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  1. ===The Ninth-Century Visigothic Revival===
  2. Thin as the evidence is, the aforementioned pieces of historical writing suffice to indicate which kind of vision of the Asturian origins had been established in the royal entourage by the early ninth-century.
  3. Thereafter we do not have any trace of comparable writings until Alfonso III’s historiographical cycle set out in the 880s.
  4. As I said before, the components of this group are so outstanding that they have tended to obscure all previous developments.
  5. This is even more important because the historical perspective they reveal is in striking contradiction with many features of what was ‘official’ history in the time of Alfonso II.
  6. Of paramount importance is that by the 880s the former rejection of a Visigothic identity had been replaced by the notion that the Asturian kings were the biological, dynastic and historical continuators of the Goths.
  7. The rising neo-Gothic theory seems to respond to a combination of historical changes taking place from the mid-ninth century across the Iberian peninsula.
  8. During the later years of Alfonso II’s long reign (791–842), Carolingian influence in northwestern Spain declined seriously, while the northeast remained under Frankish rule, albeit with ever increasing autonomy.
  9. Cultural contacts and exchange surely lived on, but the events taking place in the northwest ceased to be so dependent on the wider frame of Frankish policies.
  10. Nevertheless, the ‘Carolingian factor’ had already done its job. Having grown under its cover, Asturias was in the 840s a fairly developed polity by Iberian northern standards.
  11. It was even a valid reference for those opposing the Cordoban emirs, as witnessed by the repeated military expeditions against Asturias—increasingly seen as a major disturbing factor in the northern frontier—and the remarkable fact that in the later years of Alfonso II a notorious Muslim rebel could seek and obtain exile in Asturias. n28
  12. n28 Ibn Hayyan, Muqtabis II–1 ed. Makki and Corriente (2001) 298 ff.
  13. All this seems to be pointing towards a rising new scene.
  14. Ramiro I’s short reign—under which a different branch of the Asturian royal families replaced that of Alfonso II—surely was of paramount importance, as C. Estepa has rightly pointed out. (n29 Estepa (1992).)
  15. p234
  16. A number of factors seem to indicate that some sort of consensus was then reached that made it possible to further the kingdom’s political development, both in internal complexity and territorial expansion.
  17. This may well also relate to a greater degree of formalization of the relationship between kings and magnates, probably by means of considering as royal officers those aristocrats who ruled de facto over specific territories.
  18. Magnates begin by then to be termed comites —a denomination implying both a high social status and a formal denial of royalty—which is certainly relevant for a king who had to face major aristocratic opposition in his early years. n30
  19. n30 All the more interesting, considering that J. Fernández Conde may very well be right in suggesting that young Ramiro I could have been a rebel against Alfonso II, and even have ruled in parallel a part of the territory; Fernández Conde (1997).
  20. It is utterly plausible that a consensus of this kind among the Asturian ruling elites—king and magnates—underlay the great territorial expansion operated in the second half of the ninth-century, under kings Ordoño I and Alfonso III.
  21. In a rather short time, the Asturian territory grew to over twice its size, for the greater benefit of king, magnates and clerics, who found in the newly gained plateau lands an inmense source of revenue and power.
  22. This is the essential context within which the royal chronicles must be considered.
  23. At the same time, important changes were taking place in the south.
  24. By the mid-ninth century conversions to Islam had increased to an extent that the status of non-Arab population within the society of al-Andalus became a relevant issue, nonetheless because among those of Iberian provenance, whether Christians or Muslims, there was a clear notion of descending from the Visigoths. (n31 García Moreno (1999).)
  25. The second half of the ninth century saw no shortage of tensions between the central power and relevant groups, such as the Mozarab (Christian) communities—most famously Toledo—or the Berber clans, but also an increasing number of indigenous converts trying to find a position of their own within an Arab dominated society.
  26. A few from their ranks (the so-called Muwalladun) eventually rebelled against their rulers, gathered armed retinues and managed to hold control over small territories where they were hard to fight. n32
  27. n32 Acién (1994); cf. Manzano (1991b); Fierro (1998); Wasserstein (2002).
  28. n32 In this brief summary I am much indebted to comments from Maribel Fierro.
  29. This situation was not definitively overcome until the reign of Abd al-Rahman III (912–961), and more so by way of negotiation than military defeat.
