What does archaeological/written evidence reveal about the role/importance of household gods and temples in Roman life during the first century AD?
Archaeological and written evidence has revealed to us many great revelations about the past, in this case, the past concerning household gods in Roman life during the first century AD. These revelations help us understand both their role and importance.
Roman household religion was associated with the family unit, the traditional institution ruled over by the paterfamilias. These gods would be treated as members of the family and invited to join in meals, or be given offerings of food and drink. From this, it is obvious household gods held a great importance, and archaeological evidence provides a principal source of detail about Greek mythology, with gods and heroes featured prominently in the decoration of many artifacts, such as numerous statues.
There were numerous household gods in Roman life, the main ones being identified as Lares and Penates, and others also included Janus and Vesta, all holding great power. In Roman mythology, Lares and Penates were groups of deities who protected the family and the Roman state, and although different, they were often worshiped together at household shrines. These spirits were represented in tiny bronze statuettes, and most houses had miniature shrines, fashioned after Roman temples, known as lararia, and contained were these small statues or painted images of these household gods. There has been much archaeological evidence of Lararia found, and this includes many frescoes found depicting these family defenders, thus showing the importance of household gods.
Lares were considered spirits of the dead, such as the family’s ancestors, and guarded homes, crossroads, and the city. They were represented by little figurines which would be kept in a special cupboard, and among them, the lar familiaris, the family spirit, was the most important, as it...