LAKES, older form Lases, Roman tutelary deities (etymology unknown, possibly connected with lascivus). They were orig inally gods of the cultivated fields, worshipped by each household at the compitum or cross-roads where its allotment joined those of others (see below). Later, they were worshipped in the houses and the household Lar (familiaris) was conceived of as the centre-point of the family and of the family cult. The word it self (in the singular) came to be used in the general sense of "home." It is certain that originally each household had only one Lar ; the plural was at first only used to include other classes of Lares, and only gradually, of ter the time of Cicero, ousted the singular. The image of the Lar stood in its special shrine (lararium) or niche, originally in the atrium. It was usually a youthful figure, dressed in a short, high-girt tunic, holding in one hand a rhyton (drinking-horn), in the other a Patera (cup). Under the empire we find usually two of these, one on each side of the central figure of the Genius, Vesta, or some other deity. The whole group was called indifferently Lares or Penates. A prayer was said to the Lar every morning and offerings made at family festivals, such as the Caristia (see MANES, PENATES). On these occasions the Lares were crowned with garlands, and offer ings of wine and incense, cakes and honey, and swine were laid before them. Their worship persisted throughout the pagan period.
The public Lares belonged to the State religion. Amongst these must be included, especially after the time of Augustus, the Lares compitales. Generally two in number, they were the
presiding deities of the cross-roads (compita), where they had their special chapels. Their sphere of influence included not only the cross-roads, but the whole neighbouring district of the town and country in which they were situated. They had a special an nual festival, called Compitalia, to which public games were added some time during the republican period. The colleges of freedmen and slaves, who assisted the presidents of the festival, were abolished by Julius Caesar, but revived by Augustus, who added to these Lares his own Genius (q.v.).
The State itself had its own Lares, called praestites, the pro tecting patrons and guardians of the city. They had a temple and altar on the Via Sacra, near the Palatine, and were repre sented on coins as men wearing the chlamys, carrying lances, seated, with a dog, the emblem of watchfulness, at their feet. Mention may also be made of the Lares grundules, whose func tions are unknown; the viales, who protected travellers; the permarini, connected with the sea, to whom L. Aemilius Regillus, after a naval victory over Antiochus (190 B.c.), vowed a temple in the Campus Martius, which was dedicated by M. Aemilius Lepidus, the censor, in 179.
The above is the view of Wissowa and Warde Fowler; the older idea, that the Lares are ancestral ghosts, is still maintained by some, especially E. Samter.