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Valerian I, captured and humiliated


expat

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Valerian was Roman Emperor from 253 to spring 260 AD. Valerian is known as the first Roman Emperor to have been taken captive in battle, captured by the Persian Emperor Shapur I after the Battle of Edessa, causing shock and instability throughout the Roman Empire.
During his captivity, it was said that at times he had to kneel down, and then Shapur would use him as a stool to mount his horse.

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The Humiliation of Emperor Valerian by Shapur I, pen and ink, Hans Holbein the Younger, ca. 1521. Kunstmuseum Basel.

Valerian I, Billon antoninianus, 253 AD. Antioch or Samosata mint IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right / VOTA ORBIS, two Victories holding shield inscribed S C, palm tree behind. RIC V-I 294; Goebl 1682e Samosata; Sear 9966.
Weight: 3,4gr, 24.7mm.

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Please post your coins of Valerian I, and any relevant or educational comments

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normal_valcon0.jpg.4d826569f5293f980e416313abf5e52c.jpg

Valerian I (253 - 260 A.D.)

AR Antoninianus
O: IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG, radiate and draped bust right.
R: FORTVNA REDVX, Mercury standing left, holding purse and caduceus.
Antioch Mint, 254 - 255 A.D.
21mm
3.98g
RIC V 214; MIR 36, 1561a; RSC 75

 

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Valerian I (253 - 260 A.D.)

AR Antoninianus
O: IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG, radiate, draped bust right.
R: CONCORDIA EXERCIT, Concordia standing left holding patera and double cornucopiae.
21mm
3g 
RIC 81, Cohen 39; Sear 9929.

normal_valtet.jpg.141ec5766a17f773d3fa678000950290.jpg

Valerian I (253 - 260 A.D.)

Egypt, Alexandria
Billon Tetradrachm
O: A K Π ΛI OVAΛEPIANOC EV EVC, Laureate and cuirassed bust right
R: Tyche seated left, holding rudder and cornucopia; L Δ (Year 4, 256/7 A.D.) to upper left.
10.54g
24mm
Köln 2867; Dattari (Savio) 5174; K&G 88.28; Emmett 3721.4.

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I have only a couple of Valerian I coins:

Valerian I, Billon Antoninianus, AD 255-256 [Sear RCV III p. 269], Antioch Mint [or, “uncertain Syrian mint”; see id.], or Samosata Mint (Göbl) [city on the Euphrates, capital of Commagene, now submerged by Ataturk Dam, Samsat, Sanliurfa, Turkey]. Obv. Radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG / Rev. Two Victories affixing shield inscribed S•C to palm tree between them, VOTA ORBIS. RIC V.1 294, RSC IV 280 var. [no cuirass on RSC coin], Sear RCV III 9996 (ill. p. 269); Göbl MIR 1682e [R. Göbl et al., Moneta Imperii Romani, Band 35: Die Münzprägung des Kaiser Valerianus I / Gallienus / Saloninus / (253/268), etc. (Vienna, 2000)]. Purchased from Roma Numismatics Ltd., E-Sale 98, 16 Jun 2022, Lot 1411.  

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Valerian I, Silvered Billon Antoninianus, 257 AD [Göbl: 253/254 AD], Mediolanum [Milan] Mint [RIC, RSC] or Viminacium Mint [Sear, Göbl] [Viminacium was the capital of Moesia Superior and was located in what is now Eastern Serbia near Kostolac.]. Obv. Radiate, draped bust right, IMP VALERIANVS P AVG/ Rev. Virtus standing left, chiton off right shoulder (leaving right breast bare), holding Victory with right hand and resting left hand on shield, with reversed spear propped against left arm, VIRTVS AVGG. RIC V-1 267 (Milan) (p. 58) obv. leg. var.* [RIC identifies reverse figure as a soldier; Wildwinds identifies reverse figure on RIC 267 as Virtus (see http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/ric/valerian_I/i.html)]; Cohen 258 obv. leg. var. [Cohen identifies figure as Virtus or Roma], RSC IV 258 (Milan) obv. leg. var. [identifying reverse figure as soldier]; Sear RCV III 9992 obv. leg.var. [identifying reverse figure as Virtus, but characterizing Virtus as male; ascribed to Viminacium Mint for unstated reasons] (ill.); Göbl 811d (same obv. leg.) [identifying reverse figure as Virtus; Viminacium mint] [R. Göbl et al., Moneta Imperii Romani, Band 35: Die Münzprägung des Kaiser Valerianus I / Gallienus / Saloninus / (253/268), Regalianus (260) und Macrianus / Quietus (260/262) (Vienna, 2000)]; Cunetio 770 (same obv. leg.) [identifying reverse figure as Virtus] [Besly, E. & R. Bland, The Cunetio Treasure: Roman Coinage of the Third Century AD (London, 1983)]; Adeilson Nogueira, Valeriano, Na Numismatica Romana (Brazil, 2018) at p. 11 (see https://tinyurl.com/qpb659c) [identifying reverse figure as Virtus]; Chalfont hoard 328 [R. Bland, ed., The Chalfont Hoard and Other Roman Coin Hoards, Coin Hoards from Roman Britain IX (London, 1992)]; Stevenage hoard 529 [A.M. Burnett & R.F. Bland, eds., Coin Hoards from Roman Britain: The Normanby Hoard and Other Roman Coin Hoards, CHRB VIII (London, 1988) at pp. 43-73]. 22.5 mm., 3.4 g.

