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Jochen
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« on: November 03, 2009, 01:40:46 pm »

The Revolt of Poemenius

In RIC vol. VIII, p. 164/5 under the headline 'Revolt of Poemenius' we find some remarkable coins of Constantius II, RIC 328-337, all rare. I could recently acquire one of them and want to share it with the related background information. I know we have had a short discussion about this subject some time before.

Constantius II, AD 337-361
AE - double centenionalis, 4.73g, 22.71mm
        Trier, 1. officina (time of the revolt of Poemenius)
obv. DN CONSTAN - TI[VS PF AVG]
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, pearl-diademed, r.
rev. SALVS A[VG NOSTRI]
       Big Chi-Rho, flanked by Alpha and Omega
       in ex. TRP star
ref. RIC VIII, Trier 332; LRBC 67
Scarce, about VF, flan break at 2 o'clock

This type is remarkable because it shows the portrait of Constantius II on the obv. together with the big Chi-Rho of Magnentius on the rev. How could this be explained? Why should Constantius issue coins with the rev. of his enemy?

Poemenius is mentioned in history only at one place, by Ammanius Marcellinus book 15, cap.6 (his first 13 books are lost!)
"4. After Proculus, Poemenius was condemned and put to death; he who, as we have mentioned before, when the Treveri had shut their gates against Caesar Decentius, was chosen to defend that people. After him, Asclepiodotus, and Luto, and Maudio, all Counts, were put to death, and many others also, the obdurate cruelty of the times seeking for these and similar punishments with avidity."
This happened in AD 355 and Kent deduced from it a revolt of Poemenius against Magnentius resp. Decentius.

What was the historical situation at this time?

Magnentius was born about AD 303, possibly in Amiens, and was as Laetus of barbarian origin. He was said to be the son of a Britannic father and a Franconian mother. On Jan.18. AD 350 in Autun he took the purpur and made himself Augustus. He was accepted in the western provinces and Africa. Quickly he brought Trier in his power, the most important city in the nordwest. In summer 350 (or end of 350/begin of 351) he made his brother (or cousin) Decentius Caesar, to secure Gaul by a strong hand. His attempts to bring Constantius II to an official recognition of his reign, even by a mutual double marriage, were without success. Military Magnentius was inferior to Constantius. In the desastrous battle of Mursa on 28. Sept. 351 he was defeated by the troups of Constantius, which came from the East; this was one of the most devastating battles of the late Empire which has weakened decisively the resisting power of the Empire against its charching enemies. Magnentius was forced to retreat and a year later he lost Italy. Probably Constantius has instigated the Alemanni to invade Gaul to weaken his enemy. Anyhow they devastated the country and in August 352 Decentius was defeated by the Alemannic prince Chnodomar and fled to Trier where he found the gates closed. In July 353 Constantius came to Gaul and defeated Magnentius at Lyon. Magnentius committed suicide (10. Aug. 353, after having killed his family). Some days later Decentius followed him in Sens. Constantius was sole Emperor again of the Roman Empire

(1) Kent:
Kent proceeds numismatically and explores the order of the legends in relation to the historical events.
Only a note by chance of the ancient historian Ammianus Marcellinus contains the report of an important event in the reign of Magnentius, the revolt of Trier. In his account of the destruction of the rebels of the unsuccessful and ephemeral usurper Silvanus AD 355 he especially refers to the execution of Poemenius. He was choosen by the Treveri to defend them after they have closed the gates against Decentius. Because Trier was an important mint we should expect that these events are reflected too in its mint issues. And that is actually the case. Kent argues that two of Constantius' issues are connected to this event. The solidi with VICTORIA AVG NOSTRI and the billons with SALVS AVG NOSTRI. Both have no parallels in  the issues of Constantius but by using AVG NOSTRI and the big Chi-Rho they point directly to Magnentius. This interpretation today is generally accepted and can be seen as certain, he writes in RIC.

I can't go in more details because that would blast this article. Former historians had suggested that Magnentius has lost Trier already very early in his reign, but that is unlikely and the coinage shows that it can't be so. Kent differentiates four different issue periods of Magnentius, each of them caused by an historic event. After the decisive battle of Mursa Magnentius retreated to Italy. In September 352 Constantius and Gallus occupied Italy and Magnentius was confined to Gaul. Here four mints issued the last type of his reign, dd nn avg et caes' target='_blank'>SALVS DD NN AVG ET CAES, which didn't occur in Rome nor Aquileia. Because Trier participated in this emission, the revolt of Poemenius could have happened only in the short time before Constantius' campaign in Gaul in summer 353. Without doubt this revolt was instigated by Constantius, as was the invasion of the Alemanni over the Rhine. The exceptional issues with the portrait of Constantius and the rev. of Magnentius cannot be struck before AD 350 because of the hint to a sole emperor. So we have the numismatical evidence that the revolt of Trier must have happened in the most last months of the reign of Magnentius. These coins were struck during the revolt of Trier for Constantius.

