Scala/Art Resource, NY

Secular and divine law meet in the Roman emperor Justinian (527–565), at center. He offers a gold paten, or ecclesiastical plate, to his archbishop Maximianus, who probably commissioned this mosaic in the apse of San Vitale, in Ravenna. To the left stands the imperial guard; at right are clerics. Justinian’s halo is a sign of his divine right to wear the jeweled, imperial crown. Courtly images of Theodoric similar to these probably filled the now-curtained niches of Theodoric’s palatium.

Justinian’s troops destroyed Ostrogoth Arianism in Italy. Procopius, the emperor’s official historian, described Justinian as a ruthless warrior: “Without the slightest hesitation he used to embark on the inexcusable murdering of his fellow-men.”