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Penates. What these were is perspicuously shown by Millin in his Dictionaire de la Fable. According to Servius it was a title given to all deities who were worshipped privately and at home (qui domi coluntur). Cicero (de Nat. Deor. ii) says the Penates are so called sive a penu ducto nomine, est enim omne, quo vescuntur homines, penus, or because penitus insident, they rest in the inmost and most secure part of the family dwelling.
These household gods are sometimes confused with the Lares and Genii, but they are still more frequently distinguished the one from the another. It was permitted by the religion of the Romans for each individual to choose his Penates, thus sometimes Jupiter and oftener Vesta with other deities of the heavens, the earth, the water and the infernal regions were selected for household worship. Even living Emperors and a man's own ancestors were allowed to be amongst the number of these Penates (and the last mentioned case was the most common of all).
The origin, indeed, of this species of devotion was founded on the opinion entertained by that most superstitious people that the manes of their forefathers delighted after their removal from this life, still to dwell in their former habitations where not infrequently their ashes were deposited and where their portraits were usually preserved in the most honorable situations. For, after having been praised while living as illustrious persons, they became gradually the object of homage and respect when dead. At length their assistance was implored and religious rights were assigned to be paid to them.
The statues of the Penates were consecrated in the Penetralia or most secret apartment, and on certain occasions were covered with festoons of garlic and poppies. Wine and incense likewise were offered and sometimes sheep and lambs were sacrificed to them. It was during the Saturnalia that the festivals of the Lares and Penates were celebrated and besides which a day in each month was dedicated to the honor of these domestic gods. The zeal for this species of worship sometimes went so far that they were feted every day. Nero is recorded to have foresaken all the other divinities for the sake of favorite Penates. The figure of these deities was at times the simple representation of some god, genius, hero or demigod, or in short of some celebrated ancestor. They were often represented by Panthean figures, that is to say, such as bore the symbols of many divinities. Eckhel considers them to be identical with the Dioscuri and the Cabiri.