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I'm your best friend, I'm your worst enemy, I'm Janus, God of Doorways. Beginnings. Endings. Choices.
~ Janus.

Janus was the Roman god of beginnings, gates, transitions, portals, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings.

Overview

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (Latin: Ianus) is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, passages, endings and time. He was sometimes treated as minor deity.

He reigned over all dual matter, such peace & war, birth & death, as well as raveling, trading and shipping, making his duty overlap with the god Mercury. Janus was also invoked during every religious ceremony in the Roman Empire, even during those of Jupiter.

Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The doors of his temple were open in time of war, and closed to mark the peace. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange, and in his association with Portunus, a similar harbor and gateway god, he was concerned with travelling, trading and shipping.

History

Given his roles as the Guardian of Gates, his role as the God of Beginnings and the esteem of having the first month of the year in his honor, it is apparent that Janus played a significant role in Roman myth and religion.

He was said to be present in the beginning of the world, guarding the gates of Heaven, and he also presided over the creation of religion, life, and even the gods. He was probably considered the most important Roman god, and his name was the first to be mentioned in prayers, regardless of which god the worshiper wanted to pray to.

JanusSebastianMünster1550.jpg

One tradition states that he came from Thessaly and that he was welcomed by Camese in Latium, where they shared a kingdom. They married and had several children, among which the river god Tiberinus (after whom the river Tiber was named). Janus, as the first king of Latium, brought the people a time of peace and welfare; The Golden Age. He introduced money, cultivation of fields, and law. After his death, he was defied and became the protector of Rome.

Other myths suggest how once Janus helped Saturn, who was expelled from the heavens by Jupiter. He, with very much hospitality, took care of him for quite some time. In gratitude, Saturn gave him the power to see the past as well as the future. Some others tell how he changed a nymph Carna into Cardea, Roman Goddess of Hinges.

Janus has appeared in mythology since the start of Roman civilization. When Romulus, the founder of Rome, kidnapped the Sabine women, Janus caused a volcanic hot spring to erupt. This resulted in the forces of Tatius, a Sabine king of Cures, being buried alive in the deathly hot water and ash mixture of the rushing hot volcanic spring that ended lives and burned and/or disfigured many soldiers of Tatius. Later on, however, the Sabines and Romans agreed to create a civilization together. In honor of this, the doors of a roofless structure called "The Janus" (not to be confused with a temple) were kept open during war after a symbolic contingent of soldiers had marched through it. The doors were closed in ceremony when peace was concluded.

Personality

Because of his dual form, Janus has dual personalities as well. His left head is generally a pessimist, and the right head is an optimist. Because of this, they often disagree a lot. One head also tends to lie, while the other tells the truth most of the time. Each head however often have the same goal of causing misfortune or indecision with those they meet.

Trivia

  • It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus, but according to ancient Roman farmers' almanacs Juno was the tutelary deity of the month.
  • He had a temple on the Forum Olitorium, and in the first century, another temple was built on the Forum of Nerva.
  • One of his titles was Bifrons (two-faced), which would later be hijacked by a Goetic demon.

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