  30. It has been pointed out that Visigothic descent—frequently referring to king Witiza—seems to have become a sort of sign of identity for many non-Arab Andalusians, whether Christian or Muslim.
  31. That such an ancestry was invented in most cases makes no less a case for the relevance of the notion itself.
  32. Yet, for all the echoes of ‘Visigothic feudalism’ that can be spotted in the muwalladun rebels, (n33 n33 Acién (1994).) the greatest issue remained that of which position the converts should enjoy within the Andalusian society.
  33. In this debate, the reconsideration of the Arab invasion became a very sensitive issue, central to a change in the political identity that gradually set in, and remained so until the end of the Caliphate in the eleventh century.
  34. The modalities of subjection (whether pact or conquest), the status of the conquered lands and peoples, the position of converted Visigothic aristocrats, all became important matters in defining a legitimate vision of the complexities of ninth-century al-Andalus. (n34 n34 Manzano (1997).)
  35. This would ultimately lead to a new historical consciousness that needed to account for more than the ethnic divisions among the invaders, and integrate the natives, the main representative of which would be the famous historian Ahmad al-Razi.
  36. It is likewise relevant that those southern Christians who kept to their faith —the so-called Mozarabs— found themselves in a profoundly contradictory situation.
  37. On the one hand, the dominant Arabic language and culture permeated all social groups, even those who resisted conversion.
  38. Most Spanish Christians adapted themselves into the Islamic political framework, particularly in urban contexts, and most of all in Córdoba; some even made it into the administrative system, holding offices and taking part in the normal func- tioning of government. (n35 See Wolf (1988) for examples and discussion.)
  39. Since the early days of Arab rule, the general trend for accomodation and even cooperation with the new rulers had greatly disappointed a minority who rather favoured resistence.
  40. Traces of this attitude were already present in the 780s, when adoptionism first burst out. (n36 Cavadini (1993).)
  41. By the mid-ninth century a combination of factors led to another tide of active contestation from non-conformist Christians, the so-called ‘martyrs of Córdoba’. (n37 Wolf (1988).)
  42. p236
  43. In this turbulent context there was plenty of room for messianic and apocalyptic thought.
  44. From the mid-ninth century, several mutually influenced lines of such discourses spread among Christians, Jews and Muslims. (n38 n38 Gil (1978–1979); Fierro (1998).)
  45. Premonitions of the advent of a new era were easily turned into predictions of an immediate ending for either the Ummayad or Arab rule in Spain at all. (n39 On the notorious case of ninth-century author Ibn Habib, see Aguadé (1991) 88–100.)
  46. As early as the 850s Alvarus of Córdoba already pointed out the existence of prophecies about the imminent end of Muslim rule.
  47. The 852 Toledo rebellion may have been fuelled by another wave of prophetic expectancy. This all, albeit collateral, may well have contributed to shaping the milieu from which the Cordoban martyrs emerged. (n40 Gil (1978–1979).)
  48. In the following years, prophecies and omens went on being adapted and reinterpreted as the consecutive dates for doom proved unreliable.
  49. By the 870s at least, one such branch of apocalyptic thought seems to have developed among those Andalusian groups who based their political identity upon the Visigothic inheritance, arguing that Muslim rule would be destroyed by nothing other than a Visigothic revival.
  50. A similar notion may well have been attached to the most relevant of all muwal-lad rebels, Umar ibn Hafsun, but this must be seen as another aspect of a growing trend among non-Arab groups in al-Andalus.
  51. The most explicit formulation of these prophetic expectations was set up in al-Andalus sometime in the 870s.
  52. By adapting an oriental prophetic and computistic tradition to the Iberian context, the idea was construed that Arab rule over the Goths was to end when the latter should recover, and dated this to 884.
  53. The Goths were identified with the biblical people of Gog, and the Arabs with that of Magog.
  54. This was a means of reinforcing the notion of Visigothic revival by wrapping it up in Bible-based legitimacy.
  55. This construct, and other similar ones, surely became widespread in late ninth-century al- Andalus, but we know little about the effects they had. By contrast, a lot more is known about the impact in the north. (n41 Torrente (2002).)
  56. By those years, the Asturian kingdom had grown big enough to be a major cause of concern for the emirs of al-Andalus, and it acted as a hegemonic power in the north, frequently intervening in the troubled Riojan frontier.
