Penates (Lat. penus, inmost), the household gods of the Romans, who dwelt in the innermost parts of the house, and were the guardians of the family (either the private family, or the state as the great family of citizens). The private penates had always their place at the hearth. In their honor a perpetual fire was kept burning; every meal was a sacrifice, beginning with a purification and ending with a libation to them; and at the departure or return of any member of the household, the penates were saluted in the same manner as the other dwellers in the house. The lares are probably to be numbered among the penates, although evidently not the only penates, as a family rarely had more than one lar, while the penates are never spoken of in the singular. Varro says the number and names of the latter were indefinite. The public penates of Rome, depicted as two young men holding lances, had a sanctuary near the centre of the city in a place called sub Velia. Sacrifices were made to them by generals when departing on their campaigns, and by consuls, prsetors, and dictators when entering upon their office.