Bronze Janus Heads | Faces of Janus | The Two-Faced God

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For over 2000 years the first month of the new year has been called January. The month is named after Janus, one of the oldest and most important, and certainly one of the busiest, of the Roman gods. There were many temples to Janus in Rome, and in times of war the entrances to these temples were left open so that Janus could welcome back Rome's victorious armies when they returned from battle.

Janus was the porter of heaven. He was the god of all new undertakings. He was the god of the beginning of the day. Especially, he was the guardian god of all gateways, entrances, and doors, watching all who passed in or out.

Because he had to see both ways at once, Janus had two heads. On early Roman coins he had two bearded faces looking in opposite directions. On later statues he even had four heads sometimes. Because he was a doorkeeper, Janus was shown at first with a staff in one hand and a key or keys in the other. Later on, his right hand showed the Roman numerals CCC for 300, and his left hand, LXV for 65, the two adding to 365, the number of days in the year.

January, like the two-headed god for whom it is named, looks both ways too. It looks back at the old year which has past, and forward into the new year which is just beginning.