Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, and afterwards also king of Italy, was born at Amali, near Vienna, in 455, and died in 526. Though a Goth, he was so far from delighting in the destruction of public monuments, and works of art, that he issued edicts for their preservation at Rome and throughout Italy, and assigned revenues for the repair of the public edifices, for which purpose he employed the most skillful and learned architects, particularly Aloïsius, Boëtius, and Symmachus. According to Cassiodorus (lib. ii. Varior. Epist. xxxix.), Theodoric said: "It is glorious to preserve the works of antiquity; and it is our duty to restore the most useful and the most beautiful." Symmachus had the direction of the buildings constructed or rebuilt at Rome. The king thus wrote to him: "You have constructed fine edifices; you have, moreover, disposed of them with so much wisdom that they equal those of antiquity, and serve as examples to the moderns; and all you show us is a perfect image of the excellence of your mind, because it is not possible to build correctly without good sense and a well cultivated understanding."

In his directions to the Prefect of Rome, on the architecture of the public edifices, Theodoric thus wrote:

"The beauty of the Roman buildings requires a skillful overseer, in order that such a wonderful forest of edifices should be preserved with constant care, and the new ones properly constructed, both internally and externally. Therefore we direct our generosity not only to the preservation of ancient things, but to the investing the new ones with the glories of antiquity. Be it known, therefore, to your illustrious person, that for this end an architect of the Roman walls is appointed. And because the study of the arts requires assistance, we desire that he may have every reasonable accommodation that his predecessors have enjoyed. He will certainly see things superior to what he has read of, and more beautiful than he could ever have imagined. The statues still feel their renowned authors, and appear to live: he will observe expressed in the bronze, the veins, the muscles swollen by exertion, the nerves gradually stretched, and the figure expressing those feelings which act on a living subject.

"It is said that the first artists in Italy were the Etruscans, and thus posterity has given to them, as well as to Rome, almost the power of creating man. How wonderful are the horses, so full of spirit, with their fiery nostrils, their sparkling eyes, their easy and graceful limbs;—they would move, if not of metal. And what shall we say of those lofty, slender, and finely fluted columns, which appear a part of the sublime structure they support? That appears wax, which is hard and elegant metal; the joints in the marble being like natural veins. The beauty of art is to deceive the eye. Ancient historians acquaint us with only seven wonders in the world: the Temple of Diana, at Ephesus; the magnificent sepulchre of the king Mausolus, from whence is derived the word mausoleum; the bronze Colossus of the Sun, in Rhodes; the statue of Jupiter Olympius, of gold and ivory, formed by the masterly hand of Phidias, the first of architects; the palace of Cyrus, King of Media, built by Memnon of stones united by gold; the walls of Babylon, constructed by Semiramis of brick, pitch, and iron; the pyramids of Egypt, the shadows of which do not extend beyond the space of their construction. But who can any longer consider these as wonders, after having seen so many in Rome? Those were famous because they preceded us; it is natural that the new productions of the then barbarous ages should be renowned. It may truly be said that all Rome is wonderful. We have therefore selected a man clever in the arts, who, in seeing so many ingenious things of antiquity, instead of remaining merely enchanted with them, has set himself to work to investigate the reason, study their books, and instruct himself, that he may become as learned as those in the place of whom he is to consider himself appointed."

Milizia says of Theodoric, "Is this the language of a Gothic barbarian, the destroyer of good taste? Pericles, Alexander, Adrian, or one of the Medici could not have reasoned better." And again, "Can these Goths be the inventors of that architecture vulgarly called Gothic? and are these the barbarians said to have been the destroyers of the beautiful monuments of antiquity? Ecclesiastical history gives to the good Christians and the jealous ecclesiastics the honor of having dismantled temples, and disfigured statues in Italy, Greece, Asia, and Egypt. *  *  * It is clear that the Goths were not the authors of that architecture called Gothic. The Goths and barbarians who overran Italy had not any characteristic architecture, good or bad. They brought with them neither architects, painters, nor poets. They were all soldiers, and when fixed in Italy employed Italian artists; but as in that country, good taste was much on the decline, it now became more debased, notwithstanding the efforts made by the Goths to revive it."