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Saga Age of Invasions

Saga Age of Invasions

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Project Blog by warhammergrimace Cult of Games Member

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About the Project

I've decided to start playing in 2022, starting with the Late Roman period in Britain. After this I plan to build armies for Age of Hannibal. This project will be a mix of research, hobby painting and battle reports.

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Painting Update

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Managed to paint all the infantry

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Painting Update

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I’ve pretty much finished the first unit. I decided that leaders within the warband would wear a blue tunic whilst ordinary troops would be issued with grey tunics. I also completed a piece of scenery just ignore the skellie in the pic

Alaric and the Goths

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Alaric and the Goths played an active part in the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. The origins of the Goths is still quite a puzzle for modern historians and archaeologists, though some of the written evidence dating from around the second century suggests that they were settled around modern day Poland. It is believed by many that they originated from the Baltic region and possibly from Gotland in Sweden.

The Goths moved south east splitting into two separate distinct groups, Ostrogoths or Eastern Goths and the Visigoths, who settled in Dacia. In 236 AD they made their first contact with the Roman Empire, with incursions across the river Danube. The Goths slowly absorbed Roman culture over a period of time.

Ulfilas, a follower of the Arian God, was the first to convert the pagan Goths to Christianity during the mid fourth century. He is also responsible for the translation of the bible to Gothic, there are some surviving  pieces of the text, known as the Codex Argenteus or Silver Bible.

It was the growing power of the Huns that finally displaced the Gothic tribes and pushed them into the Roman empire. The Ostrogoths were pushed westward by the Huns, which in turn pushed the Visigoths into the Romans. Valens allowed the Visigoths to settle in the depopulated regions of upper Macedonian providence. The aim was that the Goths would act as a buffer zone against the encroaching Huns. Problems were created by corrupt local Roman officials who mistreated the Goths, this mistreatment led to the Goths breaking their treaty with Rome.

The Visigoths rebelled plundering the countryside, which resulted in the attack and siege of  Adrianople in August 378 AD. The Goths defeated the last field army of the Roman Empire. They decimated the Roman Military, after this event the empire was forced to rely on mercenaries and the Foederati.

Athanius, Gothic leader, made peace with the Empire and emperor Theodosius. The Goths rejoined the empire, providing troops for the army and again acting as a buffer zone to the barbarian Huns. The Goths also now sent young nobles to Constantinople. These were to act as hostages, but the aim was also to Romanise the young nobles in the hope of fully integrating them into the empire. Whilst there they also received a first class education in the Roman military. The empire hoped that these future leaders would be more at home with the Roman way of life, and become active members of the Roman Military machine, thus persuading the Goths to become extended members of the Roman Empire. One of these young nobles sent to Constantinople was a young Alaric. Whilst in the Eastern Empire capital he met another young future leader, Stilicho, who would eventually become the last great defender of the Western Roman Empire.

In 394 AD, both Alaric and Stilicho, accompanied Theodosius along with the Roman army westward to deal with the pretender to the throne Eqnatius, who was supported by the Frankish King Arbogast. Alaric and his gothic troops fought against Eqnatius and Arbogast in the Eastern Alps . After a hard and furiously fought campaign the pretenders were defeated. Afterward Alaric believed he and his men had been  used, that his men had been sacrificed and used as fodder during the campaign.

In 395 AD Theodosius died, the Empire was divided into two between his sons Honorius, who commanded the west, and Arcadius who ruled the eastern half of the empire. Alaric believed he was undervalued as a leader and was extremely bitter towards the ruling elite of the empire because he felt he hadn’t been given a position of high command.

The Goths wanted a kingdom of their own to command and Alaric wanted a position of importance and authority. The gothic tribes declared Alaric king of the Goths. He then led his people and army against Constantinople, travelling through and plundering Greece. They conquered several cities, some of which included Sparta, Corinth and Argos, before reaching the Eastern Capital.

