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Capitoline Wolf, traditionally believed to be Etruscan, 5th century BC, with figures of Romulus and Remus added in the 15th century. Recent studies suggest that it may be medieval, dating from the 13th century.[1]

Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth. They are descendants of the Trojan prince and refugee Aeneas, and are fathered by the god Mars or the demi-god Hercules on a royal Vestal Virgin, Rhea Silvia, whose uncle exposes them to die in the wild. They are found by a she-wolf who suckles and cares for them. The twins are eventually restored to their regal birthright, acquire many followers and decide to found a new city.

Romulus wishes to build the new city on the Palatine Hill; Remus prefers the Aventine Hill.[2] They agree to determine the site through augury. Romulus appears to receive the more favourable signs but each claims the results in his favour. In the disputes that follow, Remus is killed.[3] Ovid has Romulus invent the festival of Lemuria to appease Remus' resentful ghost.[4] Romulus names the new city Rome, after himself, and goes on to create the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. He adds citizens to his new city by abducting the women of the neighboring Sabine tribes, which results in the combination of Sabines and Romans as one Roman people. Rome rapidly expands to become a dominant force, due to divine favour and the inspired administrative, military and political leadership of Romulus. In later life Romulus becomes increasingly autocratic, disappears in mysterious circumstances and is deified as the god Quirinus, the divine persona of the Roman people.

The legend of Romulus and Remus encapsulates Rome's ideas of itself, its origins, moral values and purpose: it has also been described as one of the most problematic of all foundation myths. Romulus' name is thought to be a back-formation from the name Rome; Remus' is a matter for ancient and modern speculation. The main sources for the legend approach it as history and offer an implausibly exact chronology: Roman historians dated the city's foundation variously from 758 to 728 BC. Plutarch says Romulus was fifty-three at his death; which reckoning gives the twins' birth year as c. 771 BC. Possible historical bases for the broad mythological narrative remain unclear and much disputed.[5] Romulus and Remus are eminent among the feral children of ancient mythography.

Contents

The Mythos

Modern scholarship approaches the various known stories of Romulus and Remus as cumulative elaborations and later interpretations of Roman foundation-myth. Particular versions and collations were presented by Roman historians as authoritative, an official history trimmed of contradictions and untidy variants to justify contemporary developments, genealogies and actions in relation to Roman morality. Other narratives appear to represent popular or folkloric tradition; some of these remain inscrutable in purpose and meaning. Wiseman sums the whole as the mythography of an unusually problematic foundation and early history.[6][7] Cornell and others describe particular elements of the mythos as "shameful".[8]

The earliest known history of Rome is attributed to Diocles of Peparethus, whose work was acknowledged as a reliable source by the patrician senator Quintus Fabius Pictor. Fabius wrote his own history of Rome around the time of Rome's war with Hannibal; a particularly fraught backdrop for a contemporary Roman historian and a milestone in its ascendancy as a major power. He wrote in Greek, and may have intended a propagation of Roman identity to readers and potential allies already familiar with Greek models of founding-myth.[9] His work survives only as a brief library-catalogue summary but it describes Romulus and Remus as founders of Rome and Romulus as its first king.[10]

Fabius's work provided a basis for the early books of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita and several Greek-language histories of Rome, including the Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, written during the late 1st century BC, and Plutarch's early 2nd century Life of Romulus.[11] These accounts provide the broad literary basis for studies of Rome's founding mythography. They have much in common, but each is selective to its purpose. Livy's is a dignified handbook, justifying the purpose and morality of Roman traditions for his own times. He uses at least one source shared by Dionysius and Plutarch but the latter are ethnically Greek; they approach the same Roman subjects as interested outsiders, and include founder-traditions untraceable to a common source, and probably specific to particular regions, social classes or oral tradition.[12]

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Ancestry and parentage

Plutarch presents Romulus and Remus' ancient descent from prince Aeneas, fugitive from Troy after its destruction by the Greeks. Their maternal grandfather is his descendant Numitor, who inherits the kingship of Alba Longa. Numitor's brother Amulius inherits its treasury, including the gold brought by Aeneas from Troy. Amulius uses his control of the treasury to dethrone Numitor, but fears that Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia will bear children who could overthrow him. He forces her to perpetual virginity as a Vestal priestess. In one variant, Mars, god of war, seduces and impregnates her: in another, Amulius himself seduces her, and in yet another, Hercules.

