penates (pənāˈtēz) [key], in Roman religion, household gods, primarily guardians of the storeroom. Theirs was the chief cult of every Roman household, especially in early times. They were worshiped in connection with the lares and, as guardians of the hearth, with Vesta. Every household was said to possess images of the penates, to whom offerings were made before each meal. Penates were also public gods, protectors of the community and state.