candidate, who was named by Theodoric, accepted a formal confirmation from the sovereign at Constantinople." The fifteen regions of Italy were governed according to the principles and even the forms of Roman jurisprudence. The civil administration, with its honors and emoluments, was confined to the Italians, for whom were reserved the arts of peace, and the Goths were used for the service of war and public defense. These barbarians held their lands and benefices as a military stipend; at the sound of the trumpet they were prepared to march under the conduct of their provincial officers, and the whole extent of Italy was distributed into the several quarters of a well-regulated camp.

With the protection, Theodoric assumed the legal supremacy of the Catholic Church. He was not ignorant of the dignity and importance of the Bishop of Rome, to whom was now appropriated the name of POPE. When "the chair of St. Peter" was disputed by Symmachus and Lawrence, they appeared at his summons before the tribunal of an Arian king, and he confirmed the election of the one he most approved. At the end of his life, in a moment of jealousy and resentment, he prevented the choice of the Romans, by nominating a pope in the palace of Ravenna. This produced great excitement, which he controlled, and the last decree of the Senate was enacted to extinguish, if it were possible, "the scandalous venality of the papal elections."

The reign of Theodoric was mild, tolerant and promotive of the prosperity, security and happiness of the people. But his ungrateful subjects could never be cordially reconciled to the origin, the religion, or even the virtues of the Gothic conqueror; past calamities were forgotten, and the sense or suspicion of injuries was rendered still more exquisite by the present felicity of the times. The religious toleration which Theodoric had the glory of introducing into the Catholic world, was painful and offensive to the Trinitarian zeal of the Italians. They dared not disturb the armed heresy of the Goths; therefore, they sought to vent their pious and cowardly rage by falling upon the rich and defenceless Jews. Their persons were insulted, their effects were pillaged, and their synagogues were burnt by the mad populace of Rome and Ravenna, inflamed by the most frivolous or extravagant pretences. A legal inquiry was instantly directed by the king; who, as the authors of the tumult had escaped, condemned the whole community to repair the damage; and the obstinate bigots who refused their contributions, were whipped through the streets by the hand of the executioner. This simple act of justice exasperated the discontent of the Trinitarians, who applauded the merit and patience of these so-called "holy confessors;" and from three hundred pulpits deplored the persecution of the church. "At the close of a glorious life," says Gibbon, "the king of Italy discovered he had excited the hatred of a people whose happiness he had labored so assiduously to promote; and his mind was soured by indignation, jealousy and the bitterness of unrequited love." Thus were embittered the relations between the Gothic Head and the Trinitarian Italians, who were devoted to the traditions of the Council of Nice, whom Theodoric suspected of a secret and treasonable correspondence with the Byzantine representative of the Head smitten by the sword. The powers of this government were then in the hands of JUSTINIAN, who already meditated the extirpation of heresy, and the reconquest of Italy and Africa; in other words, the healing of the plague of the sword, with which imperialism had been smitten in these countries, as it were, to death. A rigorous law which was published at Constantinople to reduce the Arians by the dread of punishment within the pale of the Catholic orthodoxy, awakened the just resentment of Theodoric, who claimed for his distressed brethren of the East the same indulgence which he had so long granted to the Trinitarian Catholics of his dominions. At his stern command, the Bishop of Rome, with four illustrious senators, embarked on an embassy. The singular veneration shown to the Bishop, who was the first pope that had visited Constantinople, was punished by Theodoric as a crime; and a mandate was prepared in Italy to prohibit, after a stated day, the exercise of the Catholic worship. "by the bigot of his subjects and enemies," says Gibbon, "the most tolerant of prince was driven to the brink of persecution." The celebrated Boethius, "Roman senator, philosopher and minister of state, his father-in-law the patrician Symmachus, and Albinus, also a senator, were accused of treason for "hoping the liberty of Rome," and actually inviting the Emperor Justinian to deliver Italy from the Goths; in other words, to under take the healing of the wounded head that it might live. The suspicion of Theodoric were probably not groundless, and could only be appeased by their blood. They were executed, and the treason charged assumed a terrible reality in succeeding reigns.

