Monday, February 13, 2012

PENATES or LARES Roman Household Deities and Gods


Ques. What were the Pena´tes?

Ans. This name was given to a certain class of household deities, which were worshipped by the Romans in the penetralia, or innermost part of their dwellings. The greater Pena´tes governed kingdoms and provinces; others presided over cities; and the lesser Pena´tes watched over particular houses and families.

Ques. What were the Lares?

Ans. They were, according to some, the children of Mercury and the nymph Lara; they were domestic gods, and presided over houses, streets and roads. They warded off danger from without, while the Pena´tes watched over the interior of the dwelling. The spirits of ancestors sometimes watched as Lares, over the fortunes of families. This idea of the spirits of the deceased watching over their descendants, made the Romans wish to bury the dead within, or very near their dwellings. This custom was condemned by the laws of the Twelve Tables. Besides the spirit which watched over the family, each individual was supposed to have his Lar, or familiar genius, who watched over him from his birth. In early times, children were sacrificed to the goddess Mania, who was supposed by some to be the mother of the Lares. After the expulsion of the Tarquins, Junius Brutus abolished this barbarous rite, and substituted little balls of wool, and heads of garlic and poppy, in place of the human heads which had been formerly offered. The ordinary altar of the Lares was the domestic hearth; hogs, sheep and steers were among the sacrifices offered to these divinities, but the first fruits of the season were always laid upon the hearth. No family repast was properly begun, unless some portion of the viands had been first cast into the fire; in the more solemn form of marriage, the bride always threw a piece of money on the hearth, to the Lares of her family, and another on the cross roads, that they might grant her free passage to her husband’s house. The Roman boy, on attaining the age of fifteen, put off his childish dress, and consecrated the golden bulla, which he had worn around his neck from infancy, to the domestic Lares.

The soldier whose term of service had expired dedicated his arms to these powerful genii; while captives, and slaves restored to freedom, hung up their fetters, in token of gratitude, by the altar of the Lares.

Ques. How were the Lares represented?

Ans. Variously; sometimes as children, sometimes as young warriors, but always accompanied by a dog.

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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