Harriet I. Flower is professor of classics at Princeton University. She is author of Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture and editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic.
This book examines the process of purge and rehabilitation of memory in the person of Virius Nicomachus Flavianus(?-394). Charles Hedrick describes how Flavian was condemned for participating in the rebellion against the Christian emperor Theodosius the Great—and then restored to the public record a generation later as members of the newly Christianized senatorial class sought to reconcile their pagan past and Christian present. By selectively remembering and forgetting the actions of Flavian, Hedrick asserts, the Roman elite honored their ancestors while participating in profound social, cultural, and religious change.
Weaving together a wide range of evidence, Flower sets forth a new interpretation of the much-disputed nature of the lares. She makes the case that they are not spirits of the dead, as many have argued, but rather benevolent protectors—gods of place, especially the household and the neighborhood, and of travel. She examines the rituals honoring the lares, their cult sites, and their iconography, as well as the meaning of the snakes often depicted alongside lares in paintings of gardens. She also looks at Compitalia, a popular midwinter neighborhood festival in honor of the lares, and describes how its politics played a key role in Rome’s increasing violence in the 60s and 50s BC, as well as in the efforts of Augustus to reach out to ordinary people living in the city’s local neighborhoods.
A reconsideration of seemingly humble gods that were central to the religious world of the Romans, this is also the first major account of the full range of lares worship in the homes, neighborhoods, and temples of ancient Rome.
Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.