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Lares ( , ; archaic , singular ''Lar'') were guardian deities in
ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in so far as they became widel ...
. Their origin is uncertain; they may have been hero-ancestors, guardians of the hearth, fields, boundaries, or fruitfulness, or an amalgamation of these. Lares were believed to observe, protect, and influence all that happened within the boundaries of their location or function. The statues of domestic Lares were placed at the table during family meals; their presence, cult, and blessing seem to have been required at all important family events. Roman writers sometimes identify or conflate them with ancestor-deities, domestic
Penates In ancient Roman religion, the Di Penates () or Penates ( ) were among the ''dii familiares'', or household deities, invoked most often in domestic rituals. When the family had a meal, they threw a bit into the fire on the hearth for the Penates. ...
, and the hearth. Because of these associations, Lares are sometimes categorised as household gods, but some had much broader domains. Roadways, seaways, agriculture, livestock, towns, cities, the state, and its military were all under the protection of their particular Lar or Lares. Those who protected local neighbourhoods ('' vici'') were housed in the crossroad shrines (''
Compitalia In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in s ...
''), which served as a focus for the religious, social, and political lives of their local, overwhelmingly
plebeian In ancient Rome, the plebeians (also called plebs) were the general body of free Roman citizenship, Roman citizens who were not Patrician (ancient Rome), patricians, as determined by the capite censi, census, or in other words "commoners". Both ...
communities. Their cult officials included freedmen and slaves, otherwise excluded by status or property qualifications from most administrative and religious offices. Compared to Rome's major deities, Lares had limited scope and potency, but archaeological and literary evidence attests to their central role in Roman identity and religious life. By analogy, a homeward-bound Roman could be described as returning ''ad Larem'' (to the Lar). Despite official bans on non-Christian cults from the late fourth century AD onwards, unofficial cults to Lares persisted until at least the early fifth century AD.


Origins and development

Archaic Rome's
Etruscan__NOTOC__ Etruscan may refer to: Ancient civilisation *The Etruscan language, an extinct language in ancient Italy *Something derived from or related to the Etruscan civilization **Etruscan architecture **Etruscan art **Etruscan cities **Etruscan ...

Etruscan
neighbours practiced domestic, ancestral, or family cults very similar to those offered by later Romans to their Lares. The word itself seems to derive from the
Etruscan__NOTOC__ Etruscan may refer to: Ancient civilisation *The Etruscan language, an extinct language in ancient Italy *Something derived from or related to the Etruscan civilization **Etruscan architecture **Etruscan art **Etruscan cities **Etruscan ...
, , or , meaning "lord". Ancient Greek and Roman authors offer "
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es" and " ''daimones''" as translations of "Lares"; the early Roman playwright
Plautus Titus Maccius Plautus (; c. 254 – 184 BC), commonly known as Plautus, was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome ...

Plautus
(''circa'' 254–184 BC) employs a '' ''as a guardian of treasure on behalf of a family, as a plot equivalent to the Greek playwright
Menander Menander (; grc-gre, Μένανδρος ''Menandros''; c. 342/41 – c. 290 BC) was a Greek dramatist and the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy. He wrote 108 comedies and took the prize at the Lenaia festival eight times. His r ...

Menander
's use of a ''
heroon
heroon
'' (as an ancestral hero-shrine). Weinstock proposes a more ancient equivalence of Lar and Greek ''hero'', based on his gloss of a fourth-century BC Latin dedication to the Roman ancestor-hero Aeneas as ''Lare'' (Lar). No physical Lar images survive from before the Late Republican era, but literary references (such as Plautus' singular Lar, above) suggest that cult could be offered to a single Lar, and sometimes many more; in the case of the obscure ''Lares Grundules'', perhaps 30. By the early Imperial era, they had become paired divinities, probably through the influences of Greek religion – in particular, the heroic twin
Dioscuri Castor; grc, Κάστωρ, Kástōr, beaver. and Pollux. (or in Greek, Polydeukes.) are twin half-brothers in Greek mythology, Greek and Roman mythology, known together as the Dioscuri.; grc, Διόσκουροι, Dióskouroi, sons of Zeus, li ...
– and the iconography of Rome's semidivine founder-twins,
Romulus and Remus 350px, Altar to Mars (divine father of Romulus and Remus) and Venus (their divine ancestress) depicting elements of their legend. Tiberinus, the Father of the Tiber and the infant twins being suckled by a she-wolf in the Ostia, now at the Na ...