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* RIC, RSC, Cohen, and Sear all identify the obverse legend on this coin type as IMP P LIC VALERIANO AVG rather than IMP VALERIANVS P AVG; the coins appear to be otherwise identical to this one.  None of them lists a Valerian antoninianus with the IMP VALERIANVS P AVG obverse legend and a reverse with the VIRTVS AVG [RIC V-1 266] or VIRTVS AVGG [RIC V-1 267] legend, as well as the reverse figure -- however identified -- with spear and shield and holding Victory.
 

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ValerianAE31SNGLevante1514.jpg.bd691b65d5b0792c644e02c288165a5d.jpg

ValerianIAD253-260.CILICIA-Corycus.jpg.70a5db5ede747c2063b9c045ac0cb15d.jpg

CILICIA, Corycus. Valerian I, AD 253-260. AE Octassarion: 23.48 gm, 34 mm, 6 h. Obverse: Radiate bust of Valerian in battle dress. Reverse: Dionysus wearing nebris, holding thyrsus & wine skin over panther, large agnostic trophy holding caduceus, palm branch, & aplustre set on 3 legged table. SNG BN 1122 (same dies). SNG von Aulock 5686.  Ex CNG 112, lot 128, April 13, 2005.

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160810165247-trump-quote-two-mccain.jpg.cdd3b164c90ff00e03c112b010cacb0f.jpg

 

Poor Valerian. Here is a pair from father and son at Samosta:

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IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG: Radiate, draped and cuirassed right. 

PIETAS AVGG: Emperors sacrificing 

MIR 1676e

17050781215072.png.0b01101083bb21de080da0fb0e4e12ac.png

IMP C P LIC GALLIENVS P F AVG: Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind. 

PIETAS AVGG: Emperors sacrificing 

MIR 1684m

 

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I only recently learned that Gallienus (Valerian's son) was the first roman emperor to be depicted wearing a helmet on his coins, with the first such depiction seeming to date to c.260 AD. Prior to this it seems emperors preferred to project a more statesman-like image than a martial one.

Given the timing, it seems likely to have been his father's defeat and capture that precipitated Gallienus' change of image, whether immediately or after the ensuing civil war and emergence of usurper Postumus who killed his son Saloninus. The message seems clear - no more nice guy, this is war! Postumus followed suit and also used helmetted busts.

It's interesting that Gallienus, and all following emperors prior to Constantine I, only used archaic heroic helmet types - primarily the pseudo-Corinthinan helmet of Mars and Athena, and occasionally the Attic helmet of later Athena and Minerva (also shown on the likely fanciful praetorian relief). It wasn't until Constantine that we see an emperor wearing an actual contemporary helmet type - variations of the ridge helmet.

 

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16 minutes ago, Molag Bal said:

160810165247-trump-quote-two-mccain.jpg.cdd3b164c90ff00e03c112b010cacb0f.jpg

 

Poor Valerian. Here is a pair from father and son at Samosta:

17052081101182.png.c5aec202204dd66488b6bc677a8852e6.png

IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG: Radiate, draped and cuirassed right. 

PIETAS AVGG: Emperors sacrificing 

MIR 1676e

17050781215072.png.0b01101083bb21de080da0fb0e4e12ac.png

IMP C P LIC GALLIENVS P F AVG: Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind. 

PIETAS AVGG: Emperors sacrificing 

MIR 1684m

 

Didn't Donald Trump pay a doctor for a FAKE diagnoses to avoid the draft during the Viet Nam War 🤔?