On the death of Theodoric, August 30, A.D. 526, the throne of the Seventh Head was occupied by his grandson, Athalaric, aged ten years, with his mother Amalasuntha as guardian and regent of the kingdom of Italy. She ruled the country about eight years, during which a spirit of discord and disaffection prevailed, and the Goths supported with reluctance the indignity of a female reign. Her son Athalaric dying, she caused it to be announced to the Senate of Rome and the Emperor of Constantinople, that she and Theodatus, her cousin, had jointly ascended the throne of Italy. But this regal partnership was soon dissolved by Theodatus, by whose orders she was first imprisoned, and then strangled in the bath, A.D. 535.

The emperor Justinian, who had recently "plucked up by the roots" the Vandal Horn in Africa, beheld with joy the dissensions of the Goths in Italy, who were feebly and unworthily governed by Theodatus. He considered the opportunity as favorable for the healing of his wounded authority over Italy. He demanded therefore the abdication of the Gothic king, and the surrender of the ancient provinces of the empire. Though agreed to by the weakness and imbecility of Theodatus, its execution was prevented by his assassination, and the elevation of Vitiges to the throne. Justinian, however, was not to be thwarted in this way. He ordered BELISARIUS to invade Italy with the forces of the empire, and to wrest it from the Goths. The invasion was easy, but the expulsion of two hundred thousand warlike barbarians in arms, proved to be a work of great difficulty.

Having recovered Sicily, the general of Justinian landed his forces in Italy, A. D. 536. From the capture of Naples he proceeded against Rome, which had been left to a feeble garrison, and the fidelity of its citizens. "But", says Gibbon, "a momentary enthusiasm of religion and patriotism was kindled in their minds. They furiously exclaimed, that THE APOSTOLIC THRONE should no longer be profaned by the triumph or toleration of Arianism; that the tombs of the Caesars should no longer be trampled by the savages of the north; and, without reflecting, that Italy must sink into a province of Constantinople, they fondly hailed the restoration of the Roman emperor as a new era of freedom and prosperity. The deputies of the pope and clergy, of the Senate and people, invited the lieutenant of Justinian to accept their voluntary allegiance, and to enter the city whose gates would be thrown open for his reception." He readily accepted their allegiance, and made his entrance at the Asinarian gate, while the Gothic garrison departed without molestation along the Flaminian way; and the city after sixty years' servitude, was delivered from the yoke of the barbarians. The keys of Rome were sent to the throne of the emperor Justinian, to whom they were delivered by the Gothic commander of the garrison, who refused to accompany his troops in their retreat.

But Vitiges was not idle. During the winter season he collected an army of one hundred and fifty thousand men. With these forces he besieged  Belisarius in Rome for more than a year. The city was greatly distressed. The general pitied the sufferings of the people, whose loyalty to the emperor had notably decayed, while their discontents proportionately increased. "Adversity," says Gibbon, "had awakened the Romans from the dreams of grandeur and freedom, and taught them the humiliating lesson, that it was of small moment to their real happiness, whether the name of their master was derived from the Gothic or the Latin language." Among the disaffected was Sylverius, the incumbent of the recently erected "Apostolic Throne." A letter subscribed by him was intercepted, which assured the king of the Goths, that the Asinarian gate, adjoining to the Lateran church, should be secretly opened to his troops. On this proof of treason, he was summoned to attend at the headquarters of Belisarius, and there to give an account of himself. The ecclesiastics who followed the pope, were detained in an anteroom, and he alone was admitted into the presence of the general. Belisarius was silent, but the voice of reproach and menace issued from the mouth of Antonina, his imperious wife. Being convicted of the treason, the pretended successor of St. Peter was despoiled of his pontifical ornaments, clad in the mean habit of a monk, and embarked without delay for a distant exile in the east, and was afterwards either slain or murdered upon a desolate island. At the emperor's command, the clergy of Rome proceeded to the choice of a new bishop; they therefore elected a deacon Vigilius, who had purchased the papal throne by a bribe of two hundred pounds of gold. From these circumstances the reader will perceive the relation in which the bishop of Rome stood to the imperial power in the first half of the sixth century. He was still subject to the civil authority though spiritual "Head of all the Churches" of the empire. The imperial authority was now in Rome again in power, or maintained by force of arms. Had this been permanent the pope would never have become a temporal sovereign; but would have lived and died the servant of the emperors. Hence, the removal of this pressure was necessary to the setting up of an imperial episcopal image upon the seven hills. The decollation of the Seventh Head, and the reduction of Rome to a subordinate rank among cities, would accomplish this; and therefore the calamities of the times as developed in this Gothic war.