Romulus and Remus
. Lares are represented as two small, youthful, lively male figures clad in short, rustic, girdled tunics – made of dogskin, according to Plutarch. They take a dancer's attitude, tiptoed or lightly balanced on one leg. One arm raises a drinking horn (''
rhyton A rhyton (plural rhytons or, following the Greek plural, rhyta) is a roughly conical container from which fluids were intended to be drunk or to be poured in some ceremony such as libation A libation is a ritual A ritual is a sequence ...

rhyton
'') aloft as if to offer a toast or libation; the other bears a shallow libation dish (''
patera In the of , a ''phiale'' ( ) or ''patera'' () is a shallow ceramic or metal bowl. It often has a bulbous indentation (', "bellybutton") in the center underside to facilitate holding it, in which case it is sometimes called a ''mesomphalic phi ...

patera
''). Compitalia shrines of the same period show Lares figures of the same type. Painted shrine-images of paired Lares show them in mirrored poses to the left and right of a central figure, understood to be an ancestral
genius A genius is a person who displays exceptional ability, productivity, universality in genres, or , typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of new discoveries or advances in a domain of . Geniuses may be s who excel across ma ...
.


Their domains

Lares belonged within the "bounded physical domain" under their protection, and seem to have been as innumerable as the places they protected. Some appear to have had overlapping functions and changes of name. Some have no particular or descriptive name: for example, those invoked along with
Mars Mars is the fourth planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydrostatic equilibrium, rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to ...
in the
Carmen Arvale The ''Carmen Arvale'' is the preserved chant of the Arval priests or ''Fratres Arvales'' of ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century B ...
are simply ''Lases'' (an archaic form of ''Lares''), whose divine functions must be inferred from the wording and context of the Carmen itself. Likewise, those invoked along with other deities by the consul
Publius Decius Mus The gens Decia was a plebeian family of high antiquity, which became illustrious in Ancient Rome, Roman history by the example of its members sacrificing themselves for the preservation of their country. The first of the family known to history was ...
as an act of ''devotio'' before his death in battle are simply "Lares". The titles and domains given below cannot, therefore, be taken as exhaustive or definitive. * ''Lares Augusti'': the Lares of
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
, or perhaps "the august Lares", given public cult on the first of August, thereby identified with the inaugural day of Imperial Roman magistracies and with Augustus himself. Official cult to the Lares Augusti continued from their institution through to the 4th century AD. They are identified with the ''Lares Compitalicii'' and ''Lares Praestites'' of Augustan religious reform. * ''Lares Compitalicii'' (also ''Lares Compitales''): the Lares of local communities or neighbourhoods ('' vici''), celebrated at the ''
Compitalia In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in s ...
'' festival. Their shrines were usually positioned at main central crossroads (''compites'') of their ''vici'', and provided a focus for the religious and social life of their communities, particularly for the plebeian and servile masses. The ''Lares Compitalicii'' are synonymous with the ''Lares Augusti'' of Augustan reform. Augustus' institution of cult to the ''Lares Praestites'' was held at the same ''Compitalia'' shrines, but on a different date. *''Lares Domestici'': Lares of the house, they were probably identical with ''Lares Familiares''. *''
Lares Familiares, Madrid Madrid (, ) is the capital and most-populous city of Spain , * gl, Reino de España, * oc, Reiaume d'Espanha, , , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = ...
'': Lares of the family, probably identical with the ''Lares Domestici *''Lares Grundules'': the 30 "grunting Lares" or Lares of the eaves, supposedly were given an altar and cult by Romulus or Aeneas when a sow produced a prodigious farrow of 30 piglets. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the place where the sow bore the piglets and Aeneas made the sacrifice was sacred, and forbidden to foreigners. The sow's body was said to be kept at Lavinium, preserved in salt brine as a sacred object. The 30 piglets would provide the theological justification for the 30 ''populi Albenses'' of the ''feriae Latinae'' (the 30 fortified boroughs supposedly founded by Aeneas at Lavinium), and the 30 ''
curiae Curia ( plural curiae) in referred to one of the original groupings of the citizenry, eventually numbering 30, and later every Roman citizen was presumed to belong to one. While they originally likely had wider powers, they came to meet for only ...
'' of Rome. *''Lar Militaris'': "military Lar", named by Marcianus Capella as member of two distinct cult groupings which include Mars, Jupiter, and other major Roman deities. Palmer (1974) interprets the figure from a probable altar-relief as "something like a ''Lar Militaris''": he is cloaked, and sits horseback on a saddle of panther skin. *''Lares Patrii'': Lares "of the fathers" possibly are equivalent to the ''dii patrii'' (deified ancestors) who received cult at
ParentaliaIn ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman K ...
. *''Lares Permarini'': These Lares protected seafarers; also a temple was dedicated to them (of which one is known at Rome's ''Campus martius''). *''Lares Praestites'': Lares of the city of Rome, later of the Roman state or community; literally, the "Lares who stand before", as guardians or watchmen - they were housed in the state ''
Regia The Regia ("Royal house") was a two-part structure in Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the ear ...

