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date: 19 April 2024



  • George M. A. Hanfmann
  •  and Roger Ling


A circular cloud of light which surrounds the heads of gods or emperors (Serv. on Aen. 2. 616, 3. 587) and heroes. The belief that light radiates from a sacred or divine person is a common one and the nimbus only a special form which was developed in classical religion and art. Assyrian art, for instance, represents some gods with rays around their shoulders, and Greek art shows deities of light, such as *Helios, with a radiate crown. Greek vases and Etruscan mirrors of the 5th cent. bce afford the earliest examples of nimbus, often combined with the crown of rays. This hybrid form is also found at *Palmyra in the 1st cent. ad. Under the Roman empire the plain, smooth form tends to prevail. In Pompeian wall-paintings (see pompeii) it is still associated primarily with the deities of light, such as *Apollo-Helios and *Diana, but almost all pagan gods of any importance are occasionally represented with a nimbus; in the 2nd and 3rd cents.


  • Christianity
  • Roman Material Culture
  • Roman Myth and Religion

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