The king sees his niece's pregnancy and confines her. She gives birth to twin boys of remarkable beauty; her uncle orders her death and theirs. One account holds that he has Rhea buried alive – the standard punishment for Vestal Virgins who violated their vow of celibacy – and orders the death of the twins by exposure; both means would avoid his direct blood-guilt. In another, he has Rhea and her twins thrown into the River Tiber. In each case, a servant is charged with the deed.

The servant cannot bring himself to harm the twins; he places them in a basket and leaves it on the banks of the Tiber. The river rises in flood and carries the twins downstream, unharmed.[13]

Altar from Ostia showing the discovery of Romulus and Remus (now at the Palazzo Massimo)

The river deity Tiberinus makes the basket catch in the roots of a fig tree that grows in the Velabrum swamp at the base of the Palatine Hill. The twins are found and suckled by a she-wolf (Lupa) and fed by a woodpecker (Picus). A shepherd of Amulius named Faustulus discovers them and takes them to his hut, where he and his wife Acca Larentia raise them as their own.

Faustulus (to the right of picture) discovers Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf and woodpecker. Their mother Rhea Silvia and the river-god Tiberinus witness the moment. Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, ca 1616 (Capitoline Museums)

In another variant, Hercules impregnates Acca Larentia and marries her off to the shepherd Faustulus. She has twelve sons; when one of them dies, Romulus takes his place to found the priestly college of Arval brothers Fratres Arvales. Acca Larentia is therefore identified with the Arval goddess Dea Dia, who is served by the Arvals. In later Republican religious tradition, a Quirinal priest (flamen) impersonated Romulus (by then deified as Quirinus) to perform funerary rites for his foster mother (identified as Dia).

Another and probably late tradition has Larentia as a sacred prostitute (one of many Roman slangs for prostitute was lupa (she-wolf).(Livy i. 4; Ovid, Fasti, iii. 55).

Yet another tradition relates that Romulus and Remus are nursed by the Wolf-Goddess Lupa or Luperca in her cave-lair (lupercal). Luperca was given cult for her protection of sheep from wolves and her spouse was the Wolf-and-Shepherd-God Lupercus, who brought fertility to the flocks. She has been identified with Acca Larentia.

The Founding of Rome

In all versions of the founding myth, the twins grow up as shepherds. They come into conflict with the shepherds of Amulius, leading to battles in which Remus is captured and taken to Amulius. Their identity is discovered. Romulus raises a band of shepherds to liberate his brother; Amulius is killed and Romulus and Remus are conjointly offered the crown. They refuse it while their grandfather lives, and refuse to live in the city as his subjects. They restore Numitor as king, pay due honours to their mother Rhea and leave to found their own city, accompanied by a motley band of fugitives, runaway slaves, and any who want a second chance in a new city with new rulers.

The brothers argue over the best site for the new city. Romulus favours the Palatine Hill; Remus wants the Aventine Hill. They agree to select the site by divine augury, take up position on their respective hills and prepare a sacred space; signs are sent to each in the form of vultures, or eagles. Remus sees six; Romulus sees twelve, and claims superior augury as the basis of his right to decide.

Remus makes a counterclaim; he saw his six vultures first. Romulus sets to work with his supporters, digging a trench (or building a wall, according to Dionysius) around the Palatine to define his city boundary. Remus criticizes some parts of the work and obstructs others. At last, Remus leaps across the boundary, as an insult to the city's defenses and their creator. For this, he is killed.

The death of Remus

Livy's gives two versions of Remus' death. In the one "more generally received", "Remus, in derision of his brother, leaped over the new wall, and Romulus, enraged thereat, slew him, uttering at the same time this imprecation: 'So perish every one that shall hereafter leap over my wall'". In the other Remus is simply stated as dead; no murder is alleged. Two other, lesser known accounts have Remus killed by a blow to the head with a spade, wielded either by Romulus' commander Fabius (according to St. Jerome's version) or by a man named Celer. Romulus buries Remus with honour and regret.

