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Northern Neil

Mausoleum of Theodoric

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Been a while. folks... Anyway. The Mausoleum of Theodoric. Often described as Ostrogothic Architecture, particularly by people who want to deny the collapse of the West as being a 'thing' and to assert that the successor Germanic kingdoms (and the Avars, Huns, Slavs etc) where at a similar level of civilisation as the Mediterranean world of the Classical era. To me, this seems to be  a Roman building in every sense of the term, derived directly from classical styles of architecture, designed and built by Roman architects and builders. Because, of course, by 490 people in Italy had not stopped calling themselves Romans, speaking Latin, or building monumental structures. The only thing that makes it Ostrogothic is that it was commissioned by the leading warlord of the region ,  who happened to be Ostrogothic. What do you all think? 


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First, the vast majority of Italians would never have thought themselves as Ostrogoths.  (Similarly, I don't think many in England (except the ruling elite, of course) would have thought of themselves as French after the Norman invasion.)

Second, by 490 AD, the disruption of the Roman Empire was complete. I'm not so sure many in Italy still thought of themselves as Roman, either. The irreversible preeminence of the city state had already begun. Even Belasarius, the "Last of the Romans," could not reassemble the fractured empire by 539 AD. 

As an aside, even modern Italians have been resistant to the concept of a national state. With the formation of modern Italy in 1861, Prime Minister d'Azeglio wrote, "L'Italia è fatta. Restano da fare gli italiani." ("We have made Italy. Now we must make Italians.") Many in Italy even today doubt that d'Azeglio's dream of a unified Italy has been realized.


guy also known as gaius

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I think you're right @Northern Neil. The Mausoleum of Theodoric is not an Ostrogothic building, because this is Roman architecture and, not to denigrate the Goths, but it seems unlikely that they could lift such an enormous and heavy stone dome. Germanic people used to be excellent goldsmiths and blacksmiths rather than architects: their masterpieces were jewellery and ornaments, like brooches, since they didn't live in big cities and they moved quite often, so they couldn't develop a great art of architecture. At that time Goths should have relied on local manpower and architects and I cannot understand why this could seem strange to some people. Even if at different times and in different ways both Goths and Lombards adapted to the Roman/Byzantine/Italian representation of power, which involves building great buildings like palaces, mausoleums and even churches.

Think of the Tempietto di Cividale del friuli, for example: the chapel is built around 750 AD and architecture, sculptures and paintings are clearly classical (maybe the artists were Greek-Byzantine). After 2 very complicated centuries of cohabitation with the locals, Lombards embraced the Mediterranean style in art and representation of power (for reasons that now would be too long to explain). Cividale is an example of Lombard art too, but this doesn't mean that it was made by the Lombards, just like the Mausoleum of Theodoric was not built by the Goths. 

Finally, think of the Normans in Sicily. When they arrived they hadn't the abilities to build great buildings like the Byzantines and the Arabs, so they employed them to build the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, a wonderful example of melting pot culture. The Mediterrean art was better than the "barbarian" one to glorify the kings, so the barbarian kings who came to Italy just adapted. Different cultures, different arts: the art of the Gothic and Lombard kings were similar to Roman and Bizantine art since they were kings of Italy, or at least kings in Italy.

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Theodric is the guy who beat Clovis I.  

But this did not secure peace between the new kinsmen of Theodoric. In 499 Chlodovech fell on Gundobad, to strip him of his realm, routed him, and shut him up in Avignon, the southernmost of his strongholds; but after many successes the Frank lost all that he had gained, and turned instead to attack the king of the Visigoths. Theodoric strove unsuccessfully to prevent both wars, and was not a little displeased when, in 507, his brother-in-law Chlodovech overran southern Gaul, and slew his son-in-law Alaric in battle. Burgundian and Frank then united to destroy the Visigoths, and might have done so had not Theodoric intervened. The heir of the Visigothic throne was now Amalric, the son of Alaric and of the king of Italy’s daughter. To defend his grandson’s realm Theodoric declared war both on Chlodovech and on Gundobad, and sent his armies over the Alps to save the remnants of the Visigothic possessions in Gaul. One host crossed the Cottian Alps, and fell on Burgundy; another entered Provence, and smote the Frank and Burgundian besiegers of Aries. With his usual good fortune, Theodoric recovered all Gaul south of the Durance and the Cevennes (509), so that the conquests of Chlodovech were confined to Aquitaine.

Oman, Charles. The Dark Ages 476-918 A.D. (pp. 20-21). Augustine Books. Kindle Edition. 

Edited by dnewhous

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