The lararia is a structure used as a private place of worship. The Gallo-Romans, under the supervision of the Pater familias (the father of the family), prayed there to the household deities: Lares, Genius and Penates. Little is known about these deities, as ancient authors did not always agree on their nature.  

  • Lares: agrarian divinities, protectors of estates and then of the house and villa built on these lands before being included among the household divinities. The Lares familiares were the protectors of the entire familia.
  • Genius: deification of the personality as it exists in each individual, with its innate qualities.
  • Penates: Roman deities responsible for guarding the home, possessions, larder and the fire used for cooking.

Larars may be fixed (a simple niche or masonry monument) or portable (in this case known as a domestic altar), installed inside the house, in direct connection with the outside or outside.

Author: Florine Blin.

Ilustrations: examples of altars, Pompeii and Herculaneum, © Florine Blin.

Skip to content