Home Society and HistoryHistoryJanus Roman God of Beginnings and Endings
Janus Roman God of Beginnings and Endings

Janus Roman God of Beginnings and Endings

Have you ever wondered what is the origin of the word “January”? The answer, if you are wondering, lies in the name of Janus Roman God of Beginnings and Endings. Interestingly, the depiction of this Roman god is a two-faced man. This presented his power of looking backward and forward at the same time. The new year festival of Roman was to honor Janus. Because it was a time for them to both look back what they had done in a year and to look forward for a fruitful year ahead.

The Doorkeeper of Heaven

Two-faced Janus coin
Two-faced Janus coin

According to the Roman mythology, Janus was the King of Latium (central Italy). He had a palace in the Janiculum hill on the western bank of River Tiber.

Janus was among few Roman gods that were uniquely Roman gods. Because many in the Roman Pantheon were adopted from the Greek Pantheon. The name Janus in Latin was Ianus for the alphabet had no “j” letter. This Latin name refers to ianua – the door. Janus himself was actually the ianitor who was the doorkeeper. And in his context, he was the Doorkeeper of the Heaven.

Janus Roman God always appeared with two faces with beards. The two heads meant he could see back and forth. He could see inside and outside without turning around. In the right hand of Janus was a staff that he used to direct the travellers to the correct routes. The key in his left hand was to open the gate.

The first month of the year

The Romans held a firm belief that Numan, Roman king established the Shrine of Janus, added the first month January to the calendar. Ancient Roman consuls took their office on the first day of the first month in the year.

Also, Janus was the first deity in Roman Pantheon to receive sacrifice from humanity. Because Janus was the doorkeeper of the heaven, if anyone wanted to get inside, they had to meet Janus first.

Statue of Janus Two-faced in Vatican Museum
Statue of Janus Two-faced in Vatican Museum

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