“Why we still like the Germans (and will always like them). 1

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge. Germany

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern bridge, Germany (Source . Courtesy of Bankoboev.ru)

[draft, in progress]

Note. This post regards the Germans and other folks from the point of view of South Europe and of Germany

The Mediterranean & the Germans

There may be problems with the Germans (the Euro crisis, the upcoming European elections, etc.)

Transient problems, in truth.

Since so many things unite us: 2000 years ago – when they began to merge with us – and today, when the merger goes further.

Where to?

To an increasingly united Europe.

Four friends
at the Caffè Capitolino

caffetteria_large

On the caffè Capitolino‘s spectacular terrace above the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus’s foundations (on the Capitoline Hill) four friends gather and chat, sipping their lemon granita.

ψ

Fulvia: “You make it simple. 2000 years ago and today: we’ve always been colliding.”
Old Man: “You’re wrong, Fulvia. Back then: fusion not collision. And today …”
Extropian: “… today fusion too. Despite your bursting breasts  – *winking at her*; Fulvia, 64, is still a beauty – OM is right. Just this: the collapse of the Italian economy would result in a (symmetrical) collapse of half of the German industry, since we provide many of the components for Germany’s manufacturing.”
The Tobacconist: *Nodding*

Roma-gourmet_CafCapTerraz

[The Tobacconist pops in here for the first time. His perfectly organized store gently flooded by classical (preferably German) music, TT is steeped in Hegel, Kant & the Nichiren Buddhism. Both the highbrow and the lowbrow from his rione ask for his consilium (or wisdom advice.)

Ulrich Beck:
"Europe's crisis is mental"

Ulrich Beck (born 1944). German sociologist

Ulrich Beck (born 1944). German sociologist, professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich until 2009, he holds a professorship at Munich University and at the London School of Economics [Wikimedia. Click for credits and to enlarge]

 

Ulrich Beck:

[full text; paraphrased, translated - draft - and abridged by MoR]

Europe’s crisis is not economical, it is mental. It is a lack of imagination as for the good life beyond consumerism.

Most critics of Europe are caught in nostalgic nationalism. French intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, for example, argues that Europe was created against the Nations.

Such criticism – Beck answers back – is based on the national illusion and presupposes a national horizon as for Europe’s present and future.

To these critics Beck retorts: open up your eyes! Europe and the whole world is going through a transition.

Two paradoxical examples:

  • All British media are full of accusations against the EU, but Eurosceptic Britain is also shaken by a wave of European public opinion never known before.
  • China, as a result of its investment policy and so on has long been an informal member of the euro-zone: should the Euro fail, China would get a hard blow.

[to be continued]

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

 

Obesssion and balance in creativity. Greeks’ and Romans’ Golden Mean (& Paolo Buonvino’s, a Sicilian composer.) Dialectics (5b)

diary

Read the original non pruned post and discussion.

Draft. Pictures might be changed /added.

Notice. I’ll stop posting until April 23rd. Easter reflection (a notion you can expand chez Tarot psychologique.)

ψ

James Evershed Agate (1877 – 1947), British diarist and critic, once wrote:

“Now that I am finishing the damned thing I realise that diary-writing isn’t wholly good for one, that too much of it leads to living for one’s diary instead of living for the fun of living as ordinary people do.”

What is said above applies equally to blog-writing / writing tout court since, when dealing with passions the challenge is always the right measure.

The ancient Romans developed the fine art of cuisine so that the delights of life were augmented, but there was undeniably gluttony in some milieus.

I remember that, much younger, I stopped composing music since it had become an obsessive pastime that basically swallowed me up.

Life should be harmonious. A single part should not devour the rest (as Benedetto Croce, master of harmony, reminds us.)

Benedetto Croce

Benedetto Croce (1866 – 1952), filosofo italiano

Christopher: You wrote: “Life should be harmonious. A single part should not devour the rest”
If everyone lived according to this precept there would be no civilisation and we would all be living short and brutish lives.

MoR: “Hard to say, although my post regards happiness more than creativity in the arts & sciences. Besides, creativity seems related to both balance and unbalance (take Vincent van Gogh etc.).

You possibly suggest that big creators lived disharmony in their life. Frank Lloyd Wright devoted *most* of his time to architecture, Einstein to physics etc.

Ok, but one has to see how these people actually spent their days.

I remember a Roman top advertising agency, at the end of the 80′s, where extremely well-paid copywriters and art directors were walking around in robes and were sunbathing on an elegant terrace overlooking the Parioli district’s skyline (where the rich and famous live, or lived).

I was puzzled at first because these creativi seemed to do everything except what they were paid for. The agency’s output was though brilliant and rivalled Milan’s creativi (the best we’ve got in this country).

One often needs quiet and relaxation to produce ideas, which suggests ‘balance’.

Moving to bigger examples, Beethoven’s music conveys to me the image of ​​an unhappy person.

There are many elements of anger, of obsession, in his music. His life was almost certainly disharmonious: Beethoven’s father was an alcoholic; Karl, the composer’s nephew, whose custody Beethoven had obtained, attempted suicide. And so forth.

Johann Sebastian Bach aged 61 (1685 – 1750). Click for source

Johann Sebastian Bach aged 61 (1685 – 1750). Click for source

 

Bach’s music on the contrary (with its powerfully abstract architectures that unfold like a majestic river flowing) is much more enriching consoling, imo, and well fits the image of ​​the patient German artisan, whose methodical, quiet work was conceived as a service to God. Bach was a musician but also a good Christian, a good father, a good husband and a good teacher – which suggests harmony of life.

Which doesn’t mean many breakthroughs weren’t the product of unbalanced lives. The commonplace of the deranged genius is more than a commonplace imo, though it’s not my post’s point.

Cheri: “Your point is well taken. My grandfather always told me that moderation is the key to a balanced and contented life.”

MoR: “Hi Cheri! I like roots (as you probably like your Jewish or whatever roots), this blog being a search for roots from a past that, I believe, is still working on us Latins, though not only on us.

Enjoying the pleasures of life without excess, drinking without getting drunk, a life outside compulsions or obsessions – I am often obsessing / obsessed – is not only wise, it is part of a lifestyle, and an element of grace.