The city of Romulus

Romulus completes his city and names it Roma after himself. Then he divides his fighting men into regiments of 3000 infantry and 300 cavalry, which he calls "legions". From the rest of the populace he selects 100 of the most noble and wealthy fathers to serve as his council. He calls these men Patricians: they are fathers of Rome, not only because they care for their own legitimate citizen-sons but because they have a fatherly care for Rome and all its people. They are also its elders, and are therefore known as Senators. Romulus thereby inaugurates a system of government and social hierarchy focused on the patron-client relationship.

Rome draws exiles, refugees, the dispossessed, criminals and runaway slaves. The city expands its boundaries to accommodate them; five of the seven hills of Rome are settled: the Capitoline Hill, the Aventine Hill, the Caelian Hill, the Quirinal Hill, and the Palatine Hill. As most of these immigrants are men, Rome finds itself with a shortage of marriageable women.

At the suggestion of his grandfather Numitor, Romulus holds a solemn festival in honor of Neptune (according to another tradition the festival was held in honor of the God Consus) and invites the neighboring Sabines and Latins to attend; they arrive en masse, along with their daughters. The Sabine and Latin women who happen to be virgins – 683 according to Livy – are kidnapped and brought back to Rome where they are forced to marry Roman men.

War with the Sabines

The Sabine and Latin men demand the return of their daughters. The inhabitants of three Latin towns (Caenina, Antemnae and Crustumerium) take up arms one after the other and are soundly defeated by Romulus. Romulus kills Acron, the king of Caenina, with his own hand and celebrates the first Roman triumph shortly after. In victory, Romulus is magnanimous in victory – most of the conquered land is divided among Rome's citizens but none of the defeated are enslaved.

The Sabine king Titus Tatius marches on Rome to assault its Capitoline citadel. The citadel commander's daughter Tarpeia opens the gates for them, in return for "what they wear on their left arms". She expects their golden bracelets. Once inside, the Sabines crush her to death under a pile of their shields.

Romulus, Victor over Acron, hauls the rich booty to the temple of Jupiter, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The Sabines leave the citadel to meet the Romans in open battle in the space later known as the Roman Forum. The outcome hangs in the balance; the Romans retreat to the Capitoline Hill, where Romulus calls on Jupiter for help – traditionally at the place where a temple to Jupiter Stator ("the stayer") was built. The Romans drive the Sabines back to the point where the Temple of Vesta later stands.

The Sabine Women, by Jacques-Louis David

The Sabine women themselves now intervene to beg for unity between Sabines and Romans. A truce is made, then peace. The Romans base themselves on the Palatine and the Sabines on the Quirinal, with Romulus and Tatius as joint kings and the Capitoline as the common centre of government and culture. 100 Sabine elders and clan leaders join the Patrician Senate. The Sabines adopt the Roman calendar, and the Romans adopt the armour and oblong shield of the Sabines. The legions are doubled in size.

Organization and growth

Romulus and Tatius rule jointly for five years and subdue the Alban colony of the Camerini. Then Tatius shelters some allies who have illegally plundered the Lavinians, and murders ambassadors sent to seek justice. Romulus and the Senate decide that should go to Lavinium to offer sacrifice and appeased his offence. At Lavinium, Tatius is assassinated and Romulus became sole king.

As king, Romulus holds authority over Rome's armies and judiciary. He organises Rome's administration according to tribe; one of Latins (Ramnes), one of Sabines (Titites), and one of Luceres.[14] Each elects a tribune to represented their civil, religious, and military interests. The tribunes are magistrates of their tribes, perform sacrifices on their behalf, and command their tribal levies in times of war.

Romulus divides each tribe into ten curiae to form the Comitia Curiata. The thirty curiae derive their individual names from thirty of the kidnapped Sabine women.

The individual curiae are further divided into ten gentes, held to form the basis for the nomen in the Roman naming convention. Proposals made by Romulus or the Senate are offered to the Curiate assembly for ratification; the ten gentes within each curia cast a vote. Votes are carried by whichever gentes has a majority.

