January is the first month in our modern calendar and signals a fresh start for most of society. It is a time when we look forward to resolutions, improving our lives, and new opportunities. It is a time that is meant to renew and revitalize our lives. January, as we all know, starts the new year in both the modern Gregorian calendar and the former Julian calendar. It was named after the Ancient Roman God Janus. The Roman King Numa Pompilius decided the calendar, which at the time started in March was not a proper reflection of the lunar year of three-hundred and sixty-five days. Around 700 BCE, the month of January was added to the calendar. The month was named after Janus, the god of Gates and Doors; to Ancient Romans this god represents new beginnings and fresh starts. Janus guides us through periods when we go from war to peace.
“…the Romans had an important temple to Janus, which was called the Ianus geminus. This temple served a symbolic function. When the gates of the structure were closed, this represented peace in the Roman Empire; but when the gates were open, it meant that the Romans were at war.”
He watches over doors, passages, gates, walkways, and endings. This god is the one who responsible for changes, motions, and time. He is the god of transitions. Janus is described as being the god of two faces. In physical appearance, the god is often shown having one face looking forward; whereas, a second face looks backwards. This reflects a symbol of beginnings and endings. A very appropriate representation of what Janus and the month of January are all about. The month closes the year behind it and opens up a new year going forward. It is a transition of time itself that reflects the god behind the month’s name.
The most interesting thing about Janus is the fact there is no Greek counterpart. In Roman and Greek mythology, often the same goods can be found in both. They usually have different names but are the same people. This is not the case for this particular god. Janus is one of the earliest of the Ancient Roman Gods, and has often been referred to as the “gods of gods’, but he is not depicted in Greek mythology; so, where did he come from?
One of the most notable origin stories surrounding Janus implies he may have been an actual mortal human being and the first priest. He is described as the founder of sacrifice and divination. This is due to his ability to see both past, present, and future through his two different faces. He is also noted for being a ruler of Latium for many years and is thought to have received Saturn when the god was driven from Greece.
FACTS ABOUT JANUS
- The greatest temple in tribute to Janus is located in Rome and called the Ianus Geminus “Twin Janus”
- Offerings to him include a ram, incense, wine, barley and cakes
- He joined the Titans during the Olympian war
- Saturn gave him his ability to see into the future and past.
- He was placed onto the coins used in the early Roman Republic
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