Regia
'', near the temple of Vesta, with whose worship and sacred hearth they were associated; they seem to have protected Rome from malicious or destructive fire. They may have also functioned as the neighbourhood Lares of Octavian (the later emperor Augustus), who owned a house between the Temple of Vesta and the Regia. Augustus later gave this house and care of its Lares to the Vestals: this donation reinforced the religious bonds between the Lares of his household, his neighbourhood, and the State. His Compitalia reforms extended this identification to every neighbourhood Lares shrine. However, ''Lares Praestites'' and the ''Lares Compitales'' (renamed as Lares Augusti) should probably not be considered identical. Their local festivals were held at the same Compitalia shrines, but at different times. *''Lares Privati'' *''Lares Rurales'': Lares of the fields, identified as ''custodes agri'' – guardians of the fields – by
Tibullus Albius Tibullus ( BC19 BC) was a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the ...

Tibullus
*''Lares Viales'': Lares of roads (''viae,'' singular ''via'') and those who travel them


Domestic Lares

Traditional Roman households owned at least one protective Lares-figure, housed in a shrine along with the images of the household's ''penates'', ''
genius A genius is a person who displays exceptional ability, productivity, universality in genres, or , typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of new discoveries or advances in a domain of . Geniuses may be s who excel across ma ...
'' image and any other favoured deities. Their statues were placed at table during family meals and banquets. They were divine witnesses at important family occasions, such as marriages, births, and adoptions, and their shrines provided a religious hub for social and family life. Individuals who failed to attend to the needs of their Lares and their families should expect neither reward nor good fortune for themselves. In Plautus' comedy ''Aulularia'', the Lar of the miserly ''paterfamilias'' Euclio reveals a pot of gold long-hidden beneath his household hearth, denied to Euclio's father because of his stinginess towards his Lar. Euclio's own stinginess deprives him of the gold until he sees the error of his ways; then, he uses it to give his virtuous daughter the dowry she deserves, and all is well. Responsibility for household cult and the behaviour of family members ultimately fell to the family head, the ''
paterfamilias The ''pater familias'', also written as ''paterfamilias'' (plural ''patres familias''), was the head of a Ancient Rome, Roman family. The ''pater familias'' was the oldest living male in a household, and could legally exercise autocratic authority ...
'', but he could, and indeed should on certain occasions properly delegate the cult and care of his Lares to other family members, especially his servants. The positioning of the Lares at the
House of Menander The House of Menander (Italian: Casa del Menandro) is one of the richest and most magnificent houses in ancient Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune'' of Pompei near Naples in the Campania region of ...
suggest that the ''paterfamilias'' delegated this religious task to his ''villicus'' (bailif). Care and cult attendance to domestic Lares could include offerings of
spelt Spelt (''Triticum spelta''), also known as dinkel wheat or hulled wheat, is a species of wheat Wheat is a grass widely cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain which is a worldwide staple food. The many species of wheat together make up the ...

spelt
wheat and grain-garlands, honey cakes and honeycombs, grapes and first fruits, wine, and incense. They could be served at any time and not always by intention; in addition to the formal offerings that seem to have been their due, any food that fell to the floor during house banquets was theirs. On important occasions, wealthier households may have offered their own Lares a pig. A single source describes Romulus' provision of an altar and sacrifice to ''Lares Grundules'' ("grunting lares") after an unusually large farrowing of 30 piglets. The circumstances of this offering are otherwise unknown, Taylor conjectures the sacrifice of a pig, possibly a pregnant sow.


