Hershel Shanks

The rise of Pompeii’s commercial classes in the mid-first century A.D. is reflected in the opulence of their villa’s lararium (shown here), a shrine for propitiating the guardian spirits (lares) of the home. This shrine consists of a model temple with Corinthian columns and a triangular pediment—which forms the frame of a fresco that shows a toga-clad, libation-pouring house spirit, or genius, standing between two dancing lares with drinking horns. Beneath the three figures, a painted serpent slithers toward an altar filled with food offerings.