To me this is particularly evident in the French, the Latin people I possibly love most.

Neapolitan Benedetto Croce, ‘master of harmony’ …

Incidentally, the Olympian beauty seeping through his works is probably of Hellenic origin, and, like the Hellenic miracle arose from formidable difficulties (if we may compare a huge thing to a small one) Croce’s serene attitude and sharp mind came at a hard price: at 17, on vacation with his parents and his sole sister, their house being wiped out by an earthquake he barely survived and remained alone.

Claudia (my daughter): “Croce’s picture doesn’t exactly conjure up Hellenic beauty!?!?”

Potsoc: “I agree with Cheri. Many creators were, indeed, unhappy people but as many had a relatively simple and happy life. The examples given speak by themselves.”

MoR: “Someone must have already done it, Potsoc le Canadien, but it’d be interesting to systematically analyse the biographies of creators (in both arts & sciences) in search of a correlation between creative intelligence and lifestyles.

My post was more about the gratification from a life with nicely distributed, non compulsive, activities, but one can blabber a bit and wonder if Balzac, for example, was compulsive in his writing.

He may have been, but his work – so vital, energetic & rich with an immense number of vividly depicted characters – suggests a life not spent exclusively on a desk with a pen in his hand.

A correlation between scientists’ lifestyles and their innovation level seems much harder to establish. They (seem to me to) reveal less about themselves.

ALL this, in any case, is a-blowing in the wind, Paul.”

Potsoc: “I guess nobody wrote a Ph.D thesis on the subject and I will not write it.”

MoR: “Ah ah ah, right Paul :-) Getting stuffy, I know.”

Sledpress: “The need for quiet and mental space in which to be creative can’t be denied, but does that support an argument against being too obsessional as a creative person?

I can only write fiction (or songs, or music) when I’m in an obsessional fugue, and it is bitter for me, because I want to have at least something of a life otherwise — probably few people are willing to have their spouse or friend snarl “GO AWAY!” should they be so unfortunate as to come ask about dinner or the water bill when one is creating.

But if I put the chisel down, it’s cold when I pick it back up, and what I wrote mocks me. (Blog posts and so on don’t count; those are five finger exercises.) I can’t start the fire again if I’ve let myself be jollied into putting it out so as to make nice on the rest of the human race. And if I don’t create something, who cares if I lived? It won’t matter.

I’ve already lost the thread of so many good ideas (maybe not lightning genius, but worth something) that I could spend the rest of my life in mourning, and for what in the end? People who really were only bored or wanted me to do them something. I vote for the obsessed people, myself.”

MoR: “You say, Sled:

“I can only write fiction (songs, music) when I’m in an obsessional fugue, and it is bitter for me, because I want to have at least something of a life otherwise …”

“If I don’t create something, who cares if I lived? It won’t matter”

Well, if creation & obsession necessarily go together with us, and creativity is our top priority, let us embrace obsession, why not.

Besides, obsession, as far as I can tell, may produce compellingly emotional results etc.

As for my experience, the insignificant (though much important to me) things I have written or composed were produced in both situations: within a quiet, balanced routine of life; or via obsession, pain, sacrificing the rest.

I sometimes think that, had I more discipline, I’d be able to kill two birds with a stone and reach a synthesis.

Paolo Buonvino 001

What I mean, I’m witnessing an example of creative discipline in my neighborhood, where a certain Paolo Buonvino is leaving a couple of blocks away from my home (it, en wikies.)

Italian from Sicily, conductor, composer of film scores, Buonvino’s music is extremely good, Sicilian-sunny and much appreciated. I exchanged a few words with him. He gave me some inspired advice on related-to-music stuff. Flavia and I have visited him once at his home.

In short, he’s the classic example of one who, compelled to compose scores at appalling speed, is nonetheless able to enhance productivity by finding the right breaks, walking about the rione, enjoying something at a bar (an ice-cream, a coffee, a cake) or watching trees or the sky on a park bench.

You see him around, always relaxed, a mobile at his ear, talking quietly with loads of people (this amazing ease with human relationships being typical of many Italian from the Mezzogiorno.)

So Paolo Buonvino, despite high productivity rates, manages to live quite well. A gift from heaven? Hard to say but some creative discipline should be taught when very young, I believe.”

Sledpress: “There is a trapdoor when someone has asked a creative person to produce something. I say this from experience.
Somehow it frees you to be both creative and human. I don’t know how this works. Only that knowing someone *wants* what you can create substitutes for the energy that otherwise only comes from obsession and a sort of rage against the people who don’t understand why you are working so hard to produce a composition or poem or story, however minor.”

Potsoc: “I moderate a group called “Imaginations”, each week we meet around a theme, different each week, and we write a short piece on the week’s theme that we will read to the group the following week. It’s much fun…and work but we all enjoy it and it has been going for most of ten years with a core of 5 steady participants and another 5 or 6 that come and go.”

MoR: “Sledpress, Paul, you two imply that creating for someone ‘waiting’ for your production can release the pressure?

I agree, an act of communication, then, almost always good. When I was writing the Manius so-to-say novel my motivation were you, the bloggers of my circle, ‘waiting’ (so I felt) for each new installment and the resulting fun, as Paul says, the jokes that we shared etc.

When a publisher told me one day that he was interested, the magic vanished. I tried to continue, but felt only the obsession (plus depression for my failure, lack of discipline.) I quit writing.

Potsoc: “Being approached by a publisher is an altogether other proposition, I agree. Sharing with friends is just plain fun.”

Sledpress: “Yes! You are touching on something that I meant.
If a publisher dangled money in front of me I might still be motivated. Because money is something squeezed out of one’s bloodstream (unless one is one of the one-per-cent who wallow in it), so it is like enthusiasm.

However the biggest fun was an experience like yours, of people hanging on for the next installment to find out what happened!!!

Stephen King writes of something like this in his classic novella “The Body” which became the film Stand By Me.

The pathetically young kid with the gun in this clip — earlier the film shows him telling stories around a kids’ camp fire with everyone asking him what comes next, what comes next. King later called this “the *gotta.*” “I gotta find out what happens.”
I miss having people who cared about that, which happened to me for five minutes.”