Lararia

By the early Imperial period, household shrines of any kind were known generically as ''lararia'' (s. ''lararium'') because they typically contained a Lares figure or two. Painted lararia from Pompeii show two Lares flanking a genius or ancestor-figure, who wears his
toga The toga (, ), a distinctive garment of ancient Rome, was a roughly semicircular cloth, between in length, draped over the shoulders and around the body. It was usually woven from white wool, and was worn over a tunic. In Roman historical tr ...
in the priestly manner prescribed for sacrificers. Underneath this trio, a serpent, representing the fertility of fields or the principle of generative power, winds towards an altar. The essentials of sacrifice are depicted around and about; bowl and knife, incense box,
libation A libation is a ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious communit ...
vessels and parts of sacrificial animals. In households of modest means, small Lar statuettes were set in wall-niches, sometimes merely a tile-support projecting from a painted background. In wealthier households, they tend to be found in servant's quarters and working areas. At Pompeii, the Lares and ''lararium'' of the sophisticated, unpretentious and artistically restrained
House of Menander The House of Menander (Italian: Casa del Menandro) is one of the richest and most magnificent houses in ancient Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune'' of Pompei near Naples in the Campania region of ...
were associated with its servant quarters and adjacent agricultural estate. Its statuary was unsophisticated, "rustic" and probably of ancient type or make. The placing of Lares in the public or semi-public parts of a house, such as its atrium, enrolled them in the more outward, theatrical functions of household religion. The
House of the Vettii The House of the Vettii is a domus In ancient Rome, the ''domus'' (plural ''domūs'', genitive ''domūs'' or ''domī'') was the type of town house occupied by the upper classes and some wealthy freedmen during the Republican Rome, Republican a ...
in Pompeii had two lararia; one was positioned out of public view, and was probably used in private household rites. The other was placed boldly front-of-house, among a riot of Greek-inspired mythological wall-paintings and the assorted statuary of patron divinities. Its positioning in a relatively public part of the domus would have provided a backdrop for the probably interminable ''salutatio'' (formal greeting) between its upwardly mobile owners and their strings of clients and "an assorted group of unattached persons who made the rounds of ''salutationes'' to assure their political and economic security". Domestic Lararia were also used as a sacred, protective depository for commonplace symbols of family change and continuity. In his coming-of-age, a boy gave his personal amulet (''bulla'') to his Lares before he put on his manly
toga The toga (, ), a distinctive garment of ancient Rome, was a roughly semicircular cloth, between in length, draped over the shoulders and around the body. It was usually woven from white wool, and was worn over a tunic. In Roman historical tr ...
(''toga virilis''). Once his first beard had been ritually cut off, it was placed in their keeping. On the night before her wedding, a Roman girl surrendered her dolls, soft balls, and breastbands to her family Lares, as a sign she had come of age. On the day of her marriage, she transferred her allegiance to her husband's neighbourhood Lares ( ''Lares Compitalici'') by paying them a copper coin en route to her new home. She paid another to her new domestic Lares, and one to her husband. If the marriage made her a ''materfamilias'', she took joint responsibility with her husband for aspects of household cult.


The Compitalia

The city of Rome was protected by a Lar, or Lares, housed in a shrine (''
sacellum In Religion in ancient Rome, ancient Roman religion, a ''sacellum'' is a small shrine. The word is a diminutive from ''Glossary of ancient Roman religion#sacer, sacer'' ("belonging to a god"). The numerous ''sacella'' of ancient Rome included both ...
'') on the city's ancient, sacred boundary (''
pomerium The pomerium or pomoerium was a religious boundary around the city of Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan ...

