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Genius

(“creator, begetter,” from gigno). The Italian peoples regarded the Genius as a higher power which creates and maintains life, assists at the begetting and birth of every individual man, determines his character, tries to influence his destiny for good, accompanies him through life as his tutelary spirit, and lives on in the Lares after his death. (See Lares.) As a creative principle, the Genius is attached, strictly speaking, to the male sex only. In the case of women his place is taken by Iuno, the personification of woman's life. Thus, in a house inhabited by a man and his wife, a Genius and a Iuno are worshipped together. But in common parlance, it was usual to speak of the Genius of a house, and to this Genius the marriage bed (lectus genialis) was sacred. A man's birthday was naturally the holiday of his attendant Genius, to whom he offered incense, wine, garlands, cakes, everything, in short, but bloody sacrifices, and in whose honour he gave himself up to pleasure and enjoyment; for the Genius wishes a man to have pleasure in the life that he has given him. Hence

Genius of Wine. (Pompeian Mosaic.)

the Romans spoke of enjoying one's self as indulging one's Genius, and of renunciation as spiting him (Hor. Carm. iii. 17, 14; Pers. iv. 27). Men swore by their Genius as by their higher self, and by the Genius of persons whom they loved and honoured. The philosophers originated the idea of a man having two Genii, a good and a bad one; but in the popular belief the notion of the Genius was that of a good and beneficent being. Families, societies, cities, and peoples had their Genius as well as individuals. The Genius of the Roman people (Genius Publicus or Genius Populi Romani) stood in the Forum, represented in the form of a bearded

Harpocrates, and Snake as Genius Loci. (
Pitture d'Ercolano
, i. 207.)

man crowned with a diadem, a cornucopia in his right hand, and a sceptre in his left. An annual sacrifice was offered to him on the 9th of October. Under the Empire the Genius of Augustus, the founder of the Empire, and of the reigning emperor, were publicly worshipped at the same time. Localities also, such as open spaces, streets, baths, and theatres, had their own Genii (Inscr. Orell. 343, 1697). These were usually represented under the form of snakes; and hence the common habit of keeping tame snakes. See Anguis.

The Greeks also had a similar belief in Genii, calling them δαίμονες, or daemons, of whom Hesiod mentions the number as 30,000, who are appointed to be the ministers of Zeus and the guardians of men. He regards them as the souls of the righteous. Pindar speaks of a γενέθλιος δαίμων, which seems to be exactly the equivalent of the Roman Genius. See Daemon.

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