The Genius was the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. Much like a guardian angel, the genius would follow each man from the hour of his birth until the day he died.

Winged genius facing a woman with a tambourine and mirror, from southern Italy, c. 320 BC. (c) Marie-Lan Nguyen

Although the term genius might apply to any divinity whatsoever, most of the higher-level and state genii had their own well-established names. Genius applied most often to individual places or people not generally known; that is, to the smallest units of society and settlements, families and their homes. Houses, doors, gates, streets, districts, tribes, each one had its own genius.

Bronze genius depicted as pater familias, 1st c. AD. (c) Luis Garcia


A Lararium was family shrine, normally located in the atrium of the house, which honoured the Lares and the family Genius. Each Lararium features a panel fresco containing the same theme: two peripheral figures (Lares) attend on a central figure (the family Genius).

Hundreds have been found in Pompeii.

Lararium with small, central ancestral genius figure flanked by Lares, above a serpent-genius representing fertility. House of Iulius Polybius, Pompeii.
Scene from Lararium, Pompeii. (c) Claus Ableiter
Ancestral genius flanked by Lares, with serpent below. Lararium, House of the Vettii, Pompeii. (c) Patricio Lorente
Inscription on votive altar to the genius of Legio VII Gemina by L. Attius Macro.
 Roman genius near Pompeii, 1st c. BC.

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