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But but but - Valerian said he was Victorious as emperor.
He wouldn't lie, would he??? 😜

ValerianIAntoninianusVICTORIAAVGG.png.cdb98b8159bc751f9fb9f1b002a20060.png
Valerian I
AR Antoninianus
253-260 AD
Obverse: IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS PF AVG, radiate, draped bust right
Reverse: VICTORIA AVGG, Victory standing left resting on shield and holding palm

Edited by Furryfrog02
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"Where did my human foot stool go?, Aahh!, there you are. Think you can hide in this thread."

"Get over here, my feet hurt!"

shap0.jpg.7222c00240ee57544bae52827d26a430.jpg

Sasanian Kingdom, Shapur I (241-272 A.D.)

Sasanian Empire
AR drachm
O: Bust of Shapur I right, wearing diadem and decorated tiara terminating in eagle head.
R: Fire altar flanked by two attendants wearing diadems and mural crowns.
25mm
4.33g
Göbl type I/1

 

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I find this episode immensely interesting in light of Valerian's "captives coinage." I collect captives on Roman coins & have two examples of Valerian's AR Antoniniani that depict Parthian captives (!) on the reverse. (One of my favorite types, though not the best examples!)

You requested "relevant or educational comments," so I hope no one minds that I've excerpted a couple of paragraphs from my old blog post (2021), "The Irony of Valerian's Captive":

1804295954_CONSERVATORI-ValerianIVICTPARTARAnt2.png.e262ce1edb9a256f048a1503ff26930f.png

Valerian I AR Antoninianus (2.66g, 22.5mm, 6h), Viminacium, 257 CE.
Obverse: IMP VALERIANVS P F AVG. Radiate and cuirassed bust right.
Reverse: VICT PART. Victory standing left, holding palm in left hand, resting her right on shield; to left, Parthian captive (Parthia, herself?) seated left, in attitude of mourning.
References: Göbl MIR 36, 847d. See also: RIC V 262 var. (draped bust); RSC 255 var. (same).
Provenance: Ex-Gitbud & Naumann, acq. 2013 (as was the 2nd ex. below).
Numis. NotesSee here (my website) & link for specimen below.

 

"In the year 257, Valerian I struck this silver Antoninianus depicting the Roman deity Victory looming over a seated Parthian captive. Three years later, in 260, Valerian would make history as the only Roman Emperor to himself be taken captive. It was by Shapur I, Sasanian King in Persia whose empire had succeeded the Parthian. [...]

"The ironic similarity is unmistakable between his Victoria Parthica Antoninianus and the Triumph of Shapur I over Valerian, the famous bas-relief monument to the Sasanian King at the necropolis Naqsh-I Rustam (in modern-day Iran). While the coin depicts a Parthian captive in a posture of vanquished submission before the Roman Victory, the vast rock sculpture depicts Valerian himself [*] kneeling in defeated surrender before Shapur [...] (detail of Valerian here.)

* EDIT: actually, contra Oriental Institute (now ISAC) description, the captive Valerian may be standing behind kneeling Philip I. (ISAC has them reversed. Thanks, @GinoLR -- here on CT. I need to review again when I can...)

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Photo by Diego DelsoCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Triumph of Shapur I over Valerian, the famous bas-relief monument to the Sasanian King at the necropolis Naqsh-I Rustam (in modern-day Iran). [From my 2021 blog post.]
 

"While suffering years of humiliation in captivity under Shapur, one wonders if Valerian ever thought back on the design of this coin, which sought to publicly humiliate his Eastern neighbors, casting them as humbled, defeated figures beneath Rome’s Victory? Did Shapur himself consider Valerian’s coinage when appropriating Roman imagery for his monument at Naqsh-I Rustam?"

 

Here's my other specimen -- same reverse, slightly different bust type (maybe):

1569932058_CONSERVATORI-ValerianIVICTPART1ED.png.0ead7b82d3c2df50f893615749837a49.png

 

Valerian I AR Antoninianus (2.76g, 21.5mm, 6h). Viminacium, 257 CE
Obverse: IMP VALERIANVS P F AVG. Radiate and cuirassed bust right.
Reverse: VICT PART. Victory standing left, holding palm in left hand, resting her right on shield; to left, Parthian captive (Parthia, herself?) seated left, in attitude of mourning.
References: Göbl MIR 36, 847d. See also: RIC V 262 var. (draped bust); RSC 255 var. (same).
Provenance: Ex-Gitbud & Naumann, 19 March 2013.
Numis. Notes: See here (my website) & link for example above.

Edited by Curtis JJ
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Great coins in this post.  I really like Valerian's coins - so many types, such an interesting, tragic history.  

