He is always
depicted as having two faces, and looks to the
future and the past. The modern word
'janitor' derives from the Latin word 'ianitor'
meaning "doorkeeper, porter" and from 'ianua'
meaning "door, entrance, gate". There was no Greek counterpart
or equivalent of this ancient Roman deity.
Janus was the Roman god of doors, choices, beginnings and
endings. He had two faces on his head. One
facing forwards and one facing backwards. The Romans prayed to him for advice,
especially in respect of new enterprises. He
also represented time, because he could see into
the past with one face and into the future with
the other. The festival of Agonalia was
celebrated in honor of the god Janus four times
during the year, 17 March, 21 May, 11 December,
and 9 January. On these days, the symbolic head
of the Roman state religion (rex sacrorum) would
enter the Forum, and sacrifice a ram to the god.
The role of Janus was as the porter of heaven.
He opened the year in Januarius (January), the
first month being named after him.
He was the
guardian god of gates and doors, on which
account he was commonly represented with two
heads, looking at those who wished to gain
entrance and those who wanted to exit. Janus
possessed no temples in Rome, but all the gates
of cities were dedicated to him. Close to the
Forum stood the so-called 'temple' of Janus,
which was merely an arched passage that could be
closed by massive gates. The gates were always
open in time of war, as it was believed that the
god had then taken his departure with the Roman
army, over whose welfare he personally presided.
The Romans were engaged in so many wars that the
gates of this sanctuary were only closed three
times during 700 years, indicating peace. The gates were
shut only once between the reign of Numa
Pompilius (who reigned 715–673 BC) and twice in of
the Emperor Augustus who reigned until 14 AD.
Facts about Janus
The following facts and profile provides a fast
overview of Janus:
Roman Name: Janus
Role & Function: The function of Janus is
described as being the god of doors,
choices, beginnings and endings. He was the
God of Choices and the God of Doorways and
Status: Minor Roman god
Symbols: Keys, a rod and scepter
Greek Counterpart: There was no Greek
counterpart of Janus
Name of Consorts: Camese, Jana and Juturna
Name of Father: Some say the god Apollo
Name of Mother: Unknown
Names of Children: The river god Tiberinus
(after whom the river Tiber was named). and
Fontus the God of Springs
Janus in Roman Mythology and History
Discover interesting information and facts
about the Roman god of doors, beginnings and
The most famous 'temple' to Janus in Rome,
on the Argiletum, is called the Ianus
Geminus 'Twin Janus'.
He was usually depicted with two faces and
in his special function as door-keeper of
heaven he was portrayed standing erect,
bearing a key in one hand, and a rod or
sceptre in the other
Offerings to him include a ram (on the
Agonalia), incense, wine, barley and cakes
Any rite or religious act first required the
invocation of Janus, with a corresponding
invocation to Vesta at the end of the rite
(Janus primus and Vesta extrema).
During the Titan war, he joined the Titans
against the Olympians
Deference was also paid to him at the most
important beginnings in the life of an
individual such as birth and marriage.
The god Saturn bestowed his ability to see
into the future and past.
His name comes from the Latin word ianua,
The Roman god appeared on some of the
earliest coins of the Roman Republic,
appearing about 240 B.C. during the Pyrrhic
Every meal was begun with a request for his
blessing, and public ceremonies began with a
libation drunk to the god of beginnings