During this time the Goths learnt cavalry warfare and tactics. The use of the heavy cavalry horse became the favoured military tactic of the Gothic leaders. The cavalry used a heavy lance called a kontos and carried several light javelins. Many on the Roman infantry units neither had the discipline or  the stomach to stand against a Gothic cavalry charge. The Gothic army had the advantage of being highly mobile, due to having a minimal baggage train. Alaric and the Goths terrorised the  Greek people for a period of two years, until Stilicho arrived with a Roman army. The Gothic army took to ships and escaped over the Corinthian gulf and moved northwards.

Another Gothic leader Radagaisus built an army which contained a multitude of warriors from different cultures and nations, these included Roman deserters and slaves. They crossed the Danube river and headed down to Italy with 20-40,000 warriors. They marched and plundered their way down to Florence. Stilicho reacted by marching a force of 20,000 Roman troops, which included Alan and Hun mercenaries against Radagaisus. The Gothic army was driven into the Fiesola Highlands, where they were trapped. Lacking food they started to starve and desertions became common. Once they were at their weakest point Stilicho moved in and annihilated them. They captured thousands of Gothic warriors who were pressed into service with the Roman army, Radagaisus was captured and executed.

In 406 Britain rebelled and proclaimed Constantine Emperor. He led an army from  Britain across the channel to the continent. A general named Sarus was sent against him and was unsuccessful. Alaric was paid 4,000 pounds of gold to march against this pretender from Britain. On the 13th August Stilicho was executed because he tried to leave the west on a visit to the east, leaving Alaric in command of the western military. As a result approximately 30,000 allied barbarian soldiers left Italy and joined Alaric. Then in 408 AD Alaric with his warriors invaded Italy, with Stilicho dead there was no competent general to stand against this invasion by Alaric and his Goths.

They captured Rome and managed to cut the supply lines between Rome and North Africa, which was the major supplier of grain to the Roman city. Alaric demanded gold, silver and any other portable treasure such as spice, which could easily be carried. The senate offered Alaric a deal of 5,000 gold, 30,000 silver and much more, but the deal fell through because Honorouis withheld the Roman position and land rights which Alaric had demanded and wanted so badly. The siege continued through 409AD, the city rebelled and along with the Goths appointed a new Emperor Attaalus, who appointed Alaric Magister Utrusque Militum.

The problem with this new Emperor was he suddenly gained some back bone and displayed a mind of his own, something the Goths hadn’t expected. He refused the Goths passage to North Africa. Alaric became angry and frustrated so disposed of Attalus. The Goths then blockaded Rome stopping vital supplies entering the city. On the 24th August the Salarium Gates to the city were opened allowing the Goths into the city. Once inside they plundered the city of its riches before moving southwards.

They tried to cross the sea to Sicily, but were hampered by bad weather. A storm blew in and wrecked the Gothic fleet. This forced them to return to Italy and head northwards. It was during this time that Alaric succumbed to illness and died. Alaric is buried somewhere under the river Buzita, the exact location remains a mystery. The reason for this is because the Goths used slaves to divert the river so he could be buried, once this was completed the slaves were killed and the river allowed to run its course. All those who could have located the exact spot where Alaric was buried were killed.

Eventually the Visigoths were settled in southern Gaul as foederati of the Romans, the reasons for which are still subjects for debate among scholars. They soon fell out with their hosts and established their own kingdom with its capital at Toulouse. They slowly extended their authority into Hispania, displacing the Vandals and Alans. Their rule in Gaul was cut short in 507 at the Battle of Vouillé, when they were defeated by the Franks under Clovis I. Thereafter the only territory north of the Pyrenees that the Visigoths held was Septimania and their kingdom was limited to Hispania. This came completely under the control of their small governing elite at the expense of the Byzantine province of Spania and the Suebic Kingdom of Galicia.

Gripping Beast Plastic Late Romans

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In order to build a Late Roman warband I decided to pick up a box of plastic Late Roman infantry.

 

The box will allow you to build 44 soldiers (4 command miniatures and 40 soldiers). They can be used as legionary or auxiliary infantry of the 4th / 5th centuries, for either Eastern or Western Roman Empire. They can also be used beyond that, for early 6th century armies, like Roman Britain or Gaul, as well as early Byzantine armies.

