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For other uses, see Manes (disambiguation).

In ancient Roman religion, the Manes /ˈmnz/ or Di Manes are chthonic deities sometimes thought to represent souls of deceased loved ones. They were associated with the Lares, Lemures, Genii, and Di Penates as deities (di) that pertained to domestic, local, and personal cult. They belonged broadly to the category of di inferi, "those who dwell below,"[1] the undifferentiated collective of divine dead.[2] The Manes were honored during the Parentalia and Feralia in February.

The theologian Augustine, writing about the subject a few centuries after most of the Latin pagan references to such spirits, differentiated Manes from other types of Roman spirits:

"Apuleius says, indeed, that the souls of men are demons, and that men become Lares if they are good, Lemures or Larvae if they are bad, and Manes if it is uncertain whether they deserve well or ill. For, however wicked men have been, if they suppose they shall become Larvae or divine Manes, they will become the worse the more love they have for inflicting injury; for, as the Larvae are hurtful demons made out of wicked men, these men must suppose that after death they will be invoked with sacrifices and divine honors that they may inflict injuries. But this question we must not pursue. He also states that the blessed are called in Greek eudaimones, because they are good souls, that is to say, good demons, confirming his opinion that the souls of men are demons."

— City of God, Book IX, Chapter 11[3]

Latin spells of antiquity were often addressed to the Manes.[4]

Etymology and inscriptions[edit]

Manes may be derived from "an archaic adjective manus —good— which was the opposite of immanis".[5]

The abbreviation D.M. at the top of this 3rd-century Christian tombstone stands for Diis Manibus, "to the Spirits of the Dead"

Roman tombstones often included the letters D.M., which stood for dis manibus, "for the ghost-gods" or figuratively translated, "for the Manes", an abbreviation that continued to appear even in Christian inscriptions.

The Manes were offered blood sacrifices. The gladiatorial games, originally held at funerals, may have been instituted in the honor of the Manes.[5] According to Cicero, the Manes could be called forth from the caves near Lake Avernus.[5]

Lapis manalis[edit]

Main article: Lapis manalis

When a new town was founded, a round hole would be dug and a stone called a lapis manalis would be placed in the foundations, representing a gate to the underworld.[5]

Due to similar names, the lapis manalis is often confused with the lapis manilis in commentaries even in antiquity:

The "flowing stone" … must not be confused with the stone of the same name which, according to Festus, was the gateway to the underworld.[6]

Bailey (1907) states:

There is, for instance, what anthropology describes as 'sympathetic magic'—the attempt to influence the powers of nature by an imitation of the process which it is desired that they should perform. Of this we have a characteristic example in the ceremony of the aquaelicium, designed to produce rain after a long drought. In classical times the ceremony consisted in a procession headed by the pontifices, which bore the sacred rain-stone from its resting-place by the Porta Capena to the Capitol, where offerings were made to the sky-deity, Iuppiter, but from the analogy of other primitive cults and the sacred title of the stone (lapis manalis), it is practically certain that the original ritual was the purely imitative process of pouring water over the stone.[7]


  1. ^ Varro, De lingua latina 6.13.
  2. ^ "Death," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome (Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 366.
  3. ^ St. Augustine of Hippo (1995). City of God. Hendrickson Publishers. p. 171. ISBN 1-56563-096-3. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  4. ^ John G. Gager (15 November 1999). Curse tablets and binding spells from the ancient world. Oxford University Press US. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-0-19-513482-7. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d Aldington, Richard; Ames, Delano (1968) New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. Yugoslavia: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 213. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Larousse" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. ^ Burriss, Chapter 4 (accessed: August 21, 2007)
  7. ^ Bailey, Chapter 2 (accessed: August 21, 2007)


  • Bailey, Cyril (1907). The Religion of Ancient Rome. London, UK: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd. Source: (Accessed: August 21, 2007)
  • Burriss, Eli Edward (1931). Taboo, Magic, Spirits: A Study of Primitive Elements in Roman Religion. New York, USA: Macmillan Company. Source: (Accessed: August 21, 2007)