Succors arriving from Constantinople, Rome was delivered from the Goths, who raised the siege, and fell back upon Ravenna. This well fortified city was at length captured by Belisarius, who also obtained possession of Vitiges the Gothic king, whom he sent prisoner to Constantinople, A.D. 539. By these reverses they lost their king, an inconsiderable loss truly, their capital, their treasures, the provinces from Sicily to the Alps, and the military force of two hundred thousand barbarians magnificently equipped with horses and arms. Yet all was not lost. Totila the nephew of the captive king was chosen to succeed him; and, at the head of five thousand soldiers, generously undertook the restoration of the kingdom of Italy.

Having routed twenty thousand Romans near Faenza, he crossed the Po, and traversing the Apennine, laid siege to Naples, which he reduced; and then retracing his steps, laid siege to Rome, whose Senate and people he calmly exhorted to compare the tyranny of the Greeks with the blessings of the Gothic reign.

Totila was chaste and temperate; and none were deceived who depended on his faith or his clemency. By his virtues in contrast with the vices of the officials, who served the interests of imperialism, a new people, under the appellation of Goths, was insensibly formed in his camp. The situation of the imperialists had already become desperate; and the return of Belisarius to save the country he had subdued in the first war, was pressed with equal vehemence by his friends and enemies. He reluctantly accepted the painful task of supporting his own reputation, and retrieving the faults of his successors. The sea being open to the Romans, he entered the port of Ravenna. From thence he addressed both the Goths and Italians in the name of Justinian, his gracious master, who, he said, was inclined to pardon and reward. But not a man was tempted to desert the standard of the Gothic king. Belisarius soon discovered that he had been sent by Justinian to remain the idle and impotent spectator of the glory of the young barbarian Totila. This he by no means approved; and, in an epistle to the emperor, exhibited a lively picture of the crisis, which caused him great distress. "Most excellent prince," says he, "we are arrived in Italy, destitute of all the necessary implements of war, men, horses, arms, and money. In our late circuit through the villages of Thrace and Illyricum, we have collected with extreme difficulty, about four thousand recruits, naked, and unskilled in the use of weapons and the exercises of the camp. The soldiers already stationed in the province are discontented, fearful and dismayed; at the sound of an enemy, they dismiss their horses, and cast their arms on the ground. No taxes can be raised, since Italy is in the hands of the barbarians; the failure of payment has deprived us of the right of command, or even of admonition. Be assured, Dread Sir, that the greater part of your troops have already deserted to the Goths. If the war could be achieved by the presence of Belisarius alone, your wishes are satisfied; Belisarius is in the midst of Italy. But, if you desire to conquer, far other preparations are requisite: without a military force, the title of general is an empty name. It would be expedient to restore to my service my own veterans and domestic guards. Before I can take the field, I must receive an adequate supply of light and heavy armed troops; and it is only with ready money that you can procure the indispensable aid of a powerful body of the cavalry of the Huns."

In the meantime, the siege of Rome was closely pressed by Totila, A.D. 546. The inhabitants were gradually reduced to feed on dead horses, dogs, cats, and mice, and eagerly to snatch the grass, and even the nettles, which grew among the ruins of the city. The failure of Belisarius to throw supplies into the place, left Rome without protection to the mercy or indignation of Totila; by whose instrumentality the Deity was inflicting plagues upon the Trinitarian adherents of the Name of Blasphemy upon the Seven Hills. The continuance of hostilities had embittered the national hatred; the Arian clergy were ignominiously driven from Rome; Pelagius, the archdeacon, returned without success from an embassy to the Gothic camp; and a Sicilian bishop, the envoy or nuncio of pope Vigilius, was deprived of both his hands for daring to utter falsehoods in the service of the Trinitanan church and state