Gripping Beast Plastic Late Romans

I decided to build two units of archers, two levy units and a unit of hearth guard and a command unit.

I plan to add a cavalry unit to the warband along with a Scorpion ballista for added fire power.

Gripping Beast Plastic Late Romans

Once built I under coated the entire warband in white, ready for painting over Christmas.

Gripping Beast Plastic Late Romans

Raiding in the Late Roman Period

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In the Late 3rd Century environmental conditions around the Rhine, which gave rise to flooding and easier access to the sea allowed the Saxon and Frankish tribes to develop sea borne travel. It was at this time that the Roman Military started to abandon the are due to flooding. Which allowed the Saxon tribes more freedom to move and carry out raids.


With access to the open seas the Franks and Saxons began raiding into Roman Territories, in Britain the Fens became vulnerable to attacks, due to the coastline being easy to reach and in parts reached 30 miles inland compared to the modern coastline. As a result Estuaries and ports suffered problems, as these became easy targets for raiders.

Raiding in the Late Roman Period

The Saxons and Franks became raiders and pirates with the first recorded incidents between 260-278AD. The first major raid was in 260 AD  in the aftermath of the capture of Valeria by the Persians. The Franks took the opportunity to raid Gaul, Sweeping through the country causing a lot of damage. The response by the central Roman Government was poor and this allowed a Roman army general called Postumus the ability to seize control of Britain, Gaul and Spain, whereby he created the Gallic Empire which lasted for 14 years.

During this period the Gothic tribes were also active in the Eastern half of the empire raiding over land and by sea around the Black and Aegean sea, where they sacked major cities such as Athens and Nicaea.

By the end of the late 3rd century there were raiders active right across the Roman Empire, from Scandinavia, Germania, Northern Britain in the form of the Picts, the Gothic, Huns and Alans in the East.

Roman Roads in Britain

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When the Romans began their conquest of Celtic Britain in 43AD, they found a haphazard collection of roads and paths, most connecting local fields and hamlets, but also some longer distance trade routes (e.g.. along the North Downs in Kent, and the Icknield Way along the Chiltern’s into Norfolk).

Roman Roads in Britain

he Roman administration, however, needed a better network of roads to connect its new towns and army posts and to speed the flow of both trade goods and troops. In building their network of roads the Romans mostly ignored the Celtic paths, partly because the Roman towns and forts were built on new sites away from the Celtic settlements.

By 82AD the Romans had pushed north as far as a line between the Clyde and the Firth of Forth. During this campaign alone the army built over 60 forts and over 1200 miles of roads. The imperial posting service, used by Roman officials, maintained inns and relays of horses at intervals of 30 to 50 kilometres along the roads.

The minor roads (sometimes called “economic roads”) were also built by the Roman army to link economic centres, such as the Mendip lead mines and the Nene potteries, with administrative capitals like Silchester, and the coastal ports.

At a best guess there were between 8000-10,000 miles of roads constructed during the first hundred years of Roman occupation. There was a third level of roads at the local level, connecting villas, temples, farms, and villages to larger roads and market towns.

Roman Roads in Britain

The full extent of this road building is clear when you consider that according estimates by historians, no village or farm was more than 7 miles from a purpose-built road! The most vital priority was the movement of troops and supplies from the channel ports of Richborough, Dover, and Lympne to the military centres at London, Colchester, and the front-line legionary forts.

The first frontier was set up along a road extending from Exeter to Lincoln, running through Bath, Gloucester, and Leicester. This was known as the Fosse Way, the first great Roman road in Britain. The Fosse Way has been largely adapted by modern highways.

The next military push established a new frontier between Lincoln and York, Wroxeter and Chester, and Gloucester and Caerleon. After these “front-line” roads had been established. The Romans turned their attention to expanding the network of minor roads within their new possessions, to better aid the flow of trade.

