His buildings speak to us of him as well. Some we know indirectly from contemporary reports: palace buildings in Ravenna, Pavia, and Verona, with great sculptures of the triumphant monarch outside. In thirty years, Theoderic never finished the great palace he undertook in Ravenna, but every successor regime there used it until it fell to ruin long after. The pattern was entirely imperial, complete with a connection to the circus where the ruler could watch the horse races. You could see Theoderic on horseback in a portrait in the “Seaview dining room” (triclinium ad mare), and also standing between figures representing the cities of Rome and Ravenna over the grand entrance to the palace. At Ravenna, he also restored an aqueduct built in Trajan’s reign, to ensure the water supply. Some of his work there survives more or less intact; one example is the church of San Apollinare Nuovo, which was Theoderic’s palace church. The original decoration included mosaic portraits of Theo
These whispers were far from Theoderic’s mind in 519. All was in order and all was prepared for an orderly succession and a long and glorious future.
Then Eutharic died unexpectedly in 522 or 523, and without the crucial certainty of succession, the world Theoderic had brought together began to come undone.
Civility and toleration
Civility and toleration were the hallmarks of Theoderic’s rule in Italy—he said as much himself. If they were the civility and toleration we find in strong-armed imperial orders, they were still real, but they were not the whole of his regime, nor was his regime the whole of life in Italy. To do jus¬tice to him and to understand what was lost when his successors destroyed what he had built, we have to slow down and marvel at how life went on in his land and time.
Theoderic was not merely lucky. A good reputation follows those who are well spoken of by their contemporaries, especially when they make sure to have contempo
Eutharic was named consul for the year 519, under the proud eye of Theoderic and notionally alongside the new emperor, Justin, as fellow consul, though of course they never laid eyes on each other. More dramatically, Justin proclaimed Eutharic his “son in arms” by an honorary adoption conferring recognition and acceptance of the highest kind. The aged Anastasius, who had been emperor since 491, had always been suspicious of Theoderic, but left him alone for the last decade, preoccupied in part by worries closer to home. Justin, more a barbarian than Theoderic ever was, came down out of the Balkans to make his way in the imperial army, and then followed talent to the top—we’ll watch him make the final leap. Theoderic clearly thought that he could now proclaim his own heritage more grandly, without imperiling the position he had succeeded in obtaining, and using this renewed statement of his Gothic identity to improve his standing both at home and in Visigothic Iberia. Whether
Foltyn stood as if thunderstruck. All the blood receded from his face. Horror and fright were depicted in it. He stooped down to the keyhole. Within he beheld the baron wholly changed. In his pale, handsome countenance there was not a single trace of sleepiness, and his dark eyes flashed with passion underneath the thin, proud brows. Uplifting by the chin Marianka`s beautiful face, flushed deep scarlet with shame, he gazed lustfully upon her heaving bosom. Her eyes were cast down, in one hand she held the statuette, in the other the tousled tuft of variegated feathers.
Foltyn put his hands up to his gray head. Anguish contracted his throat. Through his head rushed a whirl of terrible thoughts. Already he had reached for the door-knob, then quickly jerked his hand away. No! To have the baron learn that Marianka`s father had listened to his words, to stand, shamed, and apprehended in an abominable deed before his own servant—no, that must not be! All of Foltyn`s inbo
Several days passed. The baroness continued enthusiastic about the delights of country life and devoted herself with great eagerness to the education of Marietta as a lady`s maid. Marietta often stood in front of the mirror wearing the coquettish cap and holding in her soft hand the large tuft of many-colored feathers which the mistress had purchased for her for brushing off the dust.
Often, too, she sat on the low stool, her eyes gazing dreamily somewhere into the distance, where, in imagina-tion, she saw tall buildings, beautifully dressed people, and splendid equipages. Frequently she would bury her head in her hands, and lose herself in deep thought. The baron would sit idly in the easy- chair, smoking and yawning. The steward and his wife rid themselves of all fears of their eminent guests. Beruska made friends with the purple footman, playing “Twenty-six” with him in the office behind closed doors when they lighted their pipes.