MoR: “You’ve said, Sled:

“the biggest fun was an experience like yours, of people hanging on for the next installment to find out what happened!!!
I miss having people who cared about that, which happened to me for five minutes.”

When was that and where? Can we reach it?”

Sledpress: “Oh, that was my silly detective novel, an inner circle read every chapter as I wrote it — the way Dickens used to work, releasing installments before the story was all set down. Then as I wrote, with caricatures of everyone who is politically active around here, I looked forward to the public consternation it would cause, another incentive.

And oh yes, I made it look as if the author was a local newspaper editor who had been a real jerk to me a couple of times — it was easy to lift little quirks of style from his editorials. People pestered him about it for years.

It got one good review even. A lot of it is free.

Along the way it let me say and even discover a lot about my outlook on the whole “res publica”, the “public thing” that constitutes local political life, which both attracts and repels me — so many people trying to be important, yet actually doing important things despite their flaws. It is really the only thing I ever finished.

Everything else I ever did disappointed me and I threw it over or put it in the drawer, but I had people asking for this, so I had to finish it, amateurish as it may be. I wrote like hell for two months and was burned-out for two more but I wish I could do it again. Only I’m afraid to yell GO AWAY at the few friends I really have.”

MoR: “Wow. Quite a good review. I’ll read the book as soon as I can, or rather buy it (I also missed your poems over at your blog: my next comment)
In the meanwhile, a portion of the review, to the benefit of readers:

“Is this story (MURDER ACROSS THE BOARD by *******) of local interest? Sure. But the writing here is so good it is irrelevant. This is just as good a murder mystery as you will find anywhere, with a compelling story and clever writing to match. The story is truly twisted [...] and the murder-mystery here is fun and energetic. No one is who they seem in this fast read, and as the story unfolds, the plot rolls along like a freight-train. What may have started as a goof on some friends or a dig at local politics has turned into a clever, engaging page-turner.”

Sledpress: “Mind you, another reader said it was cliched and awful. Then again, the point was to throw every trope of gritty detective stories into a story about local politics. Looking back I thought it needed tightening, but I’ve always hugged that one rave review to my heart.
I’m editing the pseudonym in your comment just because it really did piss off a number of people, one of whom is a habitual troll, and I’d prefer they didn’t find this blog too easily.”

Sledpress: “Oops, I was on a dashboard when I wrote the above reply and thought we were talking on my page. Oh well — if you wouldn’t mind “asterisking” the author name. Trolls shouldn’t find you either. ”

MoR: “Well, there are good and there are bad reviews, always. Who the hell cares?
I have ‘asterisked’ the author’s name, as you asked me.
And, tell this troll I am ready here waiting.”

Chansons françaises, italiennes et américaines: Aznavour’s Ave Maria. 1

Les greniers de la mémoire : Les Italiens de la chanson française

Les Italiens de la chanson française. Charles Aznavour, au contraire, est un auteur-compositeur-interprète, acteur, écrivain franco-arménien (né le 22 mai 1924 à Paris). Click for credits

Il y a un temps pour tout.

Pour la guerre,

pour rire,
pour guerire
(et pour la prière)

 

 

 

Ave Maria
Ave Maria
Ceux qui souffrent viennent à toi
Toi qui as tant souffert
Tu comprends leurs misères
Et les partages
Marie courage
Ave Maria
Ave Maria
Ceux qui pleurent sont tes enfants
Toi qui donnas le tien
Pour laver les humains
De leurs souillures
Marie la pure

Ave Maria
Ave Maria
Ceux qui doutent sont dans la nuit
Maria
Éclaire leur chemin
Et prends-les par la main
Ave Maria

Ave Maria, Ave Maria
Amen

ψ

Resources:

Les greniers de la mémoire : Les Italiens de la chanson française (by Ina.fr)

Radio Douce France (Les plus belles et les plus douces chansons françaises); try also here.

Notes.

1. Charles Aznavour. Sometimes described as ‘France’s Frank Sinatra’, French and Armenian Aznavour sings frequently about love. He’s one of France’s most popular (and enduring) singers (English Wikipedia.)

2. Jesus of Nazareth (Italian: Gesù di Nazareth) is a 1977 British-Italian television miniseries co-written (with Anthony Burgess and Suso Cecchi d’Amico) and directed by Franco Zeffirelli which dramatizes the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus (English Wikipedia.)

France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome

Man of Roma:

Ce poste n’est pas daté, j’espère, et en tout cas il exprime l’amour des Italiens pour les Français.

Originally posted on Man of Roma:

The Roman Empire at its peak. Rome, via dei Fori Imperiali

Rome’s legacy is greater than we think – “language, literature, legal codes, government, architecture, engineering, medicine, sports, arts, etc.” – and the Roman Empire has been a powerful myth in the course of the centuries.

After Rome’s fall in 476 CE, the Holy Roman Empire, thus called since 962 CE, started to develop in 800 CE when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne in Rome as ‘Emperor and Augustus of the Romans’.

This Empire – Frankish, Germanic and later Austrian, dissolved in 1806 only – considered itself as the heir of the “First Rome” (the Western Roman Empire,) while the Hellenized Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, was called the “Second Rome” and remained unconquered until 1453 CE.

When also Byzantium (Constantinople) fell, even the Islamic conqueror, the Ottoman Mehmed II, thought he was continuing the power of Rome and tried to “re-unite the Empire” although his march towards Italy was…

View original 857 more words

The ‘Black Book’ Of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Campaign. Harsher Criticism on Caesar(ism) (4)

19th-century statue of Vercingétorix (by Aimé Millet)

19th-century statue of Vercingétorix (by Aimé Millet) near the village of Alise-Sainte-Reine, Burgundy, France. Wikipedia. Click for source and larger view

Caesar‘s contemporaries were not overly happy about his Gallic campaign – Luciano Canfora observes.

[Luciano Canfora, Giulio Cesare, Mondadori 2010, XV, p. 132; English translation]

“This must be taken into account – he argues – when assessing the long-term effects of the conquest of Gaul, whose ‘inevitability’ is often teleologically overestimated. There is doubtless a risk of adopting a colonialist view.”