It is a fallacy to think that Roman roads are always straight. The Roman engineers were no fools – if there was a natural obstacle in the way, the road naturally deviated to go around it. The Romans had yet to invent front axle steering, so sharp corners where avoided.

That said, for the most part Roman roads were laid out in straight lines between sighting landmarks. Small hills were cut through, and wet ground covered by causeways, or timber embankments. So, how did the Romans build these famous roads of theirs?

The roads were literally highways, raised up on a cambered bank of material dug from roadside ditches. In general there were 3 layers. The first layer of large stones was covered by a second layer of smaller stones, then a top layer of gravel or small stones. Each layer varied in depth from 2-12 inches. The choice of material depended upon what was locally available; in the chalk areas like the Wessex Downs a mix of chalk, flint, and gravel was used. The paved area was edged with upright stones to give stability, and the major roads had ditches to each side, about 84 feet apart.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the road system fell into a state of disrepair and by the end of the Middle Ages, there was in effect no road system in the country. The only routes available were unpaved tracks, muddy and impassable in winter and dusty and impassable in summer. Diversions around particularly poor stretches resulted in sinuous alignments. The state of the roads combined with the general lawlessness at the time meant only the determined or insane travelled them.

Further Reading

Roads in Roman Britain, Hugh Davies, The History Press Ltd (14 Mar 2008

Roman Roads (Shire archaeology series), Richard W Bagshawe, Shire Publications Ltd (26 April 1979)

The Roads of the Romans (Getty Trust Publications: J. Paul Getty Museum), Romolo Augusto Staccioli, J. Paul Getty Museum; illustrated edition edition (1 Oct 2003)

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Barbarian Conspiracy

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In the late Roman period Britain had become the bread basket of the Northern Empire, providing vast amounts of grain to the army stationed along the Rhine and in Gaul. It had become a valuable region of the empire, and so was a target for raiders seeking loot.

In AD 367 Roman Britain was under attack from the Picts in the north, Irish and Saxons, many people at the time believed there may have been a conspiracy, including Ammianus Marcellinus, a contemporary historian, who called it Barbaica Conspiratio or Barbarian Conspiracy.

Barbarian Conspiracy

The question today is, what there a conspiracy or were the multiple attacks just a coincidence. For over a year the Empire had been fighting on several boarders against the Alamanni, Sarmatians, Austaraini and the Goths. It is just possible that the Empire was seen as vulnerable, and it was coincidence that they all attacked at a similar time. Empire was over stretched and the barbarians were able to take advantage of this.

In 337, thirty years prior, Constantine died, and the empire was divided between his three sons, Constantine II (Britain, Spain and Gaul), Constans (Italy, Balkans and Africa) and Constantius was given the East. There were now three emperors, who were all highly ambitious. In 340 AD Constantine II invaded Italy, civil war erupted and during the conflict Constantine was killed. Which allowed Constans to absorb Britain, Spain and Gaul.

There were now a Western and Eastern Emperor, but in the west things were still tense and unsettled. By 350 Constans had been usurped by Magnentius who retained control of the west until 353 AD, when he was over thrown by Constantius II.

The Empire, especially in the west had been in turmoil since the death of Constantine, civil war and usurpation had added to the chaos. So its understandable that some of the barbarian tribes decided to take advantage of the situation. The first sign of this would be in 360 AD when the Picts and Scots broke a peace treaty, laying waste to the countryside near the Northern Frontier in Britain. The alarm was raised, and the Emperor responded by sending Lupiciaus, master of cavalry, who was a stout and fierce soldier, with a great deal of experience to deal with the troubles in Britain. During this time the Alamanni were causing trouble in Gaul and elsewhere.

By 364 AD the empire was under assault by numerous barbarian peoples. The Alamanni were ravaging Gaul and Raetia, the Sarmatians and Quadi were attacking Pamania. Back in Britain Picts, Scots, Saxons and Attacoti were bringing misery and conflict. Africa was under attack from Austariani (Moors) and the Goths were plundering parts of Thrace and Moesia. On top of all this Persia was stirring in the east. The Roman army would have been stretched beyond breaking point, unable to meet all of the threats. Troops would have been pulled from regions to cope with the most severe threats, which would have left those regions vulnerable.

