Vesta: An Ancient Prayer & A Lararium (on Film)

A bronze statuette of the goddess Vesta, circa 100 AD.  This may have adorned the lararium of a middle or upper class family.  (From the collection of Debra May Macleod.)

Here is a prayer to Vesta, adapted from an ancient Homeric hymn:

“Vesta, you have gained everlasting honor: glorious is your portion and right. Come dwell in this house in friendship together.”

It’s amazing to think that this idea of Vesta “dwelling” in the home, particularly in the form of the household hearth, has been around for millennia.  It really demonstrates just how far back into antiquity the Vesta tradition reaches.

If you’ve ever wondered what an ancient lararium would have looked like, take a moment to watch this video clip from the movie Gladiator: it’s a very emotional scene of Maximus praying in front of a lararium.  You will see beeswax candles, into the flames of which he may make an offering.  You will also see wooden figurines of his wife and child, as well as bronze statuettes of various gods, including Vesta.

In fact, the image on this blog is of an authentic bronze statuette of Vesta (from  my collection, circa 100 AD) which would have sat on such a lararium.  It’s something I feel privileged to own not just because of its rarity and cultural significance, but because I can almost imagine an ancient person, not so different from Maximus or ourselves, kneeling before it in prayer.  A lovely thought indeed.

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