Romulus forms a personal guard called the Celeres; these are three hundred of Rome's finest horsemen. They are commanded by a tribune of the Ramnes; in one version of the founding tale, Celer killed Remus and helped Romulus found the city of Rome. The provision of a personal guard for Romulus helps justify the Augustan development of a Praetorian Guard, responsible for internal security and the personal safety of the emperor. The relationship between Romulus and his Tribune resembles the later relation between the Roman Dictator and his Magister Equitum. Celer, as the Celerum Tribune, occupies the second place in the state, and in Romulus' absence has the rights of convoking the Comitia and commanding the armies.

For more than two decades, Romulus wages wars and expands Rome's territory. He subdues Fidenae, which has seized Roman provisions during a famine, and founds a Roman colony there. Then he subdues the Crustumini, who have murdered Roman colonists in their territory. The Etruscans of Veii protest the presence of a Roman garrison at Fidenae, and demand the return of the town to its citizens. When Romulus refuses, they confront him in battle and are defeated. They agree to a hundred year truce and surrender fifty noble hostages: Romulus celebrates his third and last triumph.

When Romulus' grandfather Numitor dies, the people of Alba Longa offer him the crown as rightful heir. Romulus adapts the government of the city to a Roman model. Henceforth, the citizens hold annual elections and choose one of their own as Roman governor.

In Rome, Romulus begins to show signs of autocratic rule. The Senate becomes less influential in administration and lawmaking; Romulus rules by edict. He divides his conquered territories among his soldiers without Patrician consent. Senatorial resentment grows to hatred.

The death of Romulus

Romulus mysteriously disappears in a storm or whirlwind, during or shortly after offering public sacrifice at or near the Quirinal Hill.[15] A "foul suspicion" arises that the Senate,

"weary of kingly government, and exasperated of late by the imperious deportment of Romulus toward them, had plotted against his life and made him away, so that they might assume the authority and government into their own hands. This suspicion they sought to turn aside by decreeing divine honors to Romulus, as to one not dead, but translated to a higher condition. And Proculus, a man of note, took oath that he saw Romulus caught up into heaven in his arms and vestments, and heard him, as he ascended, cry out that they should hereafter style him by the name of Quirinus."[16]

Livy repeats more or less the same story, but shifts the initiative for deification to the people of Rome:

"Then a few voices began to proclaim Romulus's divinity; the cry was taken up, and at last every man present hailed him as a god and son of a god, and prayed to him to be forever gracious and to protect his children. However, even on this great occasion there were, I believe, a few dissenters who secretly maintained that the king had been torn to pieces by the senators. At all events the story got about, though in veiled terms; but it was not important, as awe, and admiration for Romulus's greatness, set the seal upon the other version of his end, which was, moreover, given further credit by the timely action of a certain Julius Proculus, a man, we are told, honored for his wise counsel on weighty matters. The loss of the king had left the people in an uneasy mood and suspicious of the senators, and Proculus, aware of the prevalent temper, conceived the shrewd idea of addressing the Assembly. 'Romulus', he declared, 'the father of our city descended from heaven at dawn this morning and appeared to me. In awe and reverence I stood before him, praying for permission to look upon his face without sin. Go, he said, and tell the Romans that by heaven's will my Rome shall be capital of the world. Let them learn to be soldiers. Let them know, and teach their children, that no power on earth can stand against Roman arms. Having spoken these words, he was taken up again into the sky"[17]

Livy infers Romulus' murder as no more than a dim, doubtful and whisper from the past; in the circumstances, Proculus' declaration is wise and practical because it has the desired effect. Cicero's seeming familiarity with the story of Romulus' murder and divinity must have been shared by his target audience and readership.[18] Dio's version, though fragmentary, is unequivocal; Romulus is surrounded by hostile, resentful senators and "rent limb from limb" in the senate-house itself. An eclipse and sudden storm, "the same sort of phenomenon that had attended his birth", conceal the deed from the soldiers and the people, who are anxiously seeking their king. Julius Proclus fakes a personal vision of Romulus' spontaneous ascent to heaven as Quirinius and announces the message of Romulus-Quirinius; a new king must be chosen at once. A dispute arises: should this king be Sabine or Roman? The debate goes on for a year. During this time, the most distinguished senators rule for five days at a times as interreges.[19]

Romulus-Quirinius

Ennius (c. 180's BC) refers to Romulus as a divinity but there is no evidence for the conflated Romulus-Quirinus before the first century BC.[20][21] Images of Quirinus showed him as a bearded warrior wielding a spear as a god of war, the embodiment of Roman strength and a deified likeness of the city of Rome. Quirinus received a Flamen Maior called the Flamen Quirinalis, who oversaw his worship and rituals.

Remus in the underworld

Iconography

Romulus and Remus. Silver didrachm (6.44 g). Ca 269-266 BC

Ancient pictures of the Roman twins usually follow certain symbolic traditions, depending on the legend they follow: they either show a shepherd, the she-wolf, the twins under a fig tree, and one or two birds (Livy, Plutarch); or they depict two shepherds, the she-wolf, the twins in a cave, seldom a fig tree, and never any birds (Dionysius of Halicarnassus).

Also there are coins with Lupa and the tiny twins placed beneath her.

Shepherd kings, as some mythographers would classify Romulus, were torn to pieces in a secret religious ceremony at the end of their "reign" and the beginning of the reign of the next "king". That mythological identity, reflecting ancient religious practices, might be supported in the notation by Livy that some stated that this was his fate. Religious mysteries and rites had to be kept secret, hence the rumor is implied for only the initiates to interpret.

The Franks Casket, an Anglo-Saxon hoard-box (early seventh century) shows Romulus and Remus in an unusual setting, two wolves instead of one, a grove instead of one tree or a cave, four kneeling warriors instead of one or two gesticulating shepherds. As the runic inscription ("far from home") indicates, the twins are cited here as the Dioscuri, helpers at voyages such as Castor and Polydeuces. Their descent from the Roman god of war predestines them as helpers on the way to war. So the carver transfers them into the Germanic holy grove and has Woden’s second wolf join them. Thus the picture serves—along with five other ones—to influence "wyrd", the fortune and fate of a warrior king.

Alleged dates

Plutarch says that Romulus was 53 ("in the fifty-fourth year of his age") at his death (Plutarch says that he vanished) in 717 BC.[citation needed] If true, then Romulus and Remus would have been born in the year 771 BC, and have begun the founding of Rome at the age of 18.[22]

Notes

  1. ^ Adriano La Regina, "La lupa del Campidoglio è medievale la prova è nel test al carbonio". La Repubblica. 9 July 2008
  2. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnasus Roman Antiquities1.85
  3. ^ Plutarch Life of Romulus 9.
  4. ^ Ovid Fasti 5.461
  5. ^ Very few scholars believe in the historicity of Romulus and Remus, but Andrea Carandini is one. He bases his belief on the 1988 discovery of an ancient wall which he names as the Murus Romuli on the north slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome, and dates to the mid 8th century BC. See Carandini, La nascita di Roma. Dèi, lari, eroi e uomini all'alba di una civiltà (Torino: Einaudi, 1997) and Carandini. Remo e Romolo. Dai rioni dei Quiriti alla città dei Romani (775/750 - 700/675 a. C. circa) (Torino: Einaudi, 2006)
  6. ^ Summarised and analysed in Wiseman, T.P., Remus, A Roman myth, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  7. ^ For a critical, chronological review of historiography related to Rome's origins, see Arnoldo Momigliano, An interim report on the origins of Rome, in "Terzo contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico, Volume 1", Edizioni di storia e letteratura, Rome, 2007, pp 545 - 598. Partial preview via googlebooks.com [1]
  8. ^ Cornell, 60 - 62: these elements have convinced the eminent historiographer H. Strasburger that Rome's foundation myth represents not native tradition but defamatory foreign propaganda, probably originated by Rome's neighbours in Magna Graecia and successfully foist on an impressionable and ethnically confused Roman people. Cornell and Momigliano find this argument impeccably developed but entirely implausible; if an exercise in mockery, it was a signal failure. By the fourth century BC the fundamentals of the Romulus and Remus story were standard Roman fare; by 269 BC the wolf and suckling twins are attested on one of the earliest, if not the earliest issues of Roman silver coinage. Rome's foundation story was evidently a matter of national pride.
  9. ^ The escape of Aemeas from Troy and his foundation of a "New Troy" in Italy was not an exclusively Roman ancestor-myth. It is represented by 4th century votive statuettes from Etruscan Veii and was known in archaic Latium. See Beard et al, 1 - 2.
  10. ^ Greek was the Mediterranean lingua franca of the time. Fabius' narrative is also Greek in character. It begins with the arrival of Herakles in Italy. Plutarch claims that Fabius' history follows Diocles "on most points" but this original is entirely lost. See Wiseman, 1-2.
  11. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities (Loeb) 1, 72-90 & 2, 1-76, available at Thayer's website [2]. Plutarch, The Parallel Lives, The life of Romulus, (Loeb), available at Thayer's website: [3]
  12. ^ For modern historiographic perspectives on this source material, see Arnoldo Momigliano, The classical foundations of modern historiography, University Presses of California, Columbia and Princeton, 1990, p101; [4]: also Dillery, in Andrew Feldherr (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp78-81 ff. [5]
  13. ^ Compare the story of Romulus and Remus to Moses, Perseus, and Sargon of Akkad for similar stories of babies being placed in cradles and set afloat in a body of water.
  14. ^ In Varro, the Ramnes derived their name from Romulus, the Titites derived their name from Titus Tatius, and the Luceres derived their name from an Etruscan leader or his title of honour: Livy, 1.13 describes the origin of the Luceres as unknown.
  15. ^ Evans, Jane DeRose The Art of Persuasion University of Michigan Press 1992 ISBN 0472102826 [6]
  16. ^ Plutarch, Life of Numa Pompilius.
  17. ^ Livy, 1.16, trans. A. de Selincourt, The Early History of Rome, 34-35) [7]
  18. ^ Evans, 103: citing Cicero, de Rep. 2.10.20.
  19. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, 1, (fragment: Ioann. Laur. Lyd., De magistr. rei publ. Rom. 1, 7, Zonaras) online at Thayer's website [8]; see also Thayer's linked note on the limits of historical accuracy in using known eclipses to date Romulus' birth and death.
  20. ^ Evans, 103 and footnote 66: citing quotation of Ennius in Cicero, 1.41.64.
  21. ^ Fishwich, DuncanThe Imperial Cult in the Latin West Brill, 2nd edition, 1993 IBSN:978-9004071797 [9]
  22. ^ Romulus by Plutarch, translated by John Dryden

References and further reading

  • Albertoni, Margherita, et al. The Capitoline Museums: Guide. Milan: Electa, 2006. For information on the Capitoline She-Wolf.
  • Beard, M., North, J., Price, S., Religions of Rome, vol. 1, illustrated, reprint, Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0521316820
  • Cornell, T., The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c.1000–264 BC), Routledge, 1995. ISBN 9780415015967
  • Wiseman, T. P., Remus: a Roman myth, Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 9780521483667

External links

See also

  • Asena, a similar legend concerning origin of Turks
Preceded by
New creation
King of Rome
753–717
Succeeded by
Numa Pompilius


Simple English


Romulus and Remus were the legendary founders of Rome. In Roman mythology they were twin brothers, children of Rhea Silvia and the god Mars.

Contents

The legend of Romulus and Remus

Birth and youth

Rhea Silvia was the daughter of Numitor Silvius, king of Alba Longa, a legendary town founded by Ascanius, son of Aeneas, prince of Troy. When Numitor's brother Amulius became king by force, he made Rhea Silvia a Vestal Virgin, so she would not have children who could be kings instead of him. But the god Mars seduced her and she had the twins Romulus and Remus. Rhea Silvia was punished, and her sons were thrown into the Tiber, but were saved by the river god Tiberinus, who also saved Rhea Silvia and married her. Romulus and Remus were found by a wolf who suckled them. The brothers were later found by a shepherd, Faustulus, who raised them.

The founding of Rome

Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome. But Romulus killed Remus in a fight and he went back to Amulius's palace and killed him .

Other pages

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