Ianuarius: The Month of Janus

Every January, at primary school,* I was told a certain frequent story by my ever-so-knowledgeable headmaster, Mr Davies.

He taught us that January was actually named after an ancient Roman God, Janus (Latin: inanua¹) who had two heads. One head looked forward into the future, and the other looked back into the past.

Source: internettime.com

He told this story every year. It was probably to teach us to understand why we had the New Year, and what January really was.

Looking further into it now, it seems that Janus was the God of Beginnings, Transitions, and Endings.² Also of gates, doorways, etc., anywhere or anything that had an ending and beginning.

In the Roman times, they actually made coins depicting him with two heads. (Come to think of it, I bet he was also a God, who never had someone say a bad word behind his back, because he would see them!)

Source: vroma.org. Dated 225-12 BCE.

He’s was also one of the oldest Gods in the Roman book, and he represented time. he is the first in the Roman Julian calender, Ianuarius. 

During the reign of the Emperor Nero, there was a shrine dedicated to Janus. It was kept open for as long as Rome was at war. When war was over, the doors closed, which was of huge significance to the Ancient Romans.

Source: Vroma.org. Dated during Nero’s time.

It seems that Janus was a symbol of the beginnings, and end, of war in this case. One head looked back at war, one to peacetime.

Therefore, now as we are finally in January, we can turn one of our heads can look back to 2014, and the other can look forward into 2015.

Happy New Year!

*That's elementary school for you, North Americans!
¹ McManus, Shrine of Janus, http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/janus.html
[Accessed. 16 Jan 2015.

² Unknown, Janus, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus [Accessed. 16 Jan 2015].

2 thoughts on “Ianuarius: The Month of Janus”

  1. Hi there I have just looked at your blog i and so very glad I did. Thank you for putting in so much effort to be accurate with your facts and also make history interesting to the lay reader! A great start to the year by being original with the original on this post! We need interesting history tellers

    Liked by 1 person

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