“A campaign unprovoked, with no real menace lurking, led to the destruction of the previous civilisation gradually supplanted by Romanisation, a genocide of monstrous proportions according to the convergent testimonies of Pliny the Elder and of Plutarch.”

Sources of a genocide

Let us then have a look at Pliny’s and Plutarch’s words.

Pliny the Elder: [Naturalis Historia; English: 7, 25; Latin: 7,92]

“For, outside (praeter) his victories in the Civil Wars [therefore in his Gallic wars only, MoR] Caesar slew in battle 1,192,000 of his enemies; but this, for my own part, I hold no special glory of his (non equidem in gloria posuerim), considering the great injury so inflicted on Humankind (coactam humani generis iniuriam): and this crime, indeed, he hath himself confessed, by avoiding to set down (non prodendo) the slaughter that occurred during the Civil Wars.”

Pliny’s moral indignation is unambiguous. His accusation, that Caesar hid his figures, harsh (Canfora.)

From the frontispiece of Plutarch's Lives by John Langhorne and William Langhorne. Baltimore: W. & J. Neal, 1836

From the frontispiece of Plutarch’s Lives by John Langhorne and William Langhorne. Baltimore: W. & J. Neal, 1836

Plutarch, Parallel Lives:

“Although it was not full ten years that he waged war in Gaul, Caesar took by storm more than 800 cities, subdued 300 nations, and fought pitched battles at different times with 3 million men, of whom he slew 1 million in hand to hand fighting and took as many more prisoners. (Life of Caesar 15, 5; English; Greek)

In the Life of Cato the younger (51, 1; English; Greek) Plutarch reveals the number of Germani slaughtered by Caesar by treachery and Cato’s proposal ‘to surrender Caesar to those whom he had wronged’:

“When it was believed that Caesar had attacked the Germans even during a truce (σπονδή) and slain 300,000 of them, there was a general demand at Rome that the people should offer sacrifices of good tidings (εὐαγγέλια θύειν; supplicatio, in Latin), but Cato urged them to surrender Caesar to those whom he had wronged (ἐκδιδόναι τὸν Καίσαρα τοῖς παρανομηθεῖσι), and not to turn upon themselves, or allow to fall upon their city (εἰς τὴν πόλιν), the pollution of his crime (τὸ ἄγος).”

Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th-century portrait

Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th-century portrait. Wikipedia

Pessimism of Aristocrats
defeated by Caesarism

Pliny the Elder was a member of those senatorial aristocrats nostalgic for the Republic and set aside by the new ‘monarchy‘ favoured by Caesar’s course.

Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall…, vol. I, Chap 3, part 2) seems sympathetic to their ideals:

“The education of Helvidius and Thrasea, of Tacitus and Pliny, was the same as that of Cato and Cicero. From Grecian philosophy, they had imbibed the justest and most liberal notions of the dignity of human nature, and the origin of civil society. The history of their own country had taught them to revere a free, a virtuous, and a victorious commonwealth; to abhor the successful crimes of Caesar and Augustus; and inwardly to despise those tyrants whom they adored with the most abject flattery.”

Which were these ideals?

Ettore Paratore (1907 - 2000) in his studyroom. One of the major scholars of Latin literature

Ettore Paratore (1907 – 2000) in his study-room. He was one of the major scholars of Latin literature after World War II. Courtesy of RAI

According to Ettore Paratore such ideals had been well expressed centuries earlier by the Scipionic circle (Cornelia, Caius Laelius Sapiens, Scipio Aemilianus, Polybius, Panaetius, Lucilius, Terence etc.): a group of eminent people [whose 'structured circle' some scholars now call into question, MoR] open to Greek philosophy and Roman humanitas where power was transfigured as a message of civilization and fraternity, whose spiritual reasons had been sung by Virgil.

[E. Paratore, Profilo della Letteratura Latina, Sansoni, 1964, p. 351.]

According to Tacitus (who “internalized the senatorial ethic as only a newcomer can”: livius.org) the first Roman emperors had not lived up to these ideals because of Tyranny and its gloomy trail of crimes, blood, empty feelings (Paratore.)

[From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, from the American and French Revolutions to 19th-century romanticism –any 'yearning for liberty' will condemn Caesarism & the Roman Empire and will see in Tacitus - see image below - their historian; MoR]

Tacitus. A modern statue outside the Austrian Parliament Building. Wikipedia. Click for source

Tacitus. A modern statue outside the Austrian Parliament Building. Wikipedia. Click for source

Vercingetorix, national hero
of Gaul (and of France)

Mario: “You got carried away and forgot about Caesar’s conquest of Gaul”.
MoR: “Well, many French will also see in Vercingetorix their national hero, and in Camille Jullian (1859 – 1933) their bard.”

ψ

Camille Jullian is a great historian and a great writer. I very much enjoyed his Vercingétorix (1902), available in French as Gutenberg text.

A coin depicting an idealised Vercingetorix

A coin depicting an idealised Vercingetorix

Here is a patchwork from Jullian’s book (assembled and translated by MoR):

“The Celts had a sense of moral unity and this feeling survived their rivalries. Among them traditions had formed and legends, a spiritual heritage. There were poets, bards, who sang the deeds of the kings and the vast empire they once possessed. Their priests, the Druids, taught that all Gauls were descended from the same god.”

“The Arverni were the people designated to profit from these aspirations. Their land was the ‘navel’ of the Celtic world: the Puy de Dôme, where the powerful god Teutates lived, was at an equal distance from the main frontiers of Gaul. The Arverni were the bravest and the most numerous, they had the richest lands and they obeyed to the god who could speak from the highest peak.

Puy de Dôme, a volcanoe in the region of Massif Central in south-central France Auvergne)

Puy de Dôme, a volcano in the region of Massif Central in south-central France (Auvergne). It served for centuries as an assembly place for spiritual ceremonies. Click for source

We almost see these Arvernian kings thanks to Posidonius, a Greek philosopher who traveled about the country soon after their passing. He was dazzled by the spectacle offered by the person and by the procession of the most powerful king of the West, surprised to find in Gaul the pompous custom of the military monarchies of the East. Luern distributed down from his chariot gold and silver to the crowd. He held for many days banquets of stupendous luxury. The Arverni had a taste for the colossal, Puy de Dôme inspired them to greatness.”