Bastien, whose work was not on hand, points to the weight of the billon coins, which fits only badly between Magnentius' last and Constantius' earliest coinage in Gaul. Kent ascribes this irregular weight to the exceptional circumstances, but concedes in connection to Ammian's note that we could assume too that Decentius has taken Trier, and that then these pieces were struck between the 2nd and 3rd phase of Magnentius' coinage. After the death of Magnentius his chief engraver has continued to work for Constantius.

(2) Gilles:
Gilles too is convinced, like Kent, that the above described coins dd nn avg et caes' target='_blank'>SALVS DD NN AVG ET CAES and SALVS AVG NOSTRI, because they are not known from any other mint, must be strongly related to the rebellion of Trier against Magnentius resp. Decentius. Because we don't know anything about the outcome of the besiege of Trier by Decentius we are dependent on numismatical and archaeological sources. Because Poemenius according to Ammian must have survived the revolt against Magnentius and Decentius it was suggested that Trier was not captured by Decentius. This is strengthened by the order of the coin emissions of Trier.

However actually it remains unclear in which order the emissions of Trier should be arranged. Are the great bronzes struck in the name of Constantius to be put before or post the last two emissions of Magnentius and Decentius, or should they put eventually between these two last emissions of the usurpers, i.e. between the 1st and the 2nd reduction. But the answer is crucial for the dating of the revolt of Trier and wether Trier after the revolt of Poemenius was captured again by Magnentius resp. Decentius.

Gilles analyzes the coin series of the bronze emissions of Trier ending around AD 353 with metrological methods. He arranged lists of hoards and coin series of the 50th of the 4th century AD. He found that especially the treasure troves from villas of the ambit of Trier are ending  with the coinage of Poemenius. The last emissions of Magnentius and Decentius from Trier are missed totally. They occur only in hoards together with earlier emissions of Constantius. This would be evidence that the last two emissions were struck after the so-called Poemenius coins.

In summary we must realize that from the numismatical view more is pointing to an abolition of the revolt of Trier against Decentius. Coin hoards and destruction strata show that the ambit of the city was strongly affected by the rebellion, probably by the troups of Decentius when surmounting the city walls. It is conceivable that Poemenius himself could escape the following massacre. Wether he and the people of Trier has undertaken the revolt by their own impulse or by order of Constantius remains open. Surely the opportunity was favourable, because Decentius after his defeat against Chnodomar was weakened. After the supposed recapture of Tier by Decentius the mint seems to have worked again at least for some weeks with now again reduced maiorinas until August 353 when Magnentius and Decentius cornered by Constantius committed suicide.

(3) Holt:
Walter Holt features a comprehensive overview over the historic and political relations of the Roman Empire of the 4th century. He depicts the time from Magnentius elavation to Augustus in Autun and the death of Constans, the fate of Nepotianus in Rome, the unsuccessful attempts of Magnentius to come to an arrangement with Constantius, the desastrous battle of Mursa until his suicide in Lyon. BTW the only surviving member of his family was his wife Justina who in AD 368 married Valentinian I.

Holt writes: because we have no other written sources and especially no archaeological findings only numismatics remains as source. Thereby in his interpretation of the events in Trier he follows the version of Kent. When Decentius after his defeat against Chnodomar sought refuge in Trier he found the gates of the city closed under the leadership of Poemenius who has stood up against him. Decentius must retreat to Amiens and Paris. Immediately after that Trier began to issue coins under the name of Constantius and - even more important - terminated the coinage for Magnentius and Decentius.

Sadly our sole ancient source for these dramatic events is only a single line at Ammianus Marcellinus. Poemenius held Trier successfully against Decentius until the end of the revolt which is proved by the fact that he two years later was still alive. He was executed not until AD 355 because he probably was involved in the revolt of Silvanus. If Decentius has actually recaptured Trier he surely has put down the revolt and executed Poemenius. But then he didn't have had to retreat to Amiens and Paris.

Especially the issue with the big Chi-Rho cannot be struck until Decentius was made Caesar AD 351. The fact that this issues don't occur in Aquileia nor Rome is indication that it was struck after Magnentius' retreat from Italy. Bastien thinks that it was struck not before spring 353, only 8 months before the end of his reign and coinage.

