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Lares



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Lares, household gods, who were supposed to take care of both house and land; and hence the Latins called them Dii Familiares. Each tutelary deity chosen by a family received this appelation. They were at first worshipped on the domestic hearth (focus), but afterwards in a particular chapel or oratory named Lararium.

The Lares were commonly represented under the figure of twins in the age of adolescence; still oftener as young men, between whom was placed a dog, the usual house-guard.
There was more than ordinary display of superstition among the Romans with regard to the Lares. They were crowned with flowers, and at each meal a portion of food was served to them, no one daring to touch it; but it was burnt in honour of them.

Slaves in their emancipation consecrated their chains to the Lares; and youths arrived at manhood dedicated to these household gods the symbols of their minority; the golden bullae that as children they wore upon their breast. Young women did the same when they married.

The Lares were considered to be the gaurdians of the cross-ways. And Augustus, according to Ovid in the Fasti, decreed that at the commencement of spring, the cross-ways (compita) should be adorned with chaplets of flowers.

A denarius of the Caesia family, on one side of which appears the image of the god Vejovis, represented in the manner in which Aulus Gellius describes it at Rome near the Capitol; with the letters AP (Argentum Publicum) in monogram. On the reverse of this rare silver coin we see the legend of L CAESI; and the type consists of two juvenile figures with spears, seated together, each with helmets on, the upper part of their bodies naked; the lower part clothed; with a dog between them, and above a bust of Vulcan with forceps. In field on one side is LA, on the other RE, both in monogram (which put togeter makes LARE); and which fully warants the supposition that the Vejovis on the obverse was a god chosen as Lar or special protector of L. Caesius, who caused the medal to be struck.

This reverse exhibits in the seated youths two of the Lares, whose domestic and familiar guarfianship has just been explained; and to these household gods the head of Vulcan is appropriately conjoined, because the focus or hearth, whose protection was religiously assigned to the Lares, was moreover sacred to the god of fire (Volcanus). The figure of a dog seated between them refers to the fidelity and domestic habits of that animal. The composition and union of such objects as these was not of rare occurance among Romans, as the following words of Ovid show:

Praestitibus Maiae Laribus videre Kalendae Aram constitui, signaque parva deum....

At canis ante pedes saxo fabricatus eodem Stabat. Quae standi cum Lare causa fuit?

Servatuterque domum, domino, quoque, fidus uterque,
Compita grat deo, compita grata cani.

Exagitant et Lar, et turba Diania fures, Pervigilantque Lares, pervigilantque canes.

Bina gemellorum quaerebam signa deorum.
..
Fasti. Lib. v l. 129.

In Bandelot de Dairval's curious work entitled De l'utilite des Voyages, vol i p. 171, the medal in question is given, with some learned remarks on the Lares and Penates of the Romans.

View whole page from the Dictionary Of Roman Coins