“Even shinier was the vision of the Arvernian king at war, advancing in the halo of his necklace and golden bracelets, on a chariot plated in silver, followed by the bronze boars of the tribes. Not far, the formidable pack of his hunting dogs. Beside him, finally, the poet, a lyre in his hand, singing the glorious feats of arms of the king and his nation. And the men, their senses impregnated with the royal glory, the eyes affected by the gold, the ears by the clamour, the thinking by the verses, they imagined that perhaps they had just seen a god.”

“The Arvernian empire resembled no regular state, made as it was by a league of tribes. The Arverni of Bituit fairly correspond in the history of Gaul to the Romans of Servius Tullius and his Latin league in the history of Rome. But the advantage is all on the side of the Gauls: their gold, light and bright coins were infinitely more precious than this square bronze, dark and massive coin which is the Roman as of the early times, and I don’t think that at the court of Servius one was delighted by the long chansons de geste dear to our ancestors. Gaul debuted merrily into civilized life, and partly according to the Greek rite.”

Coins from Gaul

Coins from ancient Gaul. Coinage had started in Gaul a few centuries BC. Courtesy of ‘Le blog de Lutèce’ (www.e-stoire.net), a good site about the French celts (in French)

[The Arverni were defeated by the Romans in 121 BC and Roman Gallia Narbonensis was established. Called 'Provincia', it later evolved into Provence, MoR.]

A new Arvernian chieftain

“Nearly a century later, Caesar having appeared on the Rhone, it seemed natural that, after numerous bloody battles, a new Arvernian chieftain unified the scattered tribes into a single command. This man was Vercingetorix.”

“The Gallic fatherland, as Vercingetorix imagined it, I believe, was the practice of this community of blood, of this original identity that the Druids had taught.”

“Vercingetorix identified his life with that of the Gallic homeland and with the liberty of its people to the extent that, the day the gods condemned his dream, he thought only to disappear.”

“He had been defeated not only by a man but by the gods. Having begun the war with human sacrifices, he would end it much in the same way, resolved to offer himself as an expiatory victim.”

A Gallic human sacrifice

A Gallic human sacrifice. Courtesy of ‘Le blog de Lutèce’ (www.e-stoire.net)

Ceremony of surrender

“The Romans were admirable directors. They always staged the shows which struck the imagination of both the allied and the vanquished, which at times served as much as a victory to ensure their command. Julius Caesar, the day after his victory, presented to the gods of his country the same king and leader of those he had defeated.”

“Before the camp, within the lines of defense, the high platform of the proconsul had been erected, isolated and preceded by steps, like a sanctuary. On top, Caesar sat on the imperial seat, wearing his purple robe. Around him, the eagles of the legions and the cohorts’ emblems as symbols of the protective deities of the Roman army. In front of him, the mountain that crowned the ramparts of Alesia, its flanks covered with corpses. Spectators of the show, 40,000 legionaries, standing on the terraces and towers that surrounded Caesar as an armed crown. On the horizon, the immense frame of the hills.”

Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar by Henri Paul Motte

Vercingetorix before Caesar (by Henri Paul Motte, 1886)

“Alone, on horseback, Vercingetorix was the first to exit the gates of the city, no herald preceding his coming. He came down the mountain trails and appeared suddenly before Caesar.”

“He wore his finest weapons, his gold phalerae gleaming on his chest. Straightening his tall figure he got near the platform with the attitude of the proud winner going to triumph. Fierce expression, superb stature, his body sparkling with gold and silver, he must have looked bigger than a human being, and as august as a hero.”

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[The above patchwork in French]

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Previous installments:

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When North-West Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)
Conquest Of Gaul. Debate On Julius Caesar’s Conduct, Motives, Achievements (2)
“Caesar was like the wind. Can we condemn the wind? And yet what scourge can it bring forth!” (3)

See also:

France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome
Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow
Caesar, Great Man and Don Juan

Conquest Of Gaul. Debate On Julius Caesar’s Conduct, Motives, Achievements (2)

Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar by Henri Paul Motte

Vercingetorix before Caesar (by Henri Paul Motte, 1886)

As regards Julius Caesars conquest of Gaul (and other actions of his) we will here just scratch the surface of a debate (among admirers mostly) on Caesar’s conduct, motives and achievements.

The debate among Caesar’s detractors will be the subject of the two upcoming posts (a list of all installments is at the foot of the page.)

Imperialism by ‘historical necessity’

We are dealing here with imperialism, it is clear, justified by some as ‘historical necessity’ (not the time now to get into philosophy of history.)

Luciano Canfora‘s judgement on Caesar is in truth multifaceted (Giulio Cesare, il dittatore democratico, Mondadori 2010, XV, pp. 137-8; English translation):

“Gaul was thus inserted by violence and genocide into the circuit of the Roman ‘civilization’ … Naturally, the romanization of Gaul is a phenomenon of such a historical amplitude as to impose the question of whether the accounting of the dead proposed with extreme clarity by Pliny the Elder (together with the harsh accusation that Caesar hid his figures) should not however give way, on the plane of historical assessment, to what can be considered the crucial event in the formation of medieval and later modern Europe.”

Gaul at the time of Caesar

Gaul at the time of Caesar. Click for attribution

Mere ambition
or conquest with a big vision?

As for “whether Caesar’s conquest was motivated by mere ambition” rather than by the design of opening a ‘new frontier’, Canfora observes:

“As if the two things could really be distinguished in the work of a great statesman.”

Theodor Mommsen too had argued (History of Rome, V,7. The Subjugation of the West):

“It is more than an error, it is an outrage upon the sacred spirit dominant in history, to regard Gaul solely as the parade ground on which Caesar exercised himself and his legions for the impending civil war.”

“Though the subjugation of the West was for Caesar so far a means to an end that he laid the foundations of his later height of power in the Transalpine wars, it is the especial privilege of a statesman of genius that his means themselves are ends in their turn. Caesar needed no doubt for his party aims a military power, but he did not conquer Gaul as a partisan.”

“There was a direct political necessity for Rome to meet the perpetually threatened invasion of the Germans thus early beyond the Alps, and to construct a rampart there which should secure the peace of the Roman world.”