pomerium
''). Each Roman ''vicus'' (pl. ''vici'' – administrative districts or wards) had its own communal Lares, housed in a permanent shrine at a central crossroads of the district. These ''Lares Compitalicii'' were celebrated at the Compitalia festival (from the Latin ''compitum'', a crossroad) just after the
Saturnalia Saturnalia is an ancient Roman festival and holiday in honour of the god Saturn Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius of about nine an ...
that closed the old year. In the "solemn and sumptuous" rites of Compitalia, a pig was led in celebratory procession through the streets of the ''vicus'', then sacrificed to the Lares at their Compitalia shrine. Cult offerings to these Lares were much the same as those to domestic Lares; in the late Republican era,
Dionysius of Halicarnassus Dionysius of Halicarnassus ( grc, Διονύσιος Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, ; – after 7 BC) was a Greek historian Hellenic historiography (or Greek historiography) involves efforts made by Greeks to track and r ...
describes the contribution of a honey-cake from each household as ancient tradition. The Compitalia itself was explained as an invention of Rome's sixth king,
Servius Tullius Servius Tullius was the legendary sixth king of Rome The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest in its class. Historically, the two d ...
, whose servile origins and favour towards plebeians and slaves had antagonised Rome's ruling Patrician caste and ultimately caused his downfall; he was said to have been fathered by a Lar or some other divine being, on a royal slave-girl. So although the Lares Compitalicii were held to protect all the community, regardless of social class, their festival had a distinctly plebeian ambiance, and a measure of Saturnalia's reversal of the ''status quo''. Tradition required that the ''Lares Compitalicii'' be served by men of very low legal and social status, not merely plebeians, but freedmen and slaves, to whom "even the heavy-handed Cato recommended liberality during the festival". Dionysius' explains it thus: :... the heroes
ares Ares (; grc, Ἄρης, ''Árēs'' ) is the Greek god The following is a list of gods A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This t ...

ares
looked kindly on the service of slaves. And
he Romans He or HE may refer to: Language * He (pronoun), an English pronoun * He (kana), the romanization of the Japanese kana へ and ヘ * He (letter), the fifth letter of many Semitic alphabets * He (Cyrillic), a letter of the Cyrillic script called '' ...
still observe the ancient custom in connection with those sacrifices propitiating the heroes by the ministry of their servants and during these days removing every badge of their servitude, in order that the slaves, being softened by this instance of humanity, which has something great and solemn about it, may make themselves more agreeable to their masters and be less sensible of the severity of their condition. While the supervision of the ''vici'' and their religious affairs may have been charged to the Roman elite who occupied most magistracies and priesthoods, management of the day-to-day affairs and public amenities of neighbourhoods – including their religious festivals – was the responsibility of freedmen and their slave-assistants. The Compitalia was an official festival but during the Republican era, its shrines appear to have been funded locally, probably by subscription among the plebeians, freedmen and slaves of the ''vici''. Their support through private benefaction is nowhere attested, and official attitudes to the Republican Compitalia seem equivocal at best: The Compitalia games ( Ludi Compitalicii) included popular theatrical religious performances of raucously subversive flavour: Compitalia thus offered a religiously sanctioned outlet for free speech and populist subversion. At some time between 85–82  BC, the Compitalia shrines were the focus of cult to the ill-fated popularist politician
Marcus Marius Gratidianus Marcus Marius Gratidianus (c. 125 – 82 BC) was a Roman praetor Praetor ( , ), also spelled prætor or pretor in English, was a title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either ...
during his praetorship. What happened – if anything – to the Compitalia festivals and games in the immediate aftermath of his public, ritualised murder by his opponents is not known but in 68 BC the games at least were suppressed as "disorderly".


Augustan religious reforms

As ''
princeps Princeps (plural: principes) is a Latin word meaning "first in time or order; the first, foremost, chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person". As a title, "princeps" originated in the Roman Republic wherein the ...
'', Augustus reformed Compitalia and subdivided the ''vici''. From 7  BC a Lares' festival on 1 May was dedicated to the ''Lares Augusti'' and a new celebration of the ''
Genius A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex; several different Critical th ...
Augusti'' was held on 1 August, the inaugural day for Roman magistracies and personally auspicious for Augustus as the anniversary of his victory at
Actium Actium or Aktion ( grc, Ἄκτιον) was a town on a promontory in ancient Acarnania at the entrance of the Ambraciot Gulf off which Octavian Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor, reigning from ...

