Thursday, February 13, 2003

Lares - Roman spirits of the ancestors

On my Imperial Rome discussion group, several members were discussing lemmures also known as lares. Gaius Caecilius found a website that described them as "the spirits of the unquiet dead devoid of all human warmth and emotion pursuing the living to drive them mad. He said he found a rather odd web site that said they were particularly active during May (Is the is the source of the frenetic "May Day" celebration of the Middle Ages?) The website also mentioned a festival called the Lemuria that was held to drive them off utilising drums, as they were sensitive to noise. However, I found a reference that puts a little nicer face on the Lares: "Lares. The LARES [lar'ez] were household spirits, often linked with the PENATES [pe-na'tez] (see Vesta). They could bring prosperity to the householder (in early times a farmer), and they were honored at the winter festival of the Compitalia, at which dolls were hung up in shrines, one for each member of the household. Each house had its Lar Compitalis, and each city had its Lares praestites (guardian Lares). The Lares also protected travelers by land and sea. "