Hermann Heights Monument erected in New Ulm, Minnesota

Hermann Monument erected in New Ulm (Minnesota), a town founded by German immigrants in 1854. Wikimedia

Were German migrations
Rome’s big problem?

According to 19th century Mommsen, one of Caesar’s main merits was that of understanding who the big enemy of Rome actually was:

“Inasmuch as [Caesar] with sure glance perceived in the German tribes the rival antagonists of the Romano-Greek world;
inasmuch as with firm hand he established the new system of aggressive defense down even to its details, and taught men to protect the frontiers of the empire by rivers or artificial ramparts, to colonize the nearest barbarian tribes along the frontier with the view of warding off the more remote, and to recruit the Roman army by enlistment from the enemy’s country;
he gained for the Hellenico-Italian culture the interval necessary to civilize the West …”

Hermann, Armin or Arminius, chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci

Hermann chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci. His victory over a Roman army in the Teutoburg forest (9 AD) made him a symbol of German patriotism

Today’s views by historians are more complex. A number of factors (not only German mass migrations, seen mostly as gradual integration) are seen as causes of Rome’s fall (see a list of theories about why Rome fell).

Furthermore, Germania at the time of Caesar (1rst cent. BC; or of Augustus and Hermann, 1rst cent. AD) was backward compared to Germania in the 4th-5th centuries AD.

As Peter Heather put it (The Fall of the Roman Empire. A new History. I,2. Pan Books 2005):

“It could hardily be clearer that 19th-century visions of an ancient German nation were way off target … the inhabitants of first century Germania [Germans, Celts and another unidentified group, according to Heather] had no capacity to formulate and put into practice a sustained and unifying political agenda (p.55.)”

It was therefore not German military prowess – Heather continues, p.58 – to scare the Romans off Germania, but its poverty [different was the case of richer Gaul, MoR.]

The issue of Parthia

The Parthian (Persian) empire soon after Caesar time

The Parthian (Persian) empire a few years after Caesar’s time. According to many historians Persia was Rome’s main antagonist. Wikipedia

Getting back to Caesar’s motives for conquering Gaul, he was surely aware of the German danger (L. Canfora). That he wrote this in the Commentarii as justification for his wars doesn’t though prove much.

Caesar’s literary work was political. Caesar’s bloody conquest had outraged many of his adversaries. The roman general needed to indicate his conquest as preemptive.

The Cimbri‘s and Teutones‘ dreadful raids in Gaul and Italy – occurred 50 years earlier – could have nonetheless brought serious problems to Rome had Gaius Marius, Caesar’s uncle, not stopped them.

Caesar was therefore aware of the danger even before facing Ariovistus. That Germani were considered by him Rome’s big problem is doubtful though. It is more likely that the Romans, in the various phases of their empire, feared more the much stronger and civilized power of the Parthians in the East [Heather, p.48 et. al.; see also Roman-Parthian wars.]

Parthian horseman. Palazzo Madama, Torino, Italy.

Parthian horseman. Palazzo Madama, Torino, Italy. Wikipedia

Some evidence shows this may have also been Caesar’s view.

Crassus, Caesar’s amicus, had been defeated in 55 BC at Carrhae by the Parthians of his time (Crassus had been killed and 7 legions annihilated). All this had happened during Caesar’s Gallic wars.

So Caesar, as Mommsen wrote, “taught men to protect the frontiers of the empire” toward Germania but did not plan any conquest of Germania beyond the Rhine. In the last period of his life he was instead preparing a military expedition against the Parthians which he could not carry out because he was murdered in 44 BC.

[the two paragraphs above reflect MoR's opinion]

“Reorganization of the State,
more than Gaul, was crucial”

The weakness of the declining Roman aristocracy, according to Mommsen, meant danger to Rome.

“It hardly admits of a doubt – he argued – that if the rule of the senate had prolonged its semblance of life … the Italian civilization would not have become naturalized either in Gaul, or on the Danube, or in Africa and Spain.”

Irish Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar in 'Rome',  an HBO BBC TV series

Irish Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar in ‘Rome’, a British-American-Italian historical drama TV series

The British historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889 – 1975; Julius Caesar current Britannica’s entry) downplays the importance of the conquest of Gaul by Caesar. To him the reorganization of the state and the removal of an oligarchy no longer à la hauteur was more crucial. 

“Great though this achievement was, its relative importance in Caesar’s career and in Roman history has been overestimated … In Caesar’s mind his conquest of Gaul was probably carried out only as a means to his ultimate end. He was acquiring the military manpower, the plunder, and the prestige that he needed to secure a free hand for the prosecution of the task of reorganizing the Roman state and the rest of the Greco-Roman world. This final achievement of Caesar’s looms much larger than his conquest of Gaul, when it is viewed in the wider setting of world history.”

Caesar vs Shih Huang Ti

A.J. Toynbee here sings praises to Caesar’s overall achievements.

Caesar“This cool-headed man of genius with an erratic vein of sexual exuberance undoubtedly changed the course of history at the Western end of the Old World.”

“By liquidating the scandalous and bankrupt rule of the Roman nobility, he gave the Roman state —and with it the Greco-Roman civilization— a reprieve that lasted for more than 600 years in the East and for more than 400 years in the relatively backward West. [...] The prolongation of the life of the Greco-Roman civilization had important historical effects.”

Qinshihuang“Caesar’s political achievement was limited. Its effects were confined to the Western end of the Old World and were comparatively short-lived by Chinese or ancient Egyptian standards. The Chinese state founded by Shih Huang Ti in the 3rd century BC still stands, and its future may be still greater than its past.

Yet, even if Caesar were to prove to have been of lesser stature than this Chinese colossus, he would still remain a giant by comparison with the common run of human beings.”

