When it is merely a luminous disk round the head, it is called specifically a nimbus, while the combination of nimbus and aureole is called a glory.
The strict distinction between nimbus and aureole is not commonly maintained, and the latter term is most frequently used to denote the radiance round the heads of saints, angels or persons of the Godhead.
The nimbus in Christian art appeared first in the 5th century, but practically the same device was known still earlier, though its history is obscure, in non-Christian art.
From this early astrological use the form of "glory" or "nimbus" has been adapted or inherited under new beliefs.
It is highly illustrative of the tenacity with which the ancient sepulchral usages were retained even after the introduction of Christianity that King Harold, son and successor of Gorm the Old, who is said to have christianized all Denmark and Norway, followed the pagan custom of erecting a chambered tumulus over the remains of his father, on the summit of which was placed a rude pillar-stone, bearing on one side the memorial inscription in runes, and on the other a representation of the Saviour of mankind distinguished by the crossed nimbus surrounding the head.
The Fehrbellin affair was a mere skirmish, the actual casualties amounting to less than 600 men, but it rudely divested Sweden of her nimbus of invincibility and was the signal for a general attack upon her, known as the Scanian War.
"Trample on me without ceremony," he wrote to Kossuth on this occasion, "but for God's sake don't use the nimbus of your popularity to plunge Hungary into chaos."