Janus (Latin Ianus ) was the Roman god of beginnings and endings. He is one of the oldest Roman gods and the original Roman mythology. It is a purely Roman god and had no detectable cult outside of Rome and no equivalent in Greek mythology.


Its origin is uncertain, different legends describe him as a child Saturnus ' and Entorias.

He is said to have reigned as king over Lazio in the golden age and lived on the Janiculum. It is also said that he had received the fleeing Jupiter Saturnus with you. Venilia to have been his wife. His daughter was married to King Canens Picus of Laurentum.

Ovid also tells of Cardea, which was originally a nymph in the grove of Helernus on the Tiber. This made ​​a game with her ​​admirers, she sent ahead to the place of rendezvous, to escape only to them once they left this out of the eye. But that was not possible in the two-faced Janus, and so had Cardea surrendered to him. Janus awarded her but thanks to the domination of thresholds, door hinges and door handles.

A mythical tale of the pseudo - Plutarch makes him the brother of Entoria, who was transferred from Saturnus under the stars.


The earliest pictures of Janus (on the coins minted Servius Tullius ) show him with a double face, forward and backward looking, hence the epithet Geminus ( " the Double " ), Bifrons ( " the Zweistirnige " ), Biceps ( " the Two -headed "). Vierköpfig it appears on coins of Hadrian, therefore Quadriformis ( " the Four Multifarious " ) and quadrifrons ( " the Vierstirnige "). The most common representation of the god was, however, possibly after Greek model of certain Hermes and Apollo images, just double-headed. Therefore, the so-called Janus head is the symbol of ambiguity ( something is " Janus-faced " = something is " ambiguous ").

After a very ordinary representation Janus counted in the right hand 300, in the left 65 stones, indicating the division of the year into 365 days. In other pictures he had in his right hand a staff in his left hand one or more keys, symbolizing the power of the guardian of the gates of heaven, the mover of the Angles of the universe, the digester and Zuschließers of the sky, the clouds, the land and the sea (hence Claviger, Clusius, Patulcius ).

In allegorical representations of the four seasons Janus embodies the winter.

In the Republican period the head of Janus appeared on the obverse of the 1 -As coin.


Janus was originally a light - and sun-god, the male counterpart of Jana, or Diana, and was only gradually to the God of all origin, the beginning and the end, the inputs and outputs of doors and gates, the father of all things (even the sources) and all the gods. His name belongs to the same word family as ianua, the Latin word for door and ianus for each unsealed vaulted passage. According to him, also the month of January is named. All calendar dates the beginnings symbolized (so-called Kalends ) were dedicated to him. The Solemnity of Janus, the Agonium, was celebrated on the 9th of January of the Roman calendar.

Janus was worshiped as the inventor of agriculture, the civil laws and liturgical customs. Particular importance was Janus for activities for which he should provide protection and support. When sacrifices began with the invocation of Janus '. He acted as mediator between men and gods.


The most important sanctuary of the temple of Janus Janus was the Roman Forum. The construction of this temple was the legendary King Numa Pompilius attributed, is said to have introduced the service for Janus in Rome.

The so-called Arch of Janus in Rome is not a sanctuary, which was dedicated to Janus, but a secular building ( quadrifrons ), which was incorrectly interpreted in the Renaissance as the Temple of Janus.

Reception in the visual arts

In the visual arts of modern times Janus was rarely depicted. A column with Janus head appears on the left in Nicolas Poussin's " Dance of Life " ( 1638, Wallace Collection, London), a composition of various allegories of the time. In a similar context Janus appears as a figure with two heads, one young and one old man's, in the " triumph of history over time ", a fresco by Anton Raphael Mengs (1772-1773, Vatican Library, Rome),

Two paintings by Louis de Boullogne ( 1681, Amiens, Musée de Beaux -Arts ) and Charles André van Loo ( " Auguste faissant fermer le temple de Janus", 1750, Amiens, Musée de Beaux -Arts ) the closure of Janus temple by Augustus on the topic. A more allegorical representation of the same process shows a painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1635, Hermitage, St. Petersburg).

A painting by Austrian artist Paul Meissner is entitled Janus head. An oil painting and an etching by the artist Michael Masha bear the title of Janus.

Modern reception

The term Janus is also used in cases of Diprosopus ( Janus cat ) or Siamese twins ( Janiceps ) applied if the affected two faces have.

Janus is also a cover name for the villain Two-Face in the DC Comics.

The district offices in several German states are also called Two Faced because of their dual position as state and local authority.

Saturn's moon Janus (IAU ) named on 30 September 1983 by the International Astronomical Union after the Roman god.