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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
IV. THE RISE OF ROME TO 264 B.C.
» Contents of this ChapterPage 10
WORSHIP OF ANCESTORS
The Romans, like the ancient Greeks and the modern Chinese, paid special veneration to the souls of the dead. These were known by the flattering name of manes, the "pure" or "good ones." The Romans always regarded the manes as members of the household to which they had belonged on earth. The living and the dead were thus bound together by the closest ties. The idea of the family triumphed even over the grave.
THE HOUSEHOLD DEITIES
The ancient Roman house had only one large room, the atrium, where all members of the family lived together. It was entered by a single door, which was sacred to the god Janus. On the hearth, opposite the doorway, the housewife prepared the meals. The fire that ever blazed upon it gave warmth and nourishment to the inmates. Here dwelt Vesta, the spirit of the kindling flame. The cupboard where the food was kept came under the charge of the Penates, who blessed the family store. The house as a whole had its protecting spirits, called Lares.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy