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Wednesday, April 22 • 8:20am - 8:40am
Pompeian Shrine Serpents: Re-evaluating the Significance of Serpents in Lararium Paintings

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Household shrine paintings in Pompeii typically depict two Lares, or household gods, the genius of the paterfamilias, and a serpent. The common interpretation for the presence of the serpent is that it represents the genius of the paterfamilias. This interpretation has problems with it, however, and the significance of the serpent must be reevaluated. Considering the size and prominence of the serpent in the lararium painting, the snake was significant in Roman religion, and indicates snake worship in cult practices. I will explore the significance of the serpents found in household shrines by analyzing lararium paintings found in Pompeii and the ways in which serpents are depicted. The serpent iconography will be compared to that of native Italic gods and goddesses who were associated with serpents, the use of serpents in Etruscan funerary art, and the use of snakes in Greco-Roman myth. This will illustrate that serpents held significance in Roman religion and serpents in the lararium had an apotropaic function that worked to ward off harmful spirits from the house, and grant fertility, health and prosperity to the familias.


Wednesday April 22, 2015 8:20am - 8:40am PDT
406 Wilma Sherrill Center