  57. p237
  58. It was only natural that non-conformist southern Christians should turn to the Asturian kings.
  59. During Ordoño I and Alfonso III’s reigns there was frequent communication between the Asturians and the southern Mozarabs, mainly those of rebellion-prone Toledo.
  60. Mozarab clerics seeking exile in Asturias were pivotal in the cultural development of Alfonso III’s epoch.
  61. They were also major political collaborators, who helped adapt Asturias to many of the conceptions they brought from the south, most remarkably that of a Visigothic revival.
  62. To turn into champions of Gothicism a king and dynasty whose own historiographical tradition largely consisted of rejecting such an inheritance was surely no little task.
  63. The finest formulations of the neo-Gothic ideal were developed at the royal see of Oviedo in the early years of Alfonso III.
  64. It was surely a Mozarab cleric working at Oviedo who combined the Gog and Magog prophecy—computations adapted—with several passages about the end of the Gothic kingdom, the survival of the Gothic people in al-Andalus, and some fairly accurate lists of Arab governors;
  65. then he added an interpretation of the whole piece predicting for AD 883 the immediate ending of Arab rule, which deed was to be effected by no one other than Alfonso III.
  66. This was the so-called Prophetic Chronicle, which greatly influenced the Albeldensis. (n42 Ed. Gómez Moreno (1932) 622–628.)
  67. Neo-Gothicism further developed into the main ideology presiding over the new Asturian historiographical cycle.
  68. Its main purpose was to present the Asturian kings as the legitimate cross-Iberian Christian leaders, ideologically entitled to recover the realm and glory that the Visigoths once held.
  69. Yet, its formulation was far from simple, and its ramifications were manifold.
  70. In the early years of Alfonso III, there were a number of recent political developments needing legitimation, of which Iberian hegemony was only the most general one.
  71. In order to accomplish this, the Chronicles of Alfonso III’s cycle deployed a powerful, multifaced discourse in which the Asturian past was revisited, the pre-existent undesired historiographical elements deactivated, and new explanations provided to fill the legitimation voids of the time.
  72. Clearly, not all historical works were similarly consistent in doing so.
  73. The Albeldensis Chronicle is dominated by this hegemonic thought, but contains many elements from earlier or con- temporary conflicting discourses.
  74. p238
  75. This is to some extent—but only to some extent—corrected by the Rotensis, but this work maintains much of the past, nonetheless because in many passages it is evidently contesting other opposing arguments.
  76. The Ovetensis, instead is a much more consistent, carefully filtered text, that even puts aside some of the issues that were of relevance for the Rotensis and goes ahead in establishing direct links, not with the last, declining Visigothic kings, but with the most glorious of that breed: Leovigild, Reccared, Reccesvinth and Chindasvinth. (n43 Isla (1998b).)
  77. I have started by noting that the figure of Alfonso I stands out in the Chronicles of Alfonso III’s time, among several other eighth- century rulers.
  78. The argument I will follow in the next pages is that the great importance attached to him was because he was the node crossed by a number of discourse lines which were essential in gaining legitimacy for issues of the utmost relevance in the 880s.
  79. He was indispensable for the internal consistency of a whole vision of the past, even if that meant that the inherited ‘historical truth’ should be greatly distorted.
  80. ==II. Alfonso I in the Neo-Gothic Discourse==
  81. The Albeldensis, Rotensis and Ovetensis chronicles roughly agree about Alfonso I, although with differences of detail from one to the other.
  82. Adefonsus, Pelagius’s son-in-law reigned for 18 years.
  83. This was the son of Petrus, duke of Cantabria, and, as he came into Asturias, he took Pelagius’s daughter, Bermesinda, by Pelagius’s command.
  84. And, on achieving power, he led many fights with God’s help.
  85. He also invaded the towns of León and Astorga, long posessed by the enemy.
  86. The so-called Gothic Plains he depopulated to the river Duero and he extended the Christians’ realm.
  87. He was loved by God and men. He died due to natural causes. n44
  88. n44 Alb. XV, 3: “Adefonsus Pelagi gener rg. an XVIIIo. Iste Petri Cantabrie ducis filius fuit. Et dum Asturias uenit, Bermisindam Pelagi filiam Pelagio precipiente accepit. Et dum regnum accepit, prelia satis cum Dei iubamine gessit. Hurbes quoque Legionem atque Asturicam ab inimi- cis possessas uictor inuasit. Campos quem dicunt Goticos usque ad flumen Dorium eremauit et Xpianorum regnum extendit. Deo atque hominibus amauilis extitit. Morte propria decessit”.
