We, of course, would like to see Theoderic more enlightened still. Then by a familiar rhetorical ploy he could be the idealized barbarian with his fresh ideas from outside the gray world of civilization. He was enlightened only up to a point: refusing to impose belief, and refusing to transgress the laws. He resembles Hadrian more than an American president—stern in modesty, but stern nonetheless. His gentleness was an ancient trait, soon to be rendered obsolete by Justinian’s more modern integration of religion and politics. Toleration has had to be relearned by many modern generations, and religious exclusion roars back repeatedly without much invitation.
Everything Theoderic did as monarch, I am tempted to say, embodied this Hadrianic moderation and calm. What if you did not know he was supposed to be different, supposed to be a “barbarian”? What if you knew he was born inside Roman boundaries (he probably was), and if you knew he had changed his name to Hadrianus?