Post 457 –by Gautam Shah
In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings. Janus symbolized change and transitions such as: the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, and of one universe to another. He represented the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood. He was worshipped at the beginnings of all events like planting and harvesting, births, marriages, etc. The cult of Janus dates back to a period even before founding of Rome. Janus has no equivalent god in Greek mythology. The oldest lists of Roman gods began with Janus. He was surnamed ‘divom deus’, an ancient Latin form meaning ‘the god’s god’. Lord Ganesh, elephant headed God of Indian mythology has many similarities with Janus. Ganesh is the presiding deity, and first to be invoked in all ceremonies. Presence of Ganesh is considered auspicious for all beginnings and is symbolically represented at the door-head. Ganesh is called Devadhi-Dev or God of the gods.
Rome had many freestanding ceremonial gates (‘jani’) that were marks of auspicious beginnings, departure and return from victory, as entrance and exit. One of the famous jani, Janus-Geminus was a shrine at the north side of the forum.
Janus was depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. Some believe Janus represents sun and moon. ‘Janus Geminus’ -Bifrons the two-faced Janus was replaced by -Quadrifrons the four-faced Janus, by emperor Domitian. The two-sided gates began to be four faced structures. Four forums were erected such as, Forum of Peace, Forum Transitorium, Forum of Julius Caesar, and Roman Forum.
A Typical Janus temple had a square room, a dual faced Janus statue or bust in the center, and two doors, (called Gates of war or peace) on opposite sides. The main street or forum side door (some claim both the doors) was kept open during war, so that he could easily intervene. The doors and gates were closed during peace. ‘The gates were closed to keep the War in’, or as stated exactly opposite by Ovid and Horace, ‘it is Peace that is kept inside the temple of Janus’. Symbolically Janus is represented by a Key.
Janus is remembered for the month of January. The fingers of Janus’ hands were placed in strange positions, which Pliny interpreted as an indication of the number 355, a reference to the number of days of the oldest Roman calendar. It is also suggested that origin of the name of the Italian city of Genoa is a derivation of Janus.