The 'Poemenius coins' are exceptional because they show on the obv. the portrait of Constantius and on the rev. motifs of Magnentius. The AVG on the rev. of SALVS AVG NOSTRI points to a single ruler, but can't mean Magnentius, because Magnentius died first and there is no hint that Dcentius took the title Augustus. So only Constantius remains too for the rev.

If Constantius had struck the 'Poemenius coins' after the fall of Magnentius, why he should have chosen the Chi-Rho, which doesn't occur in his coinage nor at Gallus. And because this issue only appears in Trier we were drawn consistently to the revolt of Poemenius.

Even hoards give evidence for it. There are hoards with Magnentius' Chi-Rho types and only few Constantius types. On the other side there were no hoards with Constantius' Chi-Rho and only few Magnentius types. That proves that the Constantius types have followed the Magnetius types. The dating can be done so: Both usurpers were dead on 18.August 353. Because these coins are very rare their coinage must have been only short but long enough for the need of different dies. Presumably longer then only few days but shorter than some months. If we take the time which Decentius needed to reach Amiens and then Sens - which could have lastened between 2 and 6 weeks - we get a time for the revolt from the beginning of July until late August.

"The revolt of Poemenius was a short-living and ultimately successful event in the turbulent history of the fragmented Roman Empire of the mid-fourth century. It has given us a fascinating issue of coins and a wonderful story. Few individual pieces speak to us and bear witness in such a way as to directly relate to a precise event and time as do these. It is unfortune that we kow nothing more about the character himself. All that remains of him and his impact on history is a single sentence in a very old and mostly lost document -and his legacy of a small number of extraordinary coins" (Walter Holt)

(will be continued)
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Jochen
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2009, 01:41:55 pm »

(continued)

(4) Overbeck/Overbeck:
But now we have a work since 2001 which generally doubted all explanations I have reported above. Sadly this work is not regarded by Holt, probably because it was edited only in German I think. Overbeck/Overbeck take as starting point that what only passed down to us from antiquity, and that is the text of Ammianus Marcellinus. There we find the term ad defendam plebem electus. All above agree that Poemenius was chosen by the Treveri to defend the people. Meant is a position provided with comprehensive authority in military and admiministrative range to play the most important role in Trier. But is this opinion correct?
 
Already the date of the revolt is disputed. Piganiol (L'Empire Chretien, Paris 1947) wants to see the revolt more early, Kent/Bastien/Gilles think it must be later. Gilles interprets his coin series in detail but his discription would remain correct even without his premiss of the 'Poemenius coins'. A determination of the events to few weeks means an overstressing of the source value of the hoard coins.

Now to Ammian. What we have to understand by defendere? In works about Gaul citing Poemenius this term is meant military, juristic and in a general sense too, but this is never substantiated more closely.

We assume that Ammian came to Trier together with Ursinicus after defeating the revolt of Silvanus. In his function he has had insight in all documents and inquiry reports. And we hold Ammian as a correct and reliable witness.

Fact is that the gates were closed before the nomination of Poemenius. Not Poemenius has caused the closing of the city gates, a fact which is usually overlooked but is very important. His nomination therefore happened only after the revolt of the Treveri against Decentius.

eligere at Ammian is never the election by a great number of men, here f.e. the Treveri, but it is the usual nomination to an office by the Emperor or his representative.

By plebs at Ammian usually a group of men is meant which by some aspect -religious, military or like here ethnical - belongs together. Politically-socially it is used by Ammian only for the plebs in Rome. Therefore it should be translated most appropriately with civitas = inhabitants.

What we can exclude at defendere soonest its military meaning. If defendere is connected to the Accusative object then usually are meant things, which are defended, not persons. Therefore it makes a lot of trouble to interpret the quotation in that sense that a single person was delegated for the defence of the whole city. For the other, the juristic interpretation, we have enough examples at Ammian. But caution: We are not allowed to think of the office of the defensor plebis, because this office was introduced later under Valentinian I. Here we have only the forensic representation of the city. With Seeck we see with good reason in Poemenius a man who has no other duty than to defend the citizens of his city, who have offended the Caesar Decentius, as orator against a tribunal of that city.
 
To this we have parallels at Ammian in another case: The defence of the city of Aquileia, which held to Constantius and has closed its gates against Julian. Here a similar trial occured where a defender was nominated for the city. The formulations are very similar. The accusation was too the crimen laesae maiestatis.

If we accept these considerations then
(1) Trier must have been fallen after the revolt in the hand of Decentius/Magnentius again.
(2) Poemenius couldn't been involved in the revolt nor has been its leader.
(3) Wether he was an inhabitant of Trier at all must be left open.
 
