Household Religion in Rome: An Examination of Domestic Ritual and its Role in Shaping the Roman Family
In ancient Rome, each household maintained a vibrant religious practice led by the patriarch of the family. They worshipped various deities responsible for the safety and well-being of the household. These included Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, the Penates, protectors of the food supply, the Lares, guardians of the home and estate, and the genius, the guiding spirit of the family patriarch. In addition to daily and annual worship, Romans performed various rituals during significant transitional periods such as marriage and death that invoked the household deities. This thesis examines those rituals, their implications for the nature of the Roman family, and the ways that domestic cult dealt with changes to the family structure.