Larès in connection with the MANÈS and the PENÂTÈS, were tutelary spirits, genii, or deities of the ancient Romans. The derivation of the names is not perhaps quite certain, but the first is generally considered the plural of lar, an Etruscan word signifying "lord" or "hero;" the second is supposed to mean "the good or benevolent ones;" and the third is connected with penus, "the innermost part of a house or sanctuary." The Lares, Manes, and Penates do not appear to have been regarded as essentially different beings, for the names are frequently used either interchangeably or in such a conjunction as almost implies identity. Yet some have thought that a distinction is discernible, and have looked upon the Lares as earthly, the Manes as infernal, and the Penates as heavenly protectors — a notion which has probably originated in the fact that Manes is a general name for the souls of the departed, those who inhabit the lower world; while among the Penates are included such great deities as Jupiter, Juno, Vesta, etc. Hence we may perhaps infer that the Manes were just the Lares viewed as departed spirits, and that the Penates embraced not only the Lares, but all spirits, whether daemons or deities, who exercised a "special providence" over families, cities, etc. Of the former, Manes, we know almost nothing distinctively. An annual festival was held in their honor on the 19th of February, called Feralia or Parentalia, of the latter, Penates, we are in nearly equal ignorance, but of the Lares we have a somewhat detailed account. They were, like the Penates, divided into two classes — Lares domestici and Lares publici. The former were the souls of virtuous ancestors set free from the realm of shades by the Acherontic rites, and exalted to the rank of protectors of their descendants. They were, in short, household gods, and their worship was really a worship of ancestors. The first of the Lares in point of honor was the Lar familiaris, the founder of the house, the family Lar, who accompanied it in all its changes of residence. The Lares publici had a wider sphere of influence, and received particular names from the places over which they ruled. Thus we read of Lares compitales (the Lares of cross-roads), Lares vicorum (the Lares of streets), the Lares rurales (the rural Lares), Lares viales (the Lares of the highways), Lares permarini (the Lares of the sea), and the Lares cubiculi (the Lares of the bedchamber). The images of these guardian spirits or deities were placed (at least in large houses) in small shrines or compartments called cediculae or lararia. They were worshipped every day: whenever a Roman family sat down to meals, a portion of the food was presented to them; but particular honors were paid to them on the calends, nones, and ides of the month; and at festive gatherings the lararia were thrown open. and the images of the household gods were adorned with garlands. See Smith's Dictionary of Classical Biography and Mythology, s.v.

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