The manner of argumentation here is mainly linguistically which is disregarded by Kent/Bastien/Gilles and others. But numismatically Kents deductions too are not compelling. Indeed both coin types are struck in Trier, they are rare and exceptional. But this can be explained too as 1st emission after the defeat of Trier by Constantius. Trier with one of the most important mints has apparently re-opened the minting manufactures as soon as possible before the uniform organisation with equal coin designs has been restored. This unusual coinage of Trier celebrates the victorious Constantius and could be explained by the situation of the mint directly after the end of the military actions. The high weight of the gold and billon coins could well be a sign for donatives for the victorious troups.

I have added a pic of the Porta nigra in Trier, now belonging to the world cultural heritage.

Sources (in chronological order):
1) Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae (online)
2) J.P.C.Kent,”The Revolt of Trier Against Magnentius”,Numismatic Chronicle 9
    (1959), S. 105-108
3) J.P.C.Kent, RIC VIII, S.136/137, 1981
4) P. Bastien (QT 12/1983), "Decence, Poemenius. Problemes de chronologie,
    pp.177-190 (QT = Quaderni Ticinesi)
5) K.-J.Gilles, Die Aufstände des Poemenius (353) und des Silvanus (355) und ihre
    Auswirkungen auf die Trierer Münzprägung, Trierer Zeitschrift 52, 1989, S.377-
    386
6) Mechtild Overbeck/Bernhard Overbeck: Die Revolte des Poemenius zu Trier.
    Dichtung und Wahrheit, in P. Barcelo-V.Rosenberger (Hrsg.), Humanitas.
    Festschrift für Gunther Gottlieb, München 2001, S.235-246
7) Holt, Walter C. “The Revolt of Poemenius at Trier,” The Celator 18.5 (May 2004),
    pp. 23-30,
8) CNG
9) Dietmar Kienast, Römische Kaisertabellen

Best regards


* constantiusII_trier_332_1.jpg (46.07 KB, 750x368 - viewed 7 times.)

* Trier_Porta_nigra.jpg (56.7 KB, 709x485 - viewed 3 times.)
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wandigeaux (1940 - 2010)
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« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2009, 03:28:06 pm »

Whatever the truth in regard to Poemenius, the issues of Trier for Constantius II with chi rho reverse were sufficient to give rise to imitative issues (not that they can help us very much).  Many thanks, Jochen, for abstracting this material for our delectation.  George S.

Imitation of Constantius II centenionalis with chi rho reverse.

13.6 x 15.5mm, 1.43 g.

Head of Constantius right, DN CO [....]

[Most of a] Chi Rho


* Constantius II Poemenius Barbarous.jpg (21.27 KB, 400x211 - viewed 429 times.)
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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2009, 03:32:15 pm »

An imitation of the 'Poemenius coin'? I have never seen that!

Thanks for sharing it
Jochen
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2009, 03:39:32 pm »

At least it is a putative Constantius II obverse married with a chi rho reverse, but it would be pushing things to make the "Poemenius" issues of Trier the sole possible inspiration.  Things were mixed up then (to say the least), and imitative coins are found with many different and incompatible types, e.g., head of Magnentius/Decentius with Vetranio's Hoc Signo reverse.  George S.
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2009, 05:38:30 pm »

Great post.  I'll just add a couple of coins (none of these show all of the legend but they add up pretty fully) and offer the opinion that there is a wide variation of styles for such a small issue.  I wonder how many were copies and how many were contemporary to the events? 

RIC 332 TRS* ?

RIC 336 TRP with * in field (lower right following the I of NOSTRI - agree?) 


I still find the issue interesting given Constantius II being an Arian 'heratic' and the large Chi-Rho  Greek_Alpha Greek_omega_small type of Magnentius probably being issued to curry favor with western Christians who emphasized the divinity of Christ.  Alpha and Omega would indicate a position of theology that Constantius could not accept.  In the day, they took this sort of thing seriously enough to riot in the streets and kill each other over. 
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Jochen
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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2009, 05:03:17 am »

Thanks for your comment. I highly appreciate it.

Jochen
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« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2009, 06:36:27 am »

Dear Jochen, Doug, George, et.al.,
Great post Jochen (and not just for my small mention therein Grin).
FYI - I also have an article in AJN 15 that is less general than the one in the Celator.

That imitation is fabulous, whether as a copy or a muled barbarous item it is still very interesting.
I have seen some ugly barbaric pieces, but nothing quite like this one.