  89. p239
  90. This brief portrait in the Albeldensis regnal list—eloquently entitled Ordo Gothorum Ovetensium Regum (“List of the Gothic kings of Oviedo”) will suffice to present the main facts about Alfonso I:
  91. a) his victori- ous military campaigns;
  92. b) his family liasons;
  93. c) his moral qualities.
  94. ===Alfonso I’s Military Activity===
  95. This is the aspect of Alfonso I’s reign to which the three chronicles conceded the greatest length of text.
  96. In all three, the king’s activity was twofold: he fought victoriously against his enemies; he extended the limits of his realm.
  97. Both aspects must be considered separately. About Alfonso I’s campaigns, the Albeldensis Chronicle simply stated:
  98. “...on achieving power, he led many fights with God’s help. He also invaded the towns of León and Astorga, long posessed by the enemy. The so-called Gothic Plains he depopulated to the river Duero and he extended the Christians’ realm”. (n45 Alb. XV, 3. See previous note.)
  99. The Chronicle of Alfonso III was much more explicit.
  100. Both recensions basically coincided, but the Ovetensis emphasized more the king’s exemplary qualities.
  101. For clarity, I put in italics the main differences between them.
  102. The geographic implications of the Albeldensis and the Chronicle of Alfonso III are represented in Fig. 4.
  103. Rotensis:
  104. After his [Favila’s] death, Alfonso was elected king by the whole people, and he held the kingdom’s sceptre with God’s grace. The enemy’s boldness was always oppressed by him. Together with his brother Fruela, he frequently moved his troops and seized by combat many cities, that is: Lugo, Tuy, Oporto, Anegia, the metropolitan Braga, Viseu, Chaves, Ledesma, Salamanca, Numancia (now called Zamora), Ávila, Astorga, León, Simancas, Saldaña, Amaya, Segovia, Osma, Sepúlveda, Arganza, Clunia, Mave, Oca, Miranda, Revenga, Carbonaria, Abeica, Cenicero y Alesanco, and all the castles with their vills and hamlets. Killing all the Arabs by the sword, he took the Christians with him to the homeland. n46
  105. n46 Rot. 13: “Quo (Favila) mortuo ab uniuerso populo Adefonsus eligitur in regno, qui cum gratia diuina regni suscepit sceptra. Inimicorum ab eo semper fuit audatia conprensa. Qui cum fratre Froilane sepius exercitu mobens multas ciuitates bellando cepit, id est, Lucum, Tudem, Portugalem, Anegiam, Bracaram metropolitanam, Uiseo, Flauias, Letesma, Salamantica, Numantia qui nunc uocitatur Zamora, Abela, Astorica, Legionem, Septemmanca, Saldania, Amaia, Secobia, Oxoma, Septempuplica, Arganza, Clunia, Mabe, Auca, Miranda, Reuendeca, Carbonarica, Abeica, Cinasaria et Alesanzo seu castris cum uillis et uiculis suis, omnes quoque Arabes gladio interficiens, Xpianos autem secum ad patriam ducens”.
  106. Fig. 2: The evolution of the Iberian northwest from the mid-eighth to the late ninth century. The end of Arab control of the Duero plateau (left) and the Asturian expansion under Ordoño I and Alfonso III (right).
