genius, in Roman religion, guardian spirit of a man, a family, or a state. In some instances, a place, a city, or an institution had its genius. As the guardian spirit of an individual, the genius (corresponding to the Greek demon) was largely the force of one's natural desires. The genius of the paterfamilias was honored in familial worship as a household god and was thought to perpetuate a family through many generations. Notable achievements or high intellectual powers of an individual were attributed to his genius, and ultimately a man of achievements was said to have genius or to be a genius.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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