Saturday, 31 December 2016

Janus Roman God of beginnings and transitions, God of the New Year


In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus. His most apparent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January.
Though he was usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions (Janus Geminus (twin Janus) or Bifrons), in some places he was Janus Quadrifrons (the four-faced). The Romans associated Janus with the Etruscan deity Ani.
Janus was frequently used to symbolize 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. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as marriages, births and other beginnings. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood.
Though he was usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions (Janus Geminus (twin Janus) or Bifrons), in some places he was Janus Quadrifrons (the four-faced). The Romans associated Janus with the Etruscan deity Ani.
Janus was frequently used to symbolize 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. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as marriages, births and other beginnings. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood.
While the fundamental nature of Janus is debated, in most modern researchers view the set of the god's functions may be seen as being organized around a simple principle: that of presiding over all beginnings and transitions, whether abstract or concrete, sacred or profane. Interpretations concerning the god's fundamental nature either limit it to this general function or emphasize a concrete or particular aspect of it (identifying him with light the sun, the moon, time, movement, the year, doorways, bridges etc.) or see in the god a sort of cosmological principle, i. e. interpret him as a uranic deity.
Almost all these modern interpretations were originally formulated by the Romans themselves The function of 'god of beginnings' has been clearly expressed in numerous ancient sources, among them most notably perhaps Cicero, Ovid and Varro. As a god of motion he looks after passages, causes actions to start and presides over all beginnings, and since movement and change are bivalent, he has a double nature, symbolized in his two headed image.
He has under his concerns the stepping in and out of the door of homes, the ianua, which took its name from him, and not vice versa. Similarly his tutelage extends to the covered passages named iani and foremost to the gates of the city, including the cultic gate called the Argiletum, named Ianus Geminus or Porta Ianualis from which he protects Rome against the Sabines. He is also present at the Sororium Tigillum, where he guards the terminus of the ways into Rome from Latium. He has an altar, later a temple near the Porta Carmentalis, where the road leading to Veii ended, as well as being present on the Janiculum, a gateway from Rome out to Etruria.
The connecion of the notions of beginning (principium), movement, transition (eundo), and thence time has been clearly expressed by Cicero. In general, Janus is at the origin of time as the guardian of the gates of Heaven: Jupiter himself moves forth and back because of Janus's working.In one of his temples, probably that of Forum Holitorium, the hands of his statue were positioned to signify the number 355 (the number of days in a year), later 365, symbolically expressing his mastership over time. He presides over the concrete and abstract beginnings of the world, such as religion and the gods themselves, he too holds the access to Heaven and other gods: this is the reason why men must invoke him first, regardless of the god they want to pray or placate. He is the initiator of human life, of new historical ages, and financial enterprises: according to myth he was the first to mint coins and the as, first coin of the libral series, bears his effigy on one face.
Janus frequently symbolized change and transitions such as the progress of future to past, from one condition to another, from one vision to another, and young people's growth to adulthood. He was represented time, because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as at marriages, deaths and other beginnings. He represented the middle ground between barbarism and civilization, rural and urban, youth and adulthood. Having jurisdiction over beginnings Janus had an intrinsic association with omens and auspices.
Leonhard Schmitz suggests that he was likely the most important god in the Roman archaic pantheon. He was often invoked together with Iuppiter (Jupiter).According to Macrobius citing Nigidius Figulus and Cicero, Janus and Jana (Diana) are a pair of divinities, worshipped as Apollo or the sun and moon, whence Janus received sacrifices before all the others, because through him is apparent the way of access to the desired deity

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