Actium
. Statues representing the ''Genius Augusti'' were inserted between the Lares of the Compitalia shrines. Whether or not Augustus substituted the public Lares with "his own" household Lares is questionable — the earliest reference to ''august'' Lares (58 BC, in
provincial Provincial may refer to: Government & Administration * Provincial capitals, an administrative sub-national capital of a country * Provincial city (disambiguation) * Provincial minister (disambiguation) * Provincial Secretary, a position in Canadi ...
Cisalpine Gaul Cisalpine Gaul ( la, Gallia Cisalpina, also called ''Gallia Citerior'' or ''Gallia Togata'') was the part of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Ital ...
) anticipates Octavian's adoption of Augustus as honorific by some thirty years — but when coupled with his new cult to the ''Genius Augusti'', his donation of Lares Augusti statues for use at Compitalia shrines, and his association with the community Lares through the shared honorific makes the reformed Compitalia an unmistakable, local, "street level" aspect of cult to living emperors. The iconography of these shrines celebrates their sponsor's personal qualities and achievements and evokes a real or re-invented continuity of practice from ancient times. Some examples are sophisticated, others crude and virtually rustic in style; taken as a whole, their positioning in every ''vicus'' (ward) of Rome symbolically extends the ideology of a "refounded" Rome to every part of the city. The Compitalia reforms were ingenious and genuinely popular; they valued the traditions of the Roman masses and won their political, social and religious support. Probably in response to this, provincial cults to the ''Lares Augusti'' appear soon afterwards; in Ostia, a ''Lares Augusti'' shrine was placed in the forum, which was ritually cleansed for the occasion. The Augustan model persisted until the end of the Western Empire, with only minor and local modifications, and the ''Lares Augusti'' would always be identified with the ruling emperor, the ''Augustus'', whatever his personal or family name. Augustus officially confirmed the plebeian-servile character of Compitalia as essential to his "restoration" of Roman tradition, and formalised their offices; the vici and their religious affairs were now the responsibility of official ''magistri vici'', usually freedmen, assisted by ''ministri vici'' who were usually slaves. A dedication of 2  BC to the Augustan Lares lists four slaves as shrine-officials of their ''vicus''. Given their slave status, their powers are debatable but they clearly constitute an official body. Their inscribed names, and those of their owners, are contained within an oak-wreath cartouche. The oak-leaf chaplet was voted to Augustus as "saviour" of Rome; He was symbolic ''pater'' (father) of the Roman state, and though his ''genius'' was owed cult by his extended family, its offer seems to have been entirely voluntary. Hardly any of the reformed Compital shrines show evidence of cult to the emperor's ''genius''. Augustus acted with the political acumen of any responsible ''patronus'' (patron); his subdivision of the vici created new opportunities for his clients. It repaid honour with honours, which for the plebs meant offices, priesthood, and the respect of their peers; at least for some. In Petronius' ''Satyricon'', a magistrate's
lictor A lictor (possibly from la, ligare, "to bind") was a Ancient Rome, Roman civil servant who was an attendant and bodyguard to a Roman magistrate, magistrate who held ''imperium''. Lictors are documented since the Roman Kingdom, and may have origi ...

lictor
bangs on Trimalchio's door; it causes a fearful stir but in comes Habinnas, one of Augustus' new priests, a stonemason by trade; dressed up in his regalia, perfumed and completely drunk.


Origin myths and theology

From the Late Republican and early Imperial eras, the priestly records of the
Arval Brethren In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic religions are often ...
and the speculative commentaries of a very small number of literate Romans attest to a Mother of the Lares (Mater Larum). Her children are invoked by the obscure, fragmentary opening to the Arval Hymn (
Carmen Arvale The ''Carmen Arvale'' is the preserved chant of the Arval priests or ''Fratres Arvales'' of ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century B ...
); ''enos Lases iuvate'' ("Help us, Lares"). She is named as
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by
Varro Marcus Terentius Varro (; 116–27 BC) was a Roman polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known ...
(116–27  BC), who believes her an originally
Sabine The Sabines (; lat, Sabini; it, Sabini, all exonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Sou ...

Sabine
deity. The same name is used by later Roman authors with the general sense of a bogey or "evil spirit". Much later,
Macrobius Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, usually referred to as Macrobius (fl. AD 400), was a Roman provincial who lived during the early fifth century, during Late Antiquity Late antiquity is a periodization Periodization is the process or study ...
(''fl.'' AD 395–430) describes the woolen figurines hung at crossroad shrines during
Compitalia In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in s ...
as ''maniae'', supposed as an ingenious substitution for child sacrifices to the Mater Larum, instituted by Rome's last monarch and suppressed by its first consul, L. Junius Brutus. Modern scholarship takes the Arval rites to the Mother of the Lares as typically
chthonic The word chthonic is derived from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speaker ...

chthonic
, and the goddess herself as a dark or terrible aspect of the earth-mother, Tellus. Ovid supplies or elaborates an origin-myth for the ''Mater Larum'' as a once-loquacious
nymph A nymph ( grc, νύμφη, nýmphē, el, script=Latn, nímfi, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the dialects of the Gree ...

nymph
, Lara, whose tongue is cut out as punishment for her betrayal of Jupiter's secret amours. Lara thus becomes Muta (the speechless one).
Mercury Mercury usually refers to: * Mercury (planet) Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the closest to the Sun. Its orbit around the Sun takes 87.97 Earth days, the shortest of all the Sun's planets. It is named after the Roman g ...

