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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.



Bryan Ward-Perkins

Vatican, an extramural area of the city of Rome, on the right bank of the *Tiber around the mons Vaticanus. In the early empire the Vatican was the site of an imperial park (the horti Agrippinae); and of entertainment structures, the Naumachiae (see naumachia), where mock sea-battles were exhibited, and the Vatican *circus, where *Gaius(1) set up a great obelisk from Heliopolis and which was traditionally the site of the martyrdom of St Peter. There was also an important shrine of *Cybele (or the Magna Mater) attested in inscriptions; and along the two roads that crossed the area, the via Cornelia and the via Triumphalis, were cemeteries. A group of mausolea on the foot-slopes of the mons Vaticanus were excavated under St Peter's in the 1940s, and within this cemetery (directly under the high altar of St Peter's) was found a small 2nd-cent. shrine, marking the probable burial-site of Peter, apostle and first bishop of Rome.