Here's a recent Provincial I got - the portrait is charming, I think, if looking nothing like he usually does on the Imperial types:

AntiochPisidia-ValerianstandardsSRDec2023(0).jpg.df1bf48e6f7163521155832869a69fb7.jpg

Valerian I  Æ 22 Antioch, Pisidia (c. 253-260 A.D.) IMP C P LICINNIVS VALERIANVS AV, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right / ANTIOC CHLCO, vexillum surmounted by eagle between two standards | SR in exergue. RPC X (unassigned; ID 63326); (5.44 grams / 22 mm) eBay Dec. 2023 $9.99  

Attribution and Note (RPC): RPC:  Krzyżanowska I/Vol. 12, Emil 4, 1-5 and var. rev. Note:  Krzyżanowska recorded 5 rev. dies, one shared with Volusian and one with Aemilian

Numismatik Naumann Cf. SNG France 1314...

Provenance: Littleton Coin Co. generic "Valerian I (A. D. 253-260) Provincial Bronze Coin of Ancient Rome"

Die-Match Obverse: 

RPC X (unassigned ID 63326); Numismatik Naumann Auction 46; Lot 426; 11.09.2016

RPC X (unassigned ID 63326); Peus 369; Lot 1358; 31.11.2001

RPC X (unassigned ID 63326); American Numismatic Society Inventory No. 1944.100.51116 

RPC X (unassigned ID 63326); Leeds University Library Inventory No. 907

 

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5 hours ago, Curtis JJ said:

I find this episode immensely interesting in light of Valerian's "captives coinage." I collect captives on Roman coins & have two examples of Valerian's AR Antoniniani that depict Parthian captives (!) on the reverse. (One of my favorite types, though not the best examples!)

You requested "relevant or educational comments," so I hope no one minds that I've excerpted a couple of paragraphs from my old blog post (2021), "The Irony of Valerian's Captive":

1804295954_CONSERVATORI-ValerianIVICTPARTARAnt2.png.e262ce1edb9a256f048a1503ff26930f.png

Valerian I AR Antoninianus (2.66g, 22.5mm, 6h), Viminacium, 257 CE.
Obverse: IMP VALERIANVS P F AVG. Radiate and cuirassed bust right.
Reverse: VICT PART. Victory standing left, holding palm in left hand, resting her right on shield; to left, Parthian captive (Parthia, herself?) seated left, in attitude of mourning.
References: Göbl MIR 36, 847d. See also: RIC V 262 var. (draped bust); RSC 255 var. (same).
Provenance: Ex-Gitbud & Naumann, acq. 2013 (as was the 2nd ex. below).
Numis. NotesSee here (my website) & link for specimen below.

 

"In the year 257, Valerian I struck this silver Antoninianus depicting the Roman deity Victory looming over a seated Parthian captive. Three years later, in 260, Valerian would make history as the only Roman Emperor to himself be taken captive. It was by Shapur I, Sasanian King in Persia whose empire had succeeded the Parthian. [...]

"The ironic similarity is unmistakable between his Victoria Parthica Antoninianus and the Triumph of Shapur I over Valerian, the famous bas-relief monument to the Sasanian King at the necropolis Naqsh-I Rustam (in modern-day Iran). While the coin depicts a Parthian captive in a posture of vanquished submission before the Roman Victory, the vast rock sculpture depicts Valerian himself [*] kneeling in defeated surrender before Shapur [...] (detail of Valerian here.)

* EDIT: actually, contra Oriental Institute (now ISAC) description, the captive Valerian may be standing behind kneeling Philip I. (ISAC has them reversed. Thanks, @GinoLR -- here on CT. I need to review again when I can...)

spacer.png

Photo by Diego DelsoCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Triumph of Shapur I over Valerian, the famous bas-relief monument to the Sasanian King at the necropolis Naqsh-I Rustam (in modern-day Iran). [From my 2021 blog post.]
 

"While suffering years of humiliation in captivity under Shapur, one wonders if Valerian ever thought back on the design of this coin, which sought to publicly humiliate his Eastern neighbors, casting them as humbled, defeated figures beneath Rome’s Victory? Did Shapur himself consider Valerian’s coinage when appropriating Roman imagery for his monument at Naqsh-I Rustam?"