At length on Dec.17 the Goths were treacherously admitted into the city. As soon as daylight had displayed the entire victory of the Goths, Totila devoutly visited the so-called tomb of St. Peter; but while he prayed at the altar, twenty-five soldiers and sixty citizens, were put to the sword in the vestibule of the temple. The archdeacon Pelagius stood before him with "the gospel" in his hand, and exclaimed, "0 Lord, be merciful to your servant." "Pelagius," said Totila, with an insulting smile, "your pride now condescends to become a suppliant." "I am a suppliant," he prudently replied, "God has now made us your subjects, and as your subjects we are entitled to your clemency." At his humble prayer the lives of the Romans were spared, and the passions of the hungry soldiers restrained. But they were rewarded with the freedom of pillage. The next day he pronounced two orations, to congratulate and admonish the victorious Goths, and to reproach the Senate, as the vilest of slaves, with their perjury, folly, and ingratitude. Yet he consented to forgive their revolt. Against the city he appeared inexorable; and the world was astonished at the fatal decree, that Rome should be changed into a pasture for cattle. The firm and temperate remonstrance of Belisarius suspended the execution; and Totila was at length persuaded to preserve Rome as the ornament of his kingdom. Having demolished one third of the walls in different parts, and stationed an army about fifteen miles from the city to observe the motions of Belisarius, he marched with the remainder of his forces into Lucania and Apulia. The Senators were dragged in his train, and afterwards confined in the fortress of Campania; the citizens with their wives and children, and the pope and his clergy of all ranks and degrees, were dispersed in exile; and during forty days and more Rome was abandoned to desolate and dreary solitude.

And here it would be well for the reader to pause, and reflect upon this chasm of forty days in the life of "THE Mistress OF THE WORLD" -"the Woman, that Great City," which in the apostles' day, and ecclesiastically in ours, "reigneth over the regal powers of the earth" (ch. 17:18). If the foundation of Rome be correctly stated at 753 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the "Eternal City," so called, became a vacant space twelve hundred and ninety-nine years after. This chasm of forty days is nearly the central epoch of the city's existence. Twelve hundred and sixty years afterwards, Totila was represented by Napoleon, crowned emperor and king of Italy by the Pope. Totila was not unlike his modern representative in some respects. He had but little respect for Rome or its bishop. He filled Rome with darkness, so that no political lights, civil or ecclesiastical, shone in it for forty days; so also, Napoleon, as the executive of the Fifth Vial, poured vengeance upon Rome; and filled the kingdom, of which it is the seat or throne, with darkness.

When Totila consented not to reduce it to a pasture for cattle, but to leave it a vacant and standing monument of the wrath of heaven, he carried off the pope with him into captivity; and 1260 years after, Napoleon degraded the city to a subordinate rank, and transferred the pope from a throne to captivity at Fontainbleau. Thirteen hundred and twenty years (1320) have now elapsed since this notable forty days of solitude; and it is exceedingly probable that but few more years will elapse ere this renowned centre of crime, blasphemy, and everything unclean and hateful, finds itself submerged in the unfathomable depths of a solitude, whose silence will never again be broken by the trumpet, or its darkness dispelled by a glimmering of light (ch. 18:22,23).

After this forty days of solitude the city was reoccupied by Belisarius, who sent its keys (for there were then no "St. Peter's keys" to send) a second time to Justinian. But the imperialists were unable to hold it. In A.D. 549, the Goths laid siege to it again, and took it. Totila no longer desired to destroy the edifices of Rome, which he now respected as the throne of the Gothic kingdom; the Senate and people were now restored, and the means of subsistence were liberally provided. He reduced the cities of Rhegium and Tarentum; and annexed Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. At every step of his victories, he repeated to Justinian his desire of peace, applauded the concord of their predecessors, and offered to employ the Gothic arms in the service of the Dragon-empire.

