Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome
Page: 95The Lares Familiares were a much more pleasing conception. They were the spirits of the ancestors of each family, who exercised after death a protecting power over the well-being and prosperity of the family to which they had in life belonged. The place of honour beside the hearth was occupied by the statue of the Lar of the house, who was supposed to have been the founder of the family. This statue was the object of profound veneration, and was honoured on all occasions by every member of the family; a portion of each meal was laid before it, and it was believed to take an active part in all family affairs and domestic events, whether of a sad or joyful nature. Before starting on any expedition the master of the house saluted the statue of the Lar, and, on his return, a solemn thanksgiving was offered to this, the presiding deity of his hearth and home, in grateful acknowledgment of his protection; whereupon the statue was crowned with garlands of flowers, these being the favourite offerings to the Lares on all occasions of especial family rejoicing.
The first act of a bride on entering her new abode was to do homage to the Lar, in the belief that he would exercise over her a protecting influence and shield her from evil.
In addition to those above enumerated there were also public Lares, who were guardians of the state, highroads, country, and sea. Their temples were always open for any pious worshipper to enter, and on their altars public sacrifices were offered for the welfare of the state or city.
PUBLIC WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS AND ROMANS.
In very remote times the Greeks had no shrines or sanctuaries devoted to public worship, but performed their devotions beneath the vast and boundless canopy of heaven, in the great temple of nature itself. Believing that their divinities throned above the clouds, pious worshippers naturally sought the highest available points, in order to place themselves in the closest communion possible with their gods; hence the summits of high mountains were selected for devotional purposes, and the more exalted the rank and importance of the divinity invoked, the more elevated was the site selected for his or her worship. But the inconvenience attending this mode of worship gradually suggested the idea of erecting edifices which would afford means of shelter from the inclemency of the weather.