 

Here's my other specimen -- same reverse, slightly different bust type (maybe):

1569932058_CONSERVATORI-ValerianIVICTPART1ED.png.0ead7b82d3c2df50f893615749837a49.png

 

Valerian I AR Antoninianus (2.76g, 21.5mm, 6h). Viminacium, 257 CE
Obverse: IMP VALERIANVS P F AVG. Radiate and cuirassed bust right.
Reverse: VICT PART. Victory standing left, holding palm in left hand, resting her right on shield; to left, Parthian captive (Parthia, herself?) seated left, in attitude of mourning.
References: Göbl MIR 36, 847d. See also: RIC V 262 var. (draped bust); RSC 255 var. (same).
Provenance: Ex-Gitbud & Naumann, 19 March 2013.
Numis. Notes: See here (my website) & link for example above.

Not being familiar with the primary sources, if any, how strong is the historical evidence for the theory that Valerian I was held captive by Shapur for a period of years (rather than being promptly executed, as was Marcus Licinius Crassus two centuries earlier), even leaving aside all the stories about being used as a footstool and eventually ending up stuffed? I know Gallienus has been criticized retrospectively for making no attempt to rescue his father, but isn't it possible that the reason was that he knew his father was dead?

Edited by DonnaML
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25 minutes ago, DonnaML said:

Not being familiar with the primary sources, if any, how strong is the historical evidence for the theory that Valerian I was held captive by Shapur for a period of years

That's a good question. I don't particularly know these primary sources either, so if someone else does, this is a question I've wondered about. All I recall is that the main Roman/Byzantine sources (Lactantius, later but only by a generation or so, and Zosimus, ~250 years later) conflicted and aren't considered especially credible records of his fate.

If there were Persian records, I don't recall them at the moment. It sounded to me like we don't really have any idea what happened -- and they may not have had an idea back then either.

(Just going headlong into the realm of total conjecture, I wonder if his fate was something boring and vaguely shameful to Rome, like he lived out his life as a hostage in the Sasanian court, but Gallienus et al. just never tried very hard -- or maybe even wanted -- to get him back? Speculating wildly, of course.)

I'd love for someone more knowledgeable of Persian history & sources to weigh in.

Edit to add: There are also the conflicting accounts about Gordian III's fate during his expedition against Shapur. He's actually depicted being crushed under Shapur's horses on one of the early reliefs, but not in the later one (that I showed above). Then Philip reached a peace with him, shown in both reliefs by him kneeling (not Valerian kneeling, as I commented at first). But we don't really know how Gordian died either, as far as I know.

Edited by Curtis JJ
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I have a couple of Valerians, but this one is my favorite. I bought it because of the portrait.

RomValerianIAntoninianApollo.png.a5ee9ad251e257f861536766c8706444.png

Valerian I, Roman Empire, AR antoninianus, 253 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG; bust of Valerian, radiate, draped, cuirassed, r. Rev: APOLINI PROPVG; Apollo, nude except for cloak flying behind, standing r., drawing bow. 22mm, 3,58. Ref: RIC V Valerian 74.

Edited by Ursus
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Fun and educational thread, @expat! Here are a couple of favorites in my collection. My favorite imperial issue is this antoninianus with the Temple of Vulcan reverse and my favorite provincial issue is one from Cotyaeum depicting Asklepios's whole family.

ValerianIDEOVOLKANOAntoninianus.jpg.b67b60545d231f4c4bb1ab7466712a7f.jpg
Valerian I, 253-260 CE.
Roman AR antoninianus, 2.69 g, 21.2 mm, 7 h.
Colonia Agrippina (Cologne) mint, 259-260 CE.
Obv: VALERIANVS·P·F·AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: DEO VOLKANO, Vulcan standing left within tetrastyle temple, hammer raised in right hand, tongs downward in left.
Refs: RIC 5 (inaccurately attributed to the Lugdunum mint); Cohen 2 (inaccurately attributed to Valerian II); RSC 50c; Göbl 884d; Hunter IV 56; RCV 9934.

ValerianICotyaeumHygieiaTelesphorosAsklepios.jpg.a0b66b9fe2e0272488decd5704bc36e6.jpg
Valerian I, 253-260 CE.
Roman provincial Æ 23.5 mm, 7.57 g, 7 h.
Phrygia, Cotyaëum; P. Ael. Demetrianos, archon 253-260 CE.
Obv: AVT K Π ΛIK OYAΛEPIANO, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust left, holding spear and shield.
Rev: EΠ Π AIΛ ΔHMHTPIANOY IΠ, AP/X in upper field, KOTIAEΩN in exergue, Hygieia and Asklepios standing face-to-face, left and right respectively, with their usual attributes; Telesphoros stands, facing, between them.
Refs: BMC 25.177,94; SNG von Aulock 3790.

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