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LARA´RIUM was a place set apart in a Roman house for the worship of the Lar familiaris or (later) Lares. (See Marquardt, [p. 2.8]Staats. 3.123.) Originally this shrine, with the image or images, was in the Atrium, as the place where the hearth stood and the family assembled for meals; but, when the hearth and the kitchen were moved to the back part of the house, the lararia were placed elsewhere, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes in the dining-room, sometimes in the peristyle, and frequently at the entrance of the house (especially in the later empire). Even in the 5th century Jerome (in Esaiam, 100.57) speaks of “idola post fores domorum quos domesticos appellant lares,” and of the “Tutelae simulacrum,” to which they paid reverence as they went out or in. At these shrines was placed a lighted candle or lamp, and an offering of food was made at the secunda mensa (Serv. ad Aen. 1.730; Varro, ap. Non. p. 544, 1; Ov. Fast. 2.633). Hence (when the Genius of Augustus had, after Actium, been associated with the Lares) we can explain the expression “alteris te mensis adhibet deum” (Hor. Od. 4.5, 31). We learn from Petronius (60) that, if there was no lararium in the dining-room, the statues of the Lares were sometimes brought to the table; but more usually a small table for this offering was placed before the lararium, wherever it might be, with a salt-cellar upon it (see Arnob. 2.67; Pers. 3.25; Liv. 26.36), and this is probably the special significance of the paternum salinum (Hor. Od. 2.16, 14). It was an old Roman custom for the master of the house with his household also in the morning to make an offering with prayers to the Lar familiaris. Hence we find that the emperor had a lararium in his bed-chamber (Suet. Aug. 7, Domit. 17). Here also Alexander Severus is said to have placed with the Lares images not only of Orpheus and Alexander the Great, but of Christ (Lamprid. Al. Sev. 29; Gibbon, 2.529). On the occasion of feriae privatae on the Kalends, Nones and Ides, at the Saturnalia (Mart. 14.70), the birthday of the master of the house (Tib. 1.7; Hor. 4.11, &c.), the Lares were crowned and special offerings were made to them, and in the lararium also was hung up the bulla of the son who assumed the toga virilis. (For further particulars regarding the worship of the Lares, see Marquardt, l.c.; Preller, Röm. Myth. p. 497, and Dict. Myth. s. v.)


hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.5
    • Homer, Odyssey, 2.14
    • Homer, Odyssey, 2.16
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.31
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 36
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.70
    • Ovid, Fasti, 2
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