AD 367 is described as the year of the Barbarian Conspiracy. In Britain there was a concerted invasion by land and sea. Four peoples attacked Britain that year from different directions, attacking different regions of Britain. For the conspiracy to have worked, would have meant that it would have to been agreed upon in the years preceding AD 367.

There is no real evidence to support a barbarian conspiracy. For this conspiracy to have worked, then you would also have to add the attacks in other parts of the empire as well, because these attacks helped to pull troops away who could been sent to aid Britain. In the late fourth century this really wouldn’t have been logistically possible for all of these tribes to have worked together, and make a conspiracy work.

Though there was serious troubles during this period in Britain. Hadrian’s Wall had to be repaired in places due to the troubles. Parts of Kent were plundered, though these were probably more opportunistic rather than part of some conspiracy.

There was a degree of social unrest during this time amongst the populous, and the attacks by the Northern tribes occurred because of this situation, attacking and taking advantage of the fact that the Roman army was preoccupied. Local Roman military was over stretched and weak, the Picts took advantage, roving at large and causing devastation, but this was more raiding rather than a concentrated invasion by a well organised army.

The Romans eventually sent Theodosius the elder with a group of regiments to restore order in Britain.

Saxons

The Saxons were a confederation of tribes from the Saxony region of Northern Germania. They started settling in mainland Britain from the 5th Century onwards, though the number of Saxon migrants is not known. It is also known through written documentation dating between the 4th and 5th Centuries AD that Saxon pirates were raiding the coastal region of Britain.

The Saxons may have derived their name from seax, a kind of knife for which they were known. The seax has a lasting symbolic impact in the English counties of Essex and Middlesex, both of which feature three seaxes in their ceremonial emblem.

Picts.

The Picts were a confederation of tribes living in the eastern and northern area of Scotland. They became prominent as power in Northern Britain during the Dark Ages, raiding Northern England via land and sea.

The name the Picts called themselves is unknown. The Latin word Picti first
mentioned by Eumenius in AD 297 and is taken to mean “painted or tattooed people. It seems from this written evidence that they had been a problem for the Roman military for some time prior to this. The word in old Norse for Pict is Pettir meaning painted or pirate.

The Picts inhabited Northern Britain  above Hadrian’s Wall from at least 297 -858 AD, though it is puzzling that they aren’t mentioned before by Roman historians and contemporary writers if the tribe is indigenous to Britain. Though some believe that they may have been descendants of Caledonian Britain’s.

They carried out raids over land and sea/river using small boats or coracles deep into Roman territory in the Northern military zone around Hadrian’s Wall, though it seems that they may also have raided far south as Wales.

Settlements in Roman Britain

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First of all what is a Roman town or city, there are several types of towns and cities during the Romano British period and each of these types were distinguished by many factors. Below are short descriptions of the types of settlements that were typical during the Romano British period. 

Civitas Capital; This is the town from which a tribal canton (civitas) was ruled. The civities was a body of citizens as a political entity called a canton.

Client Kingdom; Client Kingdoms were usually ruled by native chiefs who had become Romanized and acted as administrators to these kingdoms. The kingdoms in turn were provided with financial and military support from the Romans, a client kingdom could help stabilize a potentially chaotic region. Chiefs of these kingdoms would sign a declaration that upon his/her death a percentage of the land and wealth would automatically be given to Roman possession, this was partly responsible for the Boudicca uprising, upon the death of her husband.

Settlements in Roman Britain

Colonia; A colonia is a town/city, reserved for retired military veterans. Veterans were granted land, this also meant they assisted in the control of the provinces. In Britain there were at least four known cities? These were Colchester, Gloucester, Lincoln and York. It is possible that Londinium was elevated to a colonia status, but this is not known for definite, as yet there is no archaeological  evidence to support this  theory.

