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Tales beyond belief

Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Janus, the Roman god of He was the god of opposites - of exits and entrances, beginnings and endings and the guardian god of portals, doors, and gates. He was also guardian of the new year, and keeper of the calendar, from which the month January takes its name.

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.

Who was Janus?
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 Gates

  • Status: Minor Roman god

  • Symbols: Keys, a rod and scepter

  • Gender: Male

  • 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

Facts about Janus in Roman Mythology and History
Discover interesting information and facts about the Roman god of doors, beginnings and endings.

  • 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, meaning “door.”

  • The Roman god appeared on some of the earliest coins of the Roman Republic, appearing about 240 B.C. during the Pyrrhic War.

  • Every meal was begun with a request for his blessing, and public ceremonies began with a libation drunk to the god of beginnings

Gods and Deities
Roman Gods and Goddesses

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