I have to let you know of another item of interest:
Fernando López-Sánchez, "A Discussion of the Poemenius Coins in the Welbourn Hoard", (translated
by Jane Coyle) in the yet to be published Coin Hoards of Roman Britain, vol. XII.
In this Mr López-Sánchez observes several (at least three) different portrait types and adds more
to the subject.

Part of my own submission in AJN 15 addressed the question about the use and then termination
of the Chi-Rho types with a suggestion as to why they were used with Constantius' name.

I did not ignore Overbeck/Overbeck, I simply did not know of its existence until it was too late.
When I did find out about it it was late coming to me, and in any case I could not add very much
to what I had already submitted. I admit to some limitations in dealing with the language, I tried
to translate it myself but not completely successfully due to the advanced level of the language,
though I did get through most of it. Overall I cannot really say that I would have adjusted much
at all had I received it earlier. I did enjoy their arguments.
I was not aware of the Gilles article at all, I'll have to look it up.

Good job sir!

Walter Holt
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« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2009, 08:53:50 am »

Dear Walter Holt!

Thanks for your post. I think your article in Celator is the most informative and most comprehensive of all I have read about this subject. I recommend it highly.

Best regards
Jochen
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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2009, 10:02:48 am »

I have to let you know of another item of interest:
Fernando López-Sánchez, "A Discussion of the Poemenius Coins in the Welbourn Hoard", (translated
by Jane Coyle) in the yet to be published Coin Hoards of Roman Britain, vol. XII.
In this Mr López-Sánchez observes several (at least three) different portrait types and adds more
to the subject.

CHRB XII has been published and the article referred to is most interesting. See my blog here:

http://thelondonmintofconstantine.blogspot.com/2009/06/coin-hoards-from-roman-britain-volume.html

Best wishes

Lee
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« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2009, 10:23:06 am »

Fascinating topic. I picked up one of these quite cheaply because the seller did not recognize what it was. I have not, however, found a great deal of information on the Poemenius revolt nor about these coins in particular so I am very gateful to Jochen for starting this thread and to Mr. Holt for his scholarship regarding these coins.
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« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2009, 10:29:05 am »

Hi Lee!

Thank you for the link. Can you provide any information found in CHRB XII which shed some light on the problems discussed above?

Best regards
Jochen
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« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2009, 07:37:17 pm »

I find Seeck's explanation of Poemenius' role, followed by Overbeck/Overbeck, quite persuasive: he defended the people of Trier in a trial held by Decentius, after Trier had closed its gates to Decentius but then been recaptured by the Caesar. Ammianus would have expressed himself quite differently if he had meant that Poemenius had actually instigated and led the revolt of Trier against Decentius.

Overbeck/Overbeck, however, then seem to forget the most important result of their investigation: there was a revolt of Trier during the reign of Magnentius after Decentius became Caesar, which the emperors however suppressed before the end of their reign.

It still seems to me likely that the Christogram coins of Constantius II were issued during this revolt, rather than after the final defeat of Magnentius and Decentius.

First, because of the hoards cited by Gilles, ending with Christogram coins of Constantius II but without any Christogram coins of Magnentius and Decentius. However, the revolt must have occurred AFTER the introduction of the Christogram type by Magnentius. It is plausible that the rebels would have continued striking the standard type of Magnentius and Decentius for Constantius II after their revolt; but not that Magnentius and Decentius would have taken over for their own coinage a type invented by rebels!

Second, because of the heavy weight of the Christogram coins of Constantius II, which seems to place them between the two major issues of Magnentius and Decentius with the same type. It seems likely that the rebels, when instituting a coinage, would have approximately followed the current weight standard. But would Trier, after the elimination of Magnentius and Decentius, have struck coins for Constantius II using the usurpers' old reverse type, but substantially RAISING the current weight standard, as Overbeck/Overbeck propose?

Thanks to Jochen for his interesting report on the topic, and for sending me a scan of the Overbeck/Overbeck article!
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« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2012, 02:44:49 pm »

I am very grateful for his topic, because I never heard about Poemerius bevor. And I classed my coin as a "normal" output of Constantius II (RIC Trier, 332). I wish for posting a photo; the coin is weighting 6,2 grams.


* 38.jpg (79.33 KB, 252x240 - viewed 251 times.)
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2012, 02:46:29 pm »

The reverse.


* 39.jpg (80.07 KB, 257x240 - viewed 251 times.)
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Jochen
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« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2012, 03:08:50 pm »

Hi pittinigf!

Thanks for sharing it. And you see what big source is this Forum!

Jochen
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« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2012, 09:49:23 pm »

Interesting coin with three wreath ties and without line between Chi-Rho and exergue. I have a coin with this characteristics, too, and I always wondered if it is an imitation of better style.

Regards, Stefan
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