Mercury
leads her to the underworld abode of the dead (''ad Manes''); in this place of silence she is
Dea Tacita In Roman mythology Roman mythology is the body of myths Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or gr ...
(the silent one). En route, he impregnates her. She gives birth to twin boys as silent or speechless as she. In this context, the Lares can be understood as "
manes In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, i ...

manes
of silence" (''taciti manes''). Ovid's poetic myth appears to draw on remnants of ancient rites to the Mater Larum, surviving as folk-cult among women at the fringes of the
Feralia Ferālia was an ancient Roman public festival Dumézil, Georges. ''Archaic Roman Religion''. pg 366. celebrating the Manes In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancien ...
: an old woman sews up a fish-head, smears it with pitch then pierces and roasts it to bind hostile tongues to silence: she thus invokes Dea Tacita. If, as Ovid proposes, the
lemures The lemures were shades or spirits of the restless or malignant dead in Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief asso ...
are an unsatiated, malevolent and wandering form of Lares, then they and their mother also find their way into Lemuralia, when the hungry Lemures gather in Roman houses and claim cult from the living. The ''
paterfamilias The ''pater familias'', also written as ''paterfamilias'' (plural ''patres familias''), was the head of a Ancient Rome, Roman family. The ''pater familias'' was the oldest living male in a household, and could legally exercise autocratic authority ...
'' must redeem himself and his family with the offer of midnight libations of spring-water, and black beans spat onto the floor. Any lemures dissatisfied with these offerings are scared away by the loud clashing of bronze pots. Taylor notes the chthonic character of offerings made to fall – or deliberately expelled – towards the earth. If their mother's nature connects the Lares to the earth they are, according to Taylor, spirits of the departed. Plutarch offers a legend of Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome, credited with the founding of the Lares' public festival, Compitalia. Servius' virginal slave mother-to-be is impregnated by a phallus-apparition arising from the hearth, or some other divine being held to be a major deity or ancestor-hero by some, a Lar by others: the latter seems to have been a strong popular tradition. During the Augustan era,
Dionysius of Halicarnassus Dionysius of Halicarnassus ( grc, Διονύσιος Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, ; – after 7 BC) was a Greek historian Hellenic historiography (or Greek historiography) involves efforts made by Greeks to track and r ...
reports Servius' fathering by a Lar and his pious founding of Compitalia as common knowledge, and the Lar as equivalent to the
Greek hero Hero cults were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. In Homeric Greek, "hero" (, ) refers to the mortal offspring of a human and a god. By the historical period, however, the word came to mean specifically a ''dead'' m ...
; semi-divine, ancestral and protective of place. These stories connect the Lar to the hearth, the underworld, generative powers (however embodied), nourishment, forms of divine or semi-divine ancestry and the coupling of the divine with the servile, wherein those deprived by legal or birth-status of a personal gens could serve, and be served by, the cults attached to Compitalia and Larentalia. Mommsen's contention that Lares were originally field deities is not incompatible with their role as ancestors and guardians. A rural familia relied on the productivity of their estate and its soil: around the early 2nd century BC, Plautus's Lar Familiaris protects the house, and ''familia'' as he has always done, and safeguards their secrets. The little mythography that belongs to the Lares seems inventive and poetic. With no traditional, systematic theology to limit their development, Lares became a single but usefully nebulous type, with many functions. In Cicero's day, one's possession of domestic Lares laid moral claim of ownership and belonging to one's domicile. Festus identifies them as "gods of the underworld" (''
di inferi The ''di inferi'' or ''dii inferi'' (Latin, "the gods below") were a shadowy collective of ancient Roman deities associated with death and the underworld. The epithet An epithet (, ) is a byname, or a descriptive term (word or phrase), accompa ...
''). To
Flaccus Flaccus was a composer A composer (Latin wikt:compono, ''compōnō''; literally "one who puts together") is a person who writes musical composition, music, especially classical music in any form, including vocal music (for a Singing, singer or c ...
, they are ancestral genii (s. ''genius'').
Apuleius Apuleius (; also called Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis; c. 124 – c. 170 AD) was a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communicatio ...

