chapter  2
Religions of the family and the land
Pages 37

There was nothing more specifically Roman than domestic worship; it was what immediately distinguished Roman religion, for example on Delos, from the Greek environment, in the case of the colonists who lived on the island. A man could not be evicted or have an attempt made on his life 'in the presence of the Lares, gods of the house' (Cic., Quinct. 85). 'What is more sacred than each citizen's home? It houses his altars, his hearths, his Penates, his sacrifices; it is the place of his devotions and ritual ceremonies.' Here, Cicero (Dom., 109) was expressing a sentiment that remained very powerful in the consciousness of the ordinary Roman at the end of the Republic. He stressed it again in his treatise on the Laws (2, 27): 'Preserving the rites of the family and ancestors - since the Ancients are those closest to the gods - means practising a religion bequeathed in some sort by the gods.' And Varro (LL, 7, 88) has the haruspex say, 'Let everyone sacrifice according to his own rites.' But the chief priest kept an eye on private cults (Plut., Num., 9, 8). Certain aspects of public worship would not be comprehensible if that fundamental fact were not recognised. In any case, many of the rites that became public had in fact originated in the family.