Janus (2)


a very old Roman divinity, whose name is merely a different form of Dianus (probably the sun). The worship of this divinity held a high place in the regards of the Romans. "In every undertaking his name was first invoked, even before that of Jupiter, which is the more singular, as Jupiter was unquestionably the greatest of the Roman gods. Perhaps it may be taken as a verification of the tradition that Janus was the oldest of them, and ruled in Italy before any of the others came thither. (See below, our reference to Romulus.) He presided not only over the beginning of the year: but over the beginning of each month, each day, and the commencement of all enterprises. On New Year's day people made each other presents of figs, dates, honey-cakes, sweetmeats, etc.; wore a holiday-dress, saluted each other kindly, etc. The pious Romans prayed to him every morning, whence his name of Matutinus Pitter (Father of the Morning)." Janus is represented with a scepter in his right hand and a key in his left, sitting on a beaming throne (probably a relic of the original, or at least very old worship of Janus as the sun). He has also two (and sometimes even three) faces (whence the expression, applied to a deceitful person, "Janus faced" [compare Ovid, Fasti, 1, 135]), one youthful and the other aged; the one looking forward, and the other backward, in which some have professed to see a symbol of the wisdom of the god, who beholds both the past and the future, and others simply of the return of the year. Although it is related that Romulus himself erected a temple to Janus in Rome, it seems that a special impulse to the cultus of this god was first acquired by the action in his favor of Numa, who dedicated to him the passage, close by the Forum, on the road connecting the Quirinal with the Palatine. This passage (erroneously called a temple, but which was merely a sacred gateway containing a statue of Janus) was open in times of war, and closed in times of peace. The speculations as to the origin of this Latin deity has been very extended and varied: thus some have even supposed Janus of the Romans the parallel of Noah of the Hebrews, deriving his name from. יִיַן , wine, because Noah was the first planter of vines, and because of his two faces, the one representing his sight of the world before, the other his sight of the world after the Deluge! See Chambers; Cyclopaedia, s.v.; Vollmer, Wörterbuch der Mythol. p. 913 sq.; Smith, Dict. of Class. Biog.

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