  107. Ovetensis:
  108. The following facts prove how great his grace, virtue and authority were: together with his brother Fruela, he led many fights against the Sarracenes and he seized many cities once oppressed by them, that is, Lugo, Tuy, Oporto, the metropolitan Braga, Viseu, Chaves, Agata, Ledesma, Salamanca, Zamora, Ávila, Segovia, Astorga, León, Saldaña, Mave, Amaya, Simancas, Oca, Veleia of Álava, Miranda, Revenga, Carbonaria, Abeica, Brunes, Cenicero, Alesanco, Osma, Clunia, Arganza, Sepúlveda, and all the castles with their vills and hamlets. Killing all the Arabs who occupied those cities, he took the Christians with him to the homeland. n47
  109. n47 Ovet. 13: “Post Faffilani interitum Adefonsus successit in regnum, uir magne uirtutis filius Petri ducis, ex semine Leuuegildi et Reccaredi regum progenitus; tempore Egicani et Uittizani princeps militie fuit. Qui cum gratia diuina regni suscepit sceptra. Arabum sepe ab eo fuit auda- cia conpressa. Iste quante gratie uel uirtutis atque auctoritatis fuerit, subsequentia acta declarant: simul cumfratre suo Froilane multa aduersus Sarracenos prelia gessit atque plurimas ciuitates ab eis olim oppressas cepit, id est, Lucum, Tudem, Portucalem, Bracaram metropolitanam, Uiseo, Flauias, Agata, Letesma, Salamantica, Zamora, Abela, Secobia, Astorica, Legione, Saldania, Mabe, Amaia, Septemanca, Auca, Uelegia Alabense, Miranda, Reuendeca, Carbonaria, Abeica, Brunes, Cinisaria, Alesanco, Oxoma, Clunia, Argantia, Septempublica et cunctis castris cum uil- lis et uiculis suis; omnes quoque Arabes occupatores supra dictarum ciuitatum interficiens Xpianos secum ad patriam duxit”.
  110. These two must be among the most ever quoted passages in early medieval Spanish historiography, since they lay at the foundations of the whole ‘Reconquista’ ideology, as Barbero and Vigil eloquently exposed. n48
  111. Fig. 2 shows the situation in Iberia between the mid- eighth and the late ninth century.
  112. n48 Barbero and Vigil (1978) 216 ff
  113. p241
  114. Fig. 3: Alfonso I’s attacks on the plainlands, according to the Albeldensis (left) and the Chronicle of Alfonso III (right).
  115. After the first two decades of Muslim rule in Iberia, the territory controlled by them was significantly reduced.
  116. Between 730 and 750 Arab rule in southern Gaul was eliminated.
  117. More importantly, between 740 and 760, al-Andalus underwent great political unstability:
  118. a revolt of the numerous Berber troops, continued party struggles,
  119. and finally, the take over by the Ummayad refugee Abd al-Rahman I, who succesfully managed to claim power, but could not establish his rule firmly until the late 760s.
  120. Amidst those troubles, Arab rule in the Iberian northwestern quadrant faded out.
  121. The Central Mountains became the limit of their effective control (Fig. 2, left). (n49 For details, see Manzano (1991a).)
  122. This reduction of Arab-ruled territory can hardly be credited to the Asturian kingdom, which was by then a tiny northern spot, plausibly ruled by a number of aristocratic lords, and which had no expectations of replacing the Arabs in ruling the plateau.
  123. Recent research suggests that in the Duero basin the population remained largely on its own, and, for over a century, it lacked any superior political articulation, until it was annexated by the Asturians in the second half of the ninth-century (Fig. 2, right). n50
  124. n50 Escalona (1991); Escalona (2000a) Escalona (2002). For a detailed discussion in English, see Castellanos and Martín Viso (forthcoming).
  125. I have indicated above that this was only possible after major political developments took place, some during Alfonso II’s reign, others after the convergence of royal and aristocratic interests established under Ramiro I.
  126. p242
  127. But the story the chronicles told was quite a different one.
  128. They had it that in the mid-eighth century, as al-Andalus agitated in troubles, Alfonso I seized the opportunity to lead a series of systematic attacks on the plainlands, ultimately causing the complete depopulation of all cities in the Duero basin.
  129. The Arabs got killed, the Christians were taken to the north.
  130. However, this view was not shared by the three texts in the same terms.
  131. Whilst the Albeldensis (Fig. 3, left) highlighted Alfonso I’s campaigns, it only credited him with having attacked León and Astorga, and having depopulated the so-called Gothic Fields (modern Tierra de Campos, a region in province Palencia).
  132. Instead, it was the royal chronicles that gave the most exaggerated picture, one in which Alfonso I was supposed to have raided an astounding number of cities and depopulated a really huge territory (Fig. 3, right).
  133. This was complemented by Alfonso I’s other notable achievement.
  134. The Albeldensis merely said that he ‘extended his territory’, but the royal chronicles—the passage reads almost the same in both recensions—provided a list of the territories he allegedly controlled and those which he did not.
