At home with the Lares: lived religion rematerialised at Pompeii

Emma-Jayne Graham (The Open University)


This article posits that Pompeian religious knowledge which characterised Lares and serpents as gods of place was a consequence of lived religion. It argues that this religious knowledge arose from personal experiences of religious agency as it was produced during encounters with these deities in different material and locational contexts, namely household kitchen shrines and street-corner altars. It suggests that because of the unique ways in which ritual caused humans to assemble with the mutually affective material qualities available in these particular contexts, these experiences and the religious knowledge they produced were grounded in ritualised actions incorporating the immediate material world, rather than involving purely cognitive or pre-existing intellectual understandings or beliefs. Adopting a broadly posthumanist position that combines elements of material religion and lived religion, the essay therefore highlights how religious knowledge at Pompeii was the product of ritualised relationships between human and more-than-human things (e.g. places, objects, divinity). Applying these concepts to ancient Pompeian religion for the first time, the discussion demonstrates how lived religion produced proximal forms of religious knowledge concerning personal and communal understandings of ancient Lares and serpents that effectively substantiated them as gods of place.

Keywords: Lares, lararium, senses, material religion, lived religion, place, religious knowledge

Full text: OAJ_ISSUE_10_2_Emma-Jayne Graham_final (PDF 1.15MB).


Biographical note 
Emma-Jayne Graham is Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University. Her research focuses on aspects of material religion, the archaeology of Roman Italy, mortuary practices, and ancient disability. She is the author of Reassembling Religion in Roman Italy (Routledge, 2021) and co-founder of