ψ

Other installments:

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When North-West Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)
“Caesar was like the wind. Can we condemn the wind? And yet what scourge can it bring forth!” (3)
The ‘Black Book’ Of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Campaign (4)

See also:

France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome
Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow

Giulio Cesare conquista la Gallia. E l’Europa nord-occidentale ‘abbraccia’ la civiltà greco-romana (1)

Statue of Vercingetorix in Burgundy

Monumento ottocentesco a Vercingetorige (Aimé Millet) vicino a Alise-Sainte-Reine, Borgogna, Francia. © T. Clarté. Click for credits

English original

Come sarebbe oggi il mondo senza Giulio Cesare e senza il varco che egli aprì per i greco-romani verso l’Europa occidentale e settentrionale?

Analogamente, come sarebbe oggi il mondo senza Colombo, Cortés e Pizarro, senza gli insediamenti europei nel Nord e Sud America (e altrove)?

Conquista militare e culturale

Entrambi gli esempi hanno in comune il fenomeno della conquista militare e culturale. Nel primo caso abbiamo l’espansione della civiltà greco romana nell’Europa centrale e settentrionale. Nel secondo l’espansione della civiltà europea nelle due Americhe.

Entrambi gli eventi storici hanno comportato costi umani elevatissimi tra le popolazioni sottomesse e la tragica estinzione di numerose culture.

Dying Gaul. Musei Capitolini, Rome

Gallo morente (più precisamente un gallo o galata della Galazia, chiamata ‘la Gallia dell’est’). Musei Capitolini, Roma. Click for credits

Figura controversa

Quanto a Giulio Cesare, poiché questo è un blog su Roma, ci troviamo di fronte a una figura senza dubbio controversa.

Un carnefice che vide nella Gallia solo l’arena per prepararsi all’imminente guerra civile, un imperialista sia pure con un grande disegno, un genio mosso da ‘necessità storica’ (se una cosa del genere ha un senso) … si potrebbero scrivere interi libri sull’argomento (e che difatti sono stati scritti).

Varco a nord e a ovest

Considerata oggi non vi è dubbio che la conquista della Gallia (vasta e fertile zona riccamente popolata, corrispondente alla moderna Francia, al Belgio, alle terre tedesche a ovest del Reno, all’Olanda meridionale e a gran parte della Svizzera) realizzata da Giulio Cesare dal 58 a.C. al 50 a.C. abbia creato un notevole ampliamento dell’orizzonte storico del Mediterraneo.

Caesar added areas of West and North Europe to the Roman world

Estensione romana nel 40 a.C. (Wikipedia). Dal 58 al 50 a.C. regioni dell’ovest e del nord Europa vennere aggiunte da Cesare al dominio di Roma

Attraverso quel ‘passaggio’ aperto da Cesare un numero molto elevato di popoli (celtici, germanici, del mare del Nord e successivamente del Baltico) abbracceranno gradualmente la civiltà greco-romana fino a formare con essa un corpo unico anche se con anime diverse, un’apertura il cui effetto durevole andrà oltre lo spostamento del baricentro dal Mediterraneo verso il Nord Europa e poi oltre Atlantico.

“L’opera di Cesare”

Lo storico tedesco Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903), capofila degli estimatori del generale romano, così scrisse nella sua monumentale Storia di Roma che gli valse il premio Nobel nel 1902 (VII, 6, Principi dello sviluppo romano):

“Ciò che riuscì successivamente a fare il gotico Teodorico [più di 5 secoli dopo, MoR] poco mancò che già non lo facesse il germanico Ariovisto“, sconfitto da Cesare.

[Mommsen si riferisce ad Ariovisto, leader germanico degli Svevi e di altre tribù, che, penetrato nella Gallia attraverso il Reno, aveva sottomesso numerose tribù galliche a partire dal 60 a.C. Lo stesso Cesare giustificò la sua conquista come guerra preventiva]

“Se ciò fosse successo, lo nostra civiltà [germanica, nordica, MoR] si troverebbe di fronte alla civiltà romano-greca difficilmente in rapporti più intimi di quello che lo sia con la civiltà assira e indiana.

E’ opera di Cesare dunque se, dalla passata grandezza della Grecia e dell’Italia, un ponte conduce all’edificio più vasto della moderna storia del mondo, se l’Europa occidentale s’è fatta romana, se l’Europa germanica è divenuta classica; se i nomi di Temistocle e di Scipione mandano alle nostre orecchie un suono diverso da quelli di Asoka e di Salmanassar, se Omero e Sofocle non si limitano, come fanno i Veda e i Kalidasa, ad attirare il dotto botanico, ma fioriscono per noi nel nostro giardino”.

Gaius Julius Caesar, Art History Museum, Vienna, Austria

Busto di Cesare, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Ora, nessuno storico è imparziale, riflettendo il tempo e luogo in cui è vissuto (oltre che le proprie scelte personali).

Mommsen era un liberale tedesco dell’Ottocento, intriso di cultura classica, che detestava gli Junker prussiani (nobiltà terriera conservatrice e spina dorsale dell’esercito tedesco) ed era in sintonia con la lotta di Cesare contro l’oligarchia senatoria, il che può averne influenzato il giudizio sul generale romano.

Nei prossimi post indagheremo un poco su motivazioni e conseguenze delle azioni di Cesare considerando le parole sia di ammiratori che di detrattori.

Senso di perdita

Tra questi ultimi, Goethe parlò di ripugnanza per i trionfi di Cesare; Camille Jullian, il maggiore storico francese della Gallia e capofila di chi lamenta la spoliazione della cultura gallica, sostenne che i Galli, prima di essere sottomessi, stavano per unirsi in qualcosa di superiore alle tribù sparse in competizione l’una con l’altra.

Il dolore per la perdita di una civiltà che non ha potuto esprimersi è bene espresso da Olbodala, commentatore francese (o belga?) del nostro blog:

“Certain(e)s d’entre nous (et je fais parti du lot) reprochent à l’Italie son passé belliqueux, et ce que leurs ancêtres Romains ont fait aux nôtres (Celtes et Germains).

Les Romains ont détruit notre culture (celtique et germanique) et civilisation, et l’on remplacé par la leur (greco-latine).

C’est un drame d’avoir une apparence physique celtique et germanique, mais d’avoir une langue et une culture incompatible avec nos origines septentrionales.”

Ceremonial Celtic Helmet from III century BC Gaul

Elmo cerimoniale gallico del III secolo a.C. Wikipedia. Click for credits

“Alcuni di noi (e io sono tra essi) biasimano il passato bellicoso dell’Italia e ciò che i vostri antenati romani hanno fatto ai nostri (celti e germani).

