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The Two-Faced Roman God






Janus Basics
Janus Profile

Who Is Janus?

Janus is an ancient Roman, composite, obscure god who is associated with doorways, beginnings, and transitions. A usually two-faced god he looks to the future and the past. The concepts of January and janitor are both based on aspects of Janus.






Associated with doorways and gates, Janus is the god of beginnings. Since he looks both ways, the term Janus-faced is used to describe someone who is duplicitous. He was also considered the guardian of peace, a time at which when the door to his shrine was closed.


The most famous temple to Janus in Rome, on the Argiletum, is called the Ianus Geminus 'Twin Janus'. When its doors were open, neighboring cities knew that Rome was at war. When the doors were closed, Rome was at peace. In his account of his accomplishments, Augustus says the gateway doors were closed only twice before him, by Numa (235 B.C.) and Manlius (30 B.C.). Augustus closed them 3 times, in 29 after Actium, in 25, and a debated third time.

There were other temples for Janus, one on his hill, the Janiculum, and another built, in 260 at the Forum Holitorium, by C. Duilius for a Punic War naval victory.

Janus in Art:

Janus is usually shown with two faces, one looking forward and the other backward as through a gateway. Sometimes one face is clean-shaven and the other bearded. Sometimes Janus is depicted with four faces overlooking four forums. He may hold a staff.

The Family of Janus:

Camese, Jana and Juturna were wives of Janus. Janus was the father of Tiberinus and Fontus.

History of Janus:

Janus, the ruler of Latium, was responsible for the Golden Age and brought money and agriculture to the area. He is associated with trade, streams and springs. He could have been an early sky god.

Janus Resources:

  • "The Shrine of Janus Geminus in Rome"
    Valentine Müller.
    American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1943), pp. 437-440.
  • "Problems about Janus"
    Ronald Syme.
    The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 100, No. 1, Tekmhpion. A Special Issue in Honor of James Henry Oliver (Spring, 1979), pp. 188-212.
  • "Janus and the Fasti"
    Lily Ross Taylor and Louise Adams Holland.
    Classical Philology, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Jul., 1952), pp. 137-142.
  • "Watching the Skies: Janus, Auspication, and the Shrine in the Roman Forum"
    Rabun Taylor.
    Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Vol. 45, (2000), pp. 1-40.
  • "The Salii and Campaigning in March and October"
    J. P. V. D. Balsdon.
    The Classical Review, New Series, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Jun., 1966), pp. 146-147.
  • "The Salian Hymn to Janus"
    George Hempl.
    Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 31, (1900), pp. 182-188.

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