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Janus

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Arch of Janus Geminus

Arch of Janus

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Definition:

Profile of Janus
Janus Basics

Janus is the Roman two-faced god of doorways and beginnings. His own shrine (to Janus Geminus), contained a bronze statue of the god. It was two arched gates with double doors that were closed very rarely, in times of peace. During war, the doors were open. The troops are thought to have marched through the arches, perhaps in a ritual of purification. Legend has the door of the shrine of Janus closed during the Roman Republic under Numa Pompilius, an early king of Rome, then in 235 B.C., and then under Augustus. No traces of the shrine of Janus in Rome have been found, although ancient writers say it was on the Argiletum by the Forum and it was represented on coins under the Emperor Nero.

Janus was usually the first of the gods to receive offerings. Consuls entered office on the Kalends of his month -- January.

References:

  • "Janus Custos Belli"
    John Bridge
    The Classical Journal, Vol. 23, No. 8 (May, 1928), pp. 610-614
  • "Problems about Janus"
    Ronald Syme
    The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 100, No.
  • "The Shrine of Janus Geminus in Rome"
    Valentine Müller
    American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1943), pp. 437-440
  • "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
Examples:
Holding sacred shields, Salian priests sang a hymn to Janus. It included lines that have been translated as:
"Come forth with the cuckoo [in March] Truly all things dost thou make open.
Thou art Janus Curiatius, the good creator art thou.
Good Janus is coming, the chief of the superior rulers."
- "The Salian Hymn to Janus"

References:

  • "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
    TAPhA, Vol. 31, (1900), pp. 182-188

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