Municipum; A municipum was a civitas capital, which had been singled out for special treatment. The citizens of a municipum were given the status of “Latin”, which meant they were more than a provincial, but at the same time it didn’t quite carry the same prestige as being a citizen of Rome. Verilanium is certain to have been one of these , but it is not known if there were any other in Britain.

Oppidum; Oppidum is a latin word for town, this was used to describe large native settlements in Britain and Gaul. Camulodunum and Calieva Atrebate both started as oppidums, which eventually became important Roman cities, Camulodunum was eventually raised to the status of a Colonia.

Overview of Roman Britain

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For over 400 years the Romans governed Britain, and they brought with them their culture, architecture, religion, language and military. The Roman army first arrived under Julius Cesar in 55/54 BC. The first invasion was unsuccessful, leading to a 2nd attempt the following year.

Cesar defeated Cassivelanus in the area which is known as Hertfordshire, on this occasion the Romans didn’t stay, trade contracts were increased, but there would be no permanent Roman presence until the invasion by Claudius in AD 43.

Then from AD 43 Britain would be known as Britannia, and would become a Roman Province for over 400 years. The legions quickly established themselves in South England, and very quickly colonies were established at Colchester and Lincoln further north. Road networks were built allowing troops to move quickly across the country.

It took 30 years to conquer and quell the tribes in Britain, with only one major setback in AD 60 when Boudicca and the Iceni revolted. They sacked Londinum and ran amok, before being destroyed on the field of battle.

Agricola led the first incursions into Scotland in AD 80, which resulted in the defeat of the Caledonians in AD 84. By 87 AD the highlands of Scotland were abandoned, by 105 AD the Roman army abandoned the Scottish lowlands as well. A new frontier was established along the Stanegate (Tyne-Solway line).

Then in AD 120 Hadrian visited the Island, and establishes a permanent frontier between the Solway and the Tyne. This is known today as Hadrian’s Wall, running over 80 km, it stood as a symbol of Roman power for centuries. It was also an important military zone in Britain and Europe, due to the country becoming a major producer of grain for the empire.

Some resources for delving into the Late Roman period

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The resources will take the form of web links for suitable miniatures, painting advice, scenery and web sites with useful information.

Some resources for delving into the Late Roman period

Late Roman/Dark Age Miniatures

Recently two miniature producers have brought out onto the market plastic Vikings and this will be a our first port of call, because everyone wants a Viking horde.

Gripping Beast; Are one of two miniature manufacturers who have produced a box of plastic viking minis. Over 40 vikings in each box, the price tag of £17 is a bargain

Artizan Designs produce a range of miniatures for the Dark Ages that include Romano British and Vikings. Theses are a nice range of minis, and a great addition to a box of plastics from Gripping Beast.

Renegade Miniatures produce a nice batch of Saxons, and at an excellent price as well. These are well worth investing in if Vikings don’t float your boat.

If you’re more interested in native Dark Age British armies then take a swing over to West Wind Productions and take a look at the Arthurian range. These guys produce armies for the Romano British, Welsh and Irish , along with Saxons. These are very nice, I’ve picked up some of Arthurian character packs, as there are some really nice miniatures amongst them.

Some resources for delving into the Late Roman period

Web Links

the first web link is An Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields , all the information provided is for gaming in 9th Century. There are plenty of articles, campaign and ideas on gaming in the Dark Ages, this site is well worth checking out.

Anglo Saxon England;  this site has some very useful and interesting articles about the period King Cnut and the English Church 1014 – 1035 AD.

King Arthur; The Britannia site is a good starting point for information regarding King Arthur.

Sub Roman Period: This gazetteer look’s at the late Roman and early years of the Dark Age. It concerns itself more with the archaeology of the period, but it does provide some excellent detail on the period in question. It well worth a read, and bookmarking for future reference. The gazetteer is written by Chris Snyder author of  An Age of Tyrants: Britain, AD 400-600. University Park, PA: Penn State U. Press.

This next web page is also written by Chris, and is a good introduction to period, I would recommend that people go here first, and then the Gazetteer site.

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