model of a lararium

The lararium was a shrine to the guardian spirits of the Roman household. Family members performed daily rituals at this shrine to guarantee the protection of these domestic spirits, the most significant of which were the lares.

statuette of a lar These spirits were depicted as two young men in dancing postures, holding drinking horns. They were most frequently represented by small bronze statuettes, as shown at right, or as painted images, as shown below. The other significant guardian spirit was the genius, who was a fertility spirit responsible for ensuring that the family line (gens) would continue. Each genius stood for the paterfamilias, whose birthday was the feast day of the genius. In the lararium painting below, the genius is depicted wearing the toga praetexta, bordered in purple, the garment of high-ranking Roman magistrates.

lararium painting

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