Apuleius
considers them benevolent ancestral spirits; they belong both to the underworld and to particular places of the human world. To him, this distinguishes them from the divine and eternal ''genius'' which inhabits, protects and inspires living men: and having specific physical domains, they cannot be connected with the malicious, vagrant ''lemures''. In the 4th century AD the Christian polemicist
Arnobius Arnobius (died c. 330) was an early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christendom, Christian countries, and the Christian Church, Church with its various Christian denomination, denominations ...
, claiming among others
Varro Marcus Terentius Varro (; 116–27 BC) was a Roman polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known ...
(116–27 BC) as his source, describes them as once-human spirits of the underworld, therefore ancestral
manes In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, i ...

manes
-ghosts; but also as "gods of the air", or the upper world. He also – perhaps uniquely in the literature but still claiming Varro's authority – categorises them with the frightful
larvae A larva (plural larvae ) is a distinct juvenile form many animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular A multicellular organism is an organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that f ...
. The ubiquity of Lares seems to have offered considerable restraints on Christian participation in Roman public life. In the 3rd century AD, Tertullian remarks the inevitable presence of Lares in pagan households as good reason to forbid marriage between pagan men and Christian women: the latter would be "tormented by the vapor of incense each time the demons are honored, each solemn festivity in honor of the emperors, each beginning of the year, each beginning of the month." Yet their type proved remarkably persistent. In the early 5th century AD, after the official suppression of non-Christian cults, Rutilius Namatianus could write of a famine-stricken district whose inhabitants had no choice but to "abandon their Lares" (thus, to desert their rat-infested houses).Rutilius Namatianus, ''de Reditu suo'', 290: Latin text at Thayer's websit

(accessed 6 January 2010)


See also

* Eudaemon (mythology) *
Imperial cult (ancient Rome) The Roman imperial cult identified emperors An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for l ...
*
Turan Turan ( ae, Tūiriiānəm, pal, Tūrān; fa, توران, Turân, , "The Land of Tur (Shahnameh), Tur") is a historical region in Central Asia. The term is of Iranian languages, Iranian origin and may refer to a particular prehistoric human set ...
, the Etruscan love goddess *
Spirit house A spirit house is a shrine to the protective spirit of a place that is found in the Southeast Asian countries of Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, i ...


Notes


References

* Beard, M., North, J., Price, S., ''Religions of Rome, vol.'' 1, illustrated, reprint, Cambridge University Press, 1998. * Beard, M., North, J., Price, S., ''Religions of Rome, vol. 2'', illustrated, reprint, Cambridge University Press, 1998. * Clarke, John R., ''The Houses of Roman Italy, 100 BC-AD 250. Ritual, Space and Decoration,'' illustrated, University Presses of California, Columbia and Princeton, 1992. * Giacobello, Federico, ''Larari pompeiani. Iconografia e culto dei Lari in ambito domestico,'' LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 2008, * Hunter, Richard, ''On Coming After'', Studies in Post-Classical Greek Literature and its Reception, Berlin, New York (Walter de Gruyter) 2008, pp. 612–626. * Lott, John. B., ''The Neighborhoods of Augustan Rome,'' Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004. * Orr, D. G., Roman domestic religion: the evidence of the household shrines, ''Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt'', II, 16, 2, Berlin, 1978, 1557‑91. * Rüpke, Jörg (Editor), ''A Companion to Roman Religion'', Wiley-Blackwell, 2007, * Ryberg, Inez Scott, Rites of the State Religion in Roman Art, ''Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome,'' Vol. 22, University of Michigan Press for the American Academy in Rome, 1955, pp. 10 – 13. * Taylor, Lilly Ross, The Mother of the Lares, ''American Journal of Archaeology,'' Vol. 29, 3, (July - Sept. 1925), 299 - 313. * Waites, Margaret C., The Nature of the Lares and Their Representation in Roman Art, ''American Journal of Archaeology,'' Vol. 24, No. 3 (July - Sept., 1920), 241 - 261. * Weinstock, Stefan, Two Archaic Inscriptions from Latium, ''Journal of Roman Studies'', 50, (1960), 112 - 118. * Wiseman, T. P., ''Remus: a Roman myth'', Cambridge University Press, 1995.


External links

{{Roman religion Tutelary deities Roman deities Household deities