A quick look at Lares: The Roman household guardian spirits
It was believed that the lares observed, influenced, and protected all that happened within the boundaries of their placement and function. The presence of their statues seem to have been required at all important family events.
Lares were Roman guardian spirits, possibly the ghosts of ancestors. They were worshipped as the protecting spirits of crossroads, in the city as guardians of the state, and most importantly as protectors of the house and its inhabitants. Lares had no clear personalities or mythologies associated with them.
Nearly every Roman household possessed statuettes of the lares, usually in pairs that were placed in a lararium, or shrine, that was built in the central court (atrium) of the home or in the kitchen. These shrines sometimes contained paintings rather than statuettes of the deities. Offerings, sacrifices, and prayers were made to the lares and to other household gods (the penates, the guardians of the cupboard, for example). The lares of the crossroads, associated with the emperor’s household gods beginning in the era of Augustus, were worshipped publicly.
-Roman Art: A Resource for Educators, page 97.
The following are examples of larariums, the household shrines which contained the lares statuettes or paintings.
1. This example is from the Amorini Dorati (House of Golden Cupids), Pompeii. Household lares statuettes would have once been placed within. (source, photo by Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble)
2. Here’s an example of an alternate form of lararium, with painted lares instead of the statuettes. House of the Vettii, Pompeii. (source)
After the Greek attack, Aeneas flees the burning Troy with his father on his back, his wife Creusa, and his son Ascanius. In the commotion Creusa is unfortunately lost from the group; Aeneas will later return to search for her and meet her spirit.
The following passage is from Virgil’s Aeneid (19 B.C.E.), Book II (translation via the MIT Internet Classics Archive):
The welcome load of my dear father take;
While on my better hand Ascanius hung,
And with unequal paces tripp’d along.
Creusa kept behind; by choice we stray
Thro’ ev’ry dark and ev’ry devious way.
At ev’ry shadow now am seiz’d with fear,
Not for myself, but for the charge I bear;
Till, near the ruin’d gate arriv’d at last,
Secure, and deeming all the danger past,
A frightful noise of trampling feet we hear.
Alas! I lost Creusa: hard to tell
If by her fatal destiny she fell,
Or weary sate, or wander’d with affright;
But she was lost for ever to my sight.
Red-figure amphora from a Greek workshop in Etruria, ca. 470 B.C.E.
The invisible medieval scriptorium
Meet the greatest mystery regarding medieval scriptoria: they were the main centres of book production for a thousand years, yet no clear visual evidence of their existence survives. Did they really exist? Read about this mystery in my Wordpress blog Where Are the Scriptoria?
Pic: Madrid, Biblioteca de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (14th century).
Not only is this stunning citole the only surviving piece of it’s kind from the XIV century, it was also played by Robert Dudley to Elizabeth I.
A citole is the medieval equivalent of a guitar. This example is both a unique survival of its type and an outstanding example of medieval secular art. It was highly prized in its day and highly regarded throughout its history.
Alterations have been made, including attempts to convert it to a violin. Among the changes is the insertion of a silver plate above the peg box, engraved with the arms of Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1558-1603) and her favourite and lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. One of the most likely uses for the citole in medieval times would be as accompaniment to love ballads. The amorous associations clearly persisted into the Elizabethan age.
MATTEO DI SER CAMBIO
Statute and Register of the Moneychangers’ Guild
Collegio del Cambio, Perugia
As eternal guards watching over the deceased ruler, nine warriors were modeled on the walls of the funerary chamber in bas-relief. They represent the Lords of the Night, who were the regents of the nine levels or tiers, into which according to ancient Maya belief, the underworld was divided. (-Palenque Museum)
The sarcophagus of Maya ruler K’inich Janaab’ Pakal (Late Classic period, 603-683), Palenque’s greatest ruler. His tomb is located beneath the Temple of Inscriptions, and lay undetected for more than a century of explorations before being discovered by Alberto Ruz Lhuillier in the mid-twentieth century. The burial chamber contained the bones of one women and four men as sacrifices.
A mammoth limestone sarcophagus, its sides carved with portraits and hieroglyphs, filled most of the chamber. Inside lay the skeletal remains of Pakal, covered with jade beads, a disintegrated jade mosaic mask, and other offerings.
The most stunning object in the tomb was the magnificently carved sarcophagus lid, depicting Pakal’s apotheosis, emerging like the sun at sunrise from the jaws of the underworld, reclining on the mask of the partially skeletal sun god, marking the transition from death to life. The implication of this association is clear, for like the sun, Pakal mastered the forces of death and was reborn as a deity, just as the sun is reborn each day at sunrise. The pathway of their ascent is marked by the world tree, shown sprouting from behind Pakal. In its jeweled branches rests the double-headed serpent bar, the cosmic symbol of Maya rulership, and its crown sits the celestial bird. The entire scene is framed by a sky band containing the symbols of the most important celestial deities, including the sun, moon, and Venus.
-R. Sharer, The Ancient Maya, page 453.
+ For those interested, this drawing shows the details of the sarcophagus lid spoken of.
Courtesy & currently located at the Palenque Museum, Mexico. Photos taken by Maya Portrait Project.
Klaus Störtebeker (1360 - 1401), was a leader and the best known representative of a companionship of privateers known as the Victual Brothers who were originally hired during a war between Denmark and Sweden to fight the Danish and supply the besieged Swedish capital Stockholm with provisions.
After the end of the war, the Victual Brothers continued to capture merchant vessels for their own account and named themselves “Likedeelers” (literally: equal sharers).
image: Skull alleged to have belonged to Störtebeker, found in 1878
A gorgeously preserved dantesca chair, XV century, found inside Da Vinci’s home in Vinci, Toscana.