Once towards evening t
“Here, dear child!” she said to her, agreeably, pointing to the floating cobweb.
The girl bowed awkwardly, and for an instant under her light lashes there was a flash of dark blue as she stepped timidly forward. The brush did not reach the cobweb. She had to step up on her tiptoes. Her entire face flushed with a beautiful red glow, her dark-blue eye lifted itself towards the ceiling, her delicate white throat was in full outline, and below it there appeared among the fringes of the yellow shawl a string of imitation corals on the snowwhite folds of her blouse. Add to this the dainty foot of a princess and acknowledge—it was an alluring picture.
Objectionable had been removed
When all that was objectionable had been removed, the baroness tapped Marianka graciously on the shoulder and asked, “What is your name?”
“Marie Foltynova,” whispered the girl.
“Foltyn? Foltyn? What is your father?”
“You might better get a pug-dog, my dear!”
The baroness flashed an angry glance at her husband. Her lips opened to make response to his offensive levity, but she thought better of it. She held the statuette carefully and swished disdainfully past the baron in the direction of a rounded niche in the wall. She was just about to deposit her charming burden when suddenly, as if stung by a serpent, she recoiled and extended a finger towards her husband. The dust of many years accumulated in the niche had left its gray trace.
“Look” she cried.
“Look!” he repeated, pointing towards the ceiling. From the bouquet of fantastic flowers there hung a long, floating cobweb on which an ugly spider was distinctly swinging.
“You wouldn`t listen to my warnings. Well, here you have an intro-duction to that heavenly rural idyll of which you raved.”
The baroness drew down her lips in disgust at the spider and in dis-pleasure at her husb
In the carriage sat a gentleman and a lady. He was of middle age, wore elegant black clothes and had a smooth, oval, white face with deep shadows around the eyes. He appeared fatigued and sleepy, and yawned at times. The lady was young, a fresh-looking brunette with a fiery, active glance. She was dressed in light colors and with a sort of humorous, coquettish smile she gazed all around.
When they entered the driveway, where practically all the occupants of the castle welcomed them with respectful curtsies, the dark gentleman fixed his weary, drowsy eyes on old Foltyn who stood in the foreground with loosely hanging mustaches, with endless devotion in his honest blue eyes, and with an expression of contrite grief in his wrinkled face, his patriarchal drum at his hip..
The baron looked intently for a while at this interesting relic of the inheritance from his ancestors, then the muscles of the languid face twitched and his lordship relieved his mood by loud, candi
The rooms on the first floor, reserved for the nobility, were filled with superfluous luxury. The spiders, their only occupants, let themselves down on fine threads from the glitteringly colored ceilings to the soft carpets and wove their delicate webs around the ornamentally carved arms of chairs, upholstered in velvet. The officials and servants in the castle knew their masters only by hearsay. They painted them as they could, with ideal colors, to be sure.
From letters, from various rumors carried from one manor to the next, from imagination, they put together pictures of all these personages who, from a distance, like gods, with invisible hands reached out and controlled their destinies. In clear outlines there appeared the images of barons, baronesses, the young baronets and sisters, the maids, nurses, the wrinkled, bewigged proctor, the English governess with a sharp nose, the fat footman, the peculiarities of each were known to them to the minutest detail.
When that mysterious sound was followed by no other she doubtless threw a shawl over her gray braids and running to the cottage across the way, met its occupant and read on her lips the same question her own were forming: “What happened to old Foltyn that he finished his afternoon artistic perform-ance with such an unheard of turn?”
It happened thus: If you had stood in Foltyn`s place at the stated moment and if you had had his falcon eyes you would have descried beyond the wood at the turn of the wagon-road some sort of dark object which with magic swiftness approached the village. Later you would have distinguished a pair of horses and a carriage of a type never before seen in those regions.
When the gate-keeper had arrived at this result of his observation, he recovered suddenly from the absolute petrifaction into which he had been bewitched by the appearance of the object and raced as fast as his legs would allow back to the castle.