But, Justinian, true to the character of "the king who" should "do according to his will" (Dan. 11:35), was deaf to the voice of peace; but he neglected, through indolence, the prosecution of the war. From this slumber he was aroused by Vigilius, "the Head of all the churches" of his estate, and the patrician Cethagus, who appeared before his throne, and adjured him in the name of the Deity and the people, to resume the conquest and deliverance of Italy. An army was assembled, and under the command of Narses, was ordered to march against the Goths. Totila, conscious that the clergy and people of Italy aspired to a second revolution, resolved to risk the Gothic kingdom on the chance of a day, in which the valiant would be animated by instant danger, and the disaffected might be awed by mutual ignorance. The decisive battle was fought at Taginas, about ninety-five miles from Rome, in July, A.D. 552. The Goths were defeated, and Totila was slain. Narses, having paid his devotions to "the blessed Virgin," his imaginary goddess, and peculiar patroness, whose inspiration he professed had revealed to him the day, and the word of battle, advanced towards Rome, which did not long delay his progress. The keys of the city were for the third time sent to Justinian, under whose reign it had been five times taken and recovered. "But the deliverance of Rome," says Gibbon, "was the last calamity of the Roman people." Three hundred youths of the noble' families, who were hostages in the hands of the Goths, were slain  by Teias, the successor of Totila. "The fate of the Senate suggests an awful lesson of the vicissitude of human affairs. All the fortresses of Campani were stained with patrician blood. After a period of thirteen centuries the institution of Romulus expired; and if the nobles of Rome still assumed the title of senators, few subsequent traces can be discovered of public council, or constitutional order. Ascend six hundred years, an contemplate the kings of the earth soliciting an audience, as the slaves or freemen of the ROMAN SENATE!"

In the following March, A.D. 553, was fought the battle of the Draco, in which the new king was slain. While exchanging his buckle his uncovered side was pierced with a mortal dart. "He fell, and his head exalted upon a spear, proclaimed to the nations that the Gothic kingdom was no more."

Thus, after a reign of sixty years, the Seventh Head of the Drago and the Beast was destroyed from the Seven Hills. The Roman Senate and the Gothic kingdom became extinct together. Their place was filled by the Exarchs of Ravenna, who were the representatives in peace ant war of the Constantinopolitan Dragon. But, though this power, after the agitation of a long tempest, had regained possession of Italy, the wounded Sixth Head was not yet "healed;" neither indeed could it be until Rome again became the throne of an imperial dominion. Instead of this, on the fall of the Seventh Head, whose "short space" had passed away with the death of Teias, the former Mistress of the World was de throned. The civil state of Italy was fixed, A.D. 554, by a pragmatic sanction of twenty-seven articles, which the emperor Justinian promulgated at the request of the pope, who was still a subject, ruled by the emperor's lieutenant resident in Ravenna. Justinian introduced his own jurisprudence into the schools and tribunals of the west; and ratified the acts of Theodoric and his immediate successors. Under the Exarchs of Ravenna, ROME was degraded to the second rank among the cities of the empire. The regulation of weights and measures was delegated to the pope and municipal senate. But, however benevolent their edicts, the power of rulers is most effectual to destroy; and twenty years of the Gothic war had consummated the distress and depopulation of Italy; so that "a strict interpretation of the evidence of Procopius," says Gibboi "would swell the loss of Italy above the total sum of her present inhabitants."

The Sixth and the Seventh Heads which hindered the manifestation of the Name of Blasphemy upon the Seven Hills being taken out of the way, scope was now afforded for its development into the EIGHTH HEAD of the Beast. From the epoch of the settlement of Italy A. D. 554-559, and during the ensuing two hundred and forty years of Rome's eclipse, the greatest, or most influential subject in the degraded city, was the pope. There was no constitutional superior therein to over-awe or keep him down. In the times of the Seventh Head, which was Arian, he was in great trouble, and especially during the Gothic war. Indeed, he has always fallen upon troublous times when he has had for ruler or neighbor, an independent king of Italy. It is so at this day. A king of Italy naturally enough claims Rome for the capital of his kingdom which is incompatible with the sovereignty and independence of the Name of Blasphemy upon the Seven Hills.

Having, then, put the reader in possession of so much of history as will enable him to identify the Seventh Head and having brought him down to the epoch of its decollation or destruction which was necessary for the subsequent "healing" of the wounded Sixth Head of Rome's imperialism; it behooves us to pause in our exposition, that we may bring up arrears in regard to the development of the Name of Blasphemy upon the heads. When this is sufficiently advanced we shall have brought the ecclesiastical into line with the civil; and be prepared to carry them on together until the healing process is completed in their expansion into the Eighth Head upon the Seven Hills, as symbolized in this thirteenth chapter by the Beast of the Earth with Two Horns like a lamb, and speaking as a Dragon.

[*Decollation : beheading]



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