I romani hanno distrutto la nostra cultura (celtica e germanica) e civiltà, e l’hanno sostituita con la loro (greca e latina).

E’ una tragedia avere un aspetto celtico e germanico ma una lingua e una cultura incompatibili con le nostre origini settentrionali”.

ψ

Post correlati:

Stress e gioia. Conquista e dolore
France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When North-West Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)

Statue of Vercingetorix in Burgundy

19th century statue of Vercingétorix (by Aimé Millet) near the village of Alise-Sainte-Reine, Burgundy, France. © T. Clarté. Click for credits

Italian version

What kind of world would we live in today without Julius Caesar and the “boundless home” he created in West and North Europe for Greco-Roman conquest, migration and influence?

Similarly, what kind of world would we live in today without Columbus, Cortez and Pizarro? Without the settlements of Europeans in North and South America (plus Australia, New Zealand etc.)?

Military & Cultural Conquest

What both examples have in common is military and cultural conquest.

The former regards the expansion of the Greco-Roman civilization towards West and North Europe.

The latter the expansion of the European civilization in South and North America (etc.).

Both historical events resulted in massive human cost among the conquered and in the tragic extinction of numerous cultures.

Dying Gaul. Musei Capitolini, Rome

Dying Gaul (actually a Celt from Galatia, called ‘Gaul of the East’). Capitoline Museums on Capitoline hill, Rome. Click for attribution

Controversial

With regard to Caesar, since this is a blog about Rome, the Roman general is a controversial figure without a doubt.

A butcher who regarded Gaul only “as the parade ground” on which to gain experience for the approaching civil war, an imperialist albeit with a great design in mind, a genius moved by ‘historical necessity’ (if such a thing exists) … one could write books on it (which in fact have been written.)

North & West Passage

Seen from today there is little doubt that the conquest of Gaul carried out by Julius Caesar from 58 BC to 50 BC (a vast, fertile, richly populated area, Gaul, corresponding to modern France, Belgium, the German lands west of the Rhine, South Holland and much of Switzerland) created a remarkable extension of the historical horizon of the Mediterranean.

Caesar added areas of West and North Europe to the Roman world

The extent of Roman rule in 40 BC (Wikipedia). From 58 BC to 50 BC areas of West and North Europe had been added to Rome by Caesar

Through that ‘passage’ opened up by Caesar a very large number of folks (Celtic, Germanic, from the North sea and later Baltic sea) will gradually embrace the Greco-Roman civilization up to form one body albeit with different souls, a passage or channel whose durable effect goes beyond the shifting of focal point from the Mediterranean to North Europe and elsewhere.

“The work of Caesar”

The German historian Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903), the leader of Caesar’s estimators, thus argues in his monumental History of Rome, (V,7. The Subjugation of the West) which earned him the Nobel Prize in 1902:

“What the Gothic Theodoric afterwards succeeded in [e.g. more than 5 centuries later, MoR,] came very near to being already carried out by Germanic Ariovistus,” defeated by Caesar.

[Mommsen refers to the Germanic leader of the Suevi, Ariovistus, who had entered Gaul by crossing the Rhine and had subdued many Gallic tribes in 60 BC. Caesar himself justified his conquest as preemptive action to protect Rome]

“Had it so happened, our civilization [eg Germanic, Northern, MoR] would have hardly stood in any more intimate relation to the Romano-Greek than to the Indian and Assyrian culture.”

“That there is a bridge connecting the past glory of Hellas and Rome with the prouder fabric of modern history; that Western Europe is Romanic, and Germanic Europe classic; that the names of Themistocles and Scipio have to us a very different sound from those of Ashoka and Shalmanaser; that Homer and Sophocles are not merely, like the Vedas and Kalidasa, attractive to the literary botanist, but bloom for us in our own garden—all this is the work of Caesar.”

Gaius Julius Caesar, Art History Museum, Vienna, Austria

Gaius Julius Caesar, Art History Museum, Vienna, Austria

Now, no historian is impartial, he reflecting his time, place and personal choices.

Mommsen was a 19th century German liberal, imbued with classical learning, who hated the Prussian Junkers (conservative landed nobility and backbone of the German army) and was sympathetic to Caesar’s fight against the senatorial oligarchy—which may have influenced his judgement on the Roman general.

In the next posts we will investigate a bit on Caesar’s actions, motives & consequences by listening to some of his admirers and detractors.

A Feeling Of Loss

Among the latter, Goethe spoke of repugnance for the triumphs of Caesar; Camille Jullian, the main French historian of Gaul and leader of those who lament the despoliation of Gallic culture, argued that the Gauls, before being crushed, were about to unite into something superior to the scattered tribes in competition with one another.

The feeling of loss from a Celtic civilization that could not express itself is well phrased by Olbodala, a French (or Belgian?) commentator to our blog:

“Certain(e)s d’entre nous (et je fais parti du lot) reprochent à l’Italie son passé belliqueux, et ce que leurs ancêtres Romains ont fait aux nôtres (Celtes et Germains).

Les Romains ont détruit notre culture (celtique et germanique) et civilisation, et l’on remplacé par la leur (greco-latine).

C’est un drame d’avoir une apparence physique celtique et germanique, mais d’avoir une langue et une culture incompatible avec nos origines septentrionales.”

Ceremonial Celtic Helmet from III century BC Gaul

Ceremonial Celtic Helmet from III century BC Gaul. Wikipedia

["Some of us (I being among this number) blame Italy's warlike past and what their Roman ancestors did to ours (Celts and Germans).

The Romans destroyed our culture (Celtic and Germanic) and civilization, and replaced it with theirs (Greek and Latin).

It is a tragedy to have a Celtic and Germanic physical appearance but to possess a language and a culture incompatible with our Northern origins."]

ψ

Related posts:

Conquest Of Gaul. Debate On Julius Caesar’s Conduct, Motives, Achievements (2)
“Caesar was like the wind. Can we condemn the wind? And yet what scourge can it bring forth!” (3)
The ‘Black Book’ Of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Campaign (4)

France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome
Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow
Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)

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