Lares and Penates

In Roman mythology, Lares and Penates were groups of deities who protected the family and the Roman state. Although different, the Lares and Penates were often worshiped together at household shrines.

Considered spirits of the dead, Lares guarded homes, crossroads, and the city. Every Roman family had its own guardian, known as the Lar familiaris, to protect the household and ensure that the family line did not die out. Each morning Romans prayed and made offerings to an image of the Lar familiaris kept in a family shrine. Deities known as Lares compitales, who guarded crossroads and neighborhoods, were honored four times a year in a festival called the Compitalia. Another group of deities, the Lares praestites, served as the guardians of the city of Rome.

deity god or goddess

The Penates, originally honored as gods of the pantry, eventually became guardians of the entire household. They were associated with Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. The main function of the Penates was to ensure the family's welfare and prosperity. The public Penates, or Penates publici, served as guardians of the state and the object of Roman patriotism. According to legend, they were once the household gods of Aeneas*, the mythical ancestor of the Roman people.

See also Aeneas ; Roman Mythology ; Vesta .

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