  135. The Iberian northwestern quadrant was thus divided in two parts, the lands under Asturian rule and those which they emptied of all dwellers:
  136. By that time Primorias, Liébana, Trasmiera, Sopuerta, Carranza, Bardulias —now called Castile— and the coastal side of Galicia were populated; yet it is said that Álava, Biscay, Alaón and Orduña were always possessed by their inhabitants, as Pamplona and Berrueza were. n51
  137. n51 Ovet, 14. “Eo tempore populatur Asturias, Primorias, Liueria, Transmera, Subporta, Carrantia, Bardulies qui nunc uocitatur Castella et pars maritimam Gallecie; Alaba namque, Bizcai, Aizone et Urdunia a suis reperitur semper esse possessas, sicut Pampilonia [Degius est] atque Berroza. Hic uir magnus fuit. Deo et ominibus amauilis extitit. Baselicas multas fecit. Uixit in regno a. XVIII. Morte propria discessit”.
  138. n51 On the meaning of populare, see Menéndez Pidal (1960), Barbero and Vigil (1978) 225–228 and, more recently, Escalona (forthcoming).
  139. Unlikely as it seems that Alfonso I should have ever enjoyed the means —or even had the aim— of depopulating a territory several times the size of his kingdom, what we must now look at is the role this notion played in the chronicle discourse. n52
  140. n52 For criticism of the role that the ‘depopulation and repopulation of the Duero basin’ played in Spanish historiography see Barbero and Vigil (1978) 219 ff.
  141. n52 I have written—and spoken—at length trying to show that, by taking this construct at face value, traditional historians have not only blurred this part of the Iberian early medieval history, but also put a great obstacle to the development of modern settlement archaeology in the region, which is only recently emerging: Escalona (1991); Escalona (2000a); Escalona (2000b), Escalona (2001), Escalona (2002), Azkárate and Quirós (2001).
  142. p243
  143. The account of the reign of Alfonso III’s father, Ordoño I (850–866), provides the first clue. The Albeldensis merely stated that “he extended the Christians’ realm”, (n53 Alb. XV, 11. )
  144. but the Rotensis elaborated more:
  145. “...the long abandoned cities, that is, León, Astorga, as well as Tuy and Amaya, he surrounded with walls and gave them high gates, and he populated them in part with his own people, in part with those coming from Spain”. n54
  146. n54 Rot. 25: Civitates ab antiquitus desertas, is est, Legionem, Astoricam, Tudem et Amagiam Patriciam muris circumdedit, portas in altitudinem posuit, populo partim ex suis, partim ex Spania advenientibus implevit.
  147. Then, the Ovetensis made an even more explicit connection with Alfonso I:
  148. “he repopulated the long abandoned cities, of which Alfonso the Elder [Alfonso I] had expelled the Arabs, that is, Tuy, León, Astorga, and Amaya Patricia”. n55
  149. n55 Ovet. 25. Civitates desertas ex quibus Adefonsus maior Caldeos eiecerat iste repopulavit, id est, Tudem, Astoricam, Legionem et Amagiam Patriciam.
  150. The combination of raiding the plateau and absorbing the northern lands is an image which probably has little to do with the eighth century, but is most relevant for the late ninth.
  151. Most cities allegedly attacked by Alfonso I one hundred years earlier where actually in the ninth century either seized by Ordoño I, or by his son, or were at least the latter’s target for future expansion.
  152. The chroniclers’ discourse becomes clear:
  153. Alfonso divided the northwest in two different spheres of status:
  154. a) the lands continually inhabited and ruled by the Asturians;
  155. b) the depopulated lands, which were open to be seized and exploited by the Asturian kings and elites.
  156. Then, the ninth-century Asturian kings began to recover and repopulate them with either their northern subjects or with Mozarabs from al-Andalus.
  157. In the kingdom of the new Goths there was only room for these two identities, while a complete denial was effected of the local population and of any power structures they might have developed during the hundred years in which they lacked higher rulers.
  158. This was obviously a very sensitive issue of Alfonso III’s reign, that urgently needed to be legitimated.
  159. Now, some elements in those accounts of Alfonso I’s glorious deeds make me think they could have been largely made up to fill the needs of the chroniclers’ discourse.
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