Janus










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Janus, the fabled offspring of Coelus and Hecate, or of Apollo and Creusa, reigned, says Arnobius (Adv. Gentes, iiii. p. m. 69), in early times over Italy, and was the founder of the town Janieulum, the boasted father of Fontus.

[For a learned dissertation on the myth of Janus, see Nouvelle Gallerie Mythologique, par M. Ch. Lenormant, p. 5].

Representations of Janus occur, as well on the early Roman As (see p. 83, et seq.) as on those of a much later date, marked by the names of families, towhich are to be added the following specimen, which forms the obverse type of a denarius of the Furia gens, described in p. 401.


All these coins present a double head, which procured for Janus, among the ancients, the appellation of Bifrons. Both faces exhibit a long beard, while the head itself is variously ornamented. Generally, it is wreathed with a crown of laurel. Sometimes he has a half moon (lunulam) intercepted by both heads. On other asses, as in the Caesia gens, the double head is covered with a sort of cap. The same representation of Janus, just described from Roman coins, undoubtedly found its way into several coins of foreign die; as on coins struck at Panormus (Palermo). The same double head also appears on coins of Amphipolis and Thessalonica, in Macedonia. We have not, says Eckhel in describing them (vol. i. p. 234), to pronounce them portraits of Janus. No doubt the different peoples of Greece often had come under Roman dominion, by representing on their coins the figure of Janus, who, from the very infancy of Roma was worshiped among her principle divinities, testified that they paid to the Roman gods the same adoration, which in private they did to their own; just as several other Greek cities exhibited on their coins Jupiter Capitolinus. See v. 216.

From the above examples, and others that might be adduced, it is shewn that the Janus of the Romans invariably appeared with a beard. Nor are monuments of a later age at variance with this rule. For he appears bearded on brass coins of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Commodus, and Pertinax.

The author of Doctrina then alludes to opinions entertained by other men of great learning, who have pronounced certain beardless heads, joined in the same manner, to be those of Janus; and confesses that before he had sufficiently considered the subject, his own opinion was the same. (See his observations, i. 94). "One reason for their supposition (says he), is the resemblence of the mode of joining the heads, being such as Janus exhibits. But it is found that this mode was in vogue with foreign nations, who certainly employed it with no reference whatever either to the religion or customs of the Romans. From such evidence it is clearly shewn, that this unnatural device was in use both among the Greeks, the Eturians, and the Romans."

Passing over the conjectures of those who have attempted to ascertain to which people's imagination the invention of such a monster is to be attributed, Eckhel prefers rather to consider the question, what the ancients understood by those two-headed figures?

That some allegory lay beneath them is evident, even from the accounts which Roman writers have given of their Janus. Some have said, that he was represented with two faces, because he had been endowed by Saturn with the knowlege of past and future events (Cedrenus ex Dione). Others, in order that, by being placed between them, he might seem tobe looking upon the commencing and the retiring year. - Servius says, in one place (ad Virg. Æn., I. V. 291) ; "It is stated by some that, Tatius and Romulus built a temple, after entering into a treaty with each other, whence Janus himself has two faces, as if in allusion to the coalition of the two kings." And, in another passage (ad Æneid, I. V. 198) - "It is with propriety that he invokes him (Janus) as he presides at the ratification of all treaties; for after Romulus and Titus Tatias had entered into a compact, a statue was erected to Janus, with two faces, as if to represent two nations." And lastly, Pliny (xxxiv, sec 16) - "The double Janus was consecrated by king Numa, and is worshipped in matters of both peace and war."

The double heads of Janus, as well as those of the man and woman on the coinage of Tenedos, have been explained by ancient writes allegorically. The devotion of Caracalla to the memory of Alexander the Great becoming the subject of general remark, a circumstance occurred which is recorded by Herodian (iv. in Caracall.) - "We have also seen figures absurdly represented, with one body and one head, but two half faces, of Alexander and Antoninus (i. e. Caracalla)." - These instances of allegory may suffice; altho' it is not necessary, at all times, to suppose an allegorical allusion. For it might happen, that an artist would represent some diety with two heads; because, perhaps, the statue was intended to be so placed, that every one, whether within or without the building, might have a view of his countenance; such as was the case, according to Lucian, with some of the Hermæ - "two-headed, and alike both ways, in whichever direction you turn yourself." "I have seen (says Schultze, in his Introduzione alla scienza della Monete Anliche), a four-faced Janus on a coin of Hadrian, in the rich and noble collection of the illustirous Antonio Guntler."

When, therefore, you see double heads on coins, either of the Etrurians or the Syracusans, or the Athenians, you may be sure, that they covey some allegory, though it may often be beyond our power to discover its meaning. - And, when we see on Roman coins the two heads in question, sometimes with beards, at others without, we need be in no doubt, that if they are bearded, Janus is intended; and if beardless, some other account, and without much difficulty, can be given of them. Thus, in the case of the gold coin, on the reverse of which is a double head without beard; and on the reverse ROMA, and the sacrificing of a sow, since this type of the reverse, undoubtedly signifies the rite of ratifying a treaty; and the coin was unquestionably struck without the walls of Rome, it is not nesessary to suppose that the double head on the obverse belongs to Janus, but that after the fashion of the Greeks, some reconciliation between themselves and the Romans is thereby allegorically signified. See Doct. N. Vet. v. 216 to 333.

Janus' Head on the Monetal As. The head of Janus on oneside, and the prow of a ship on the other, is an almost perpetual type on the Roman As. Several ancient writers have alluded to this fact, and the reason for it. Macrobius says "This Janus having hopitably received Saturnus, who had come with a fleet to Italy, and after been instructed by him in agriculture, has improved the rude and savage mode of living which had prevailed before fruits were known, he bestowed upon him (Saturnus) a share in the kingdom. He was the first also who stamped brass; and in this too, he displayed his respect for Saturnus; for, as he had arrived in a ship, on one side was expressed a likeness of his own head, and on the other a ship, to perpetuate the memory of Saturnus. - That the money was so stamped, may be gathered from the game 'pitch and toss' at the present day, in which boys, throwing up their denarii, cry out 'heads or ships?" Aurelius Victor gives the same information.

And Ovid, having made the following enquiry of Janus (Fast. i. 229):
"Multa quidem didici; sed cur navalis in aere
"Altera signata est, altera forma biceps?"

["I have learned a thing or two in my life; but, why is the figure of a ship stamped on one side of money, and a double head on the other?"]

-receives from that diety this answer:-
"Causa ratis superest; Tascum rate venit in amnem.
"Ante pererrato falcifer orbe dens. - - -
"At bona posteritas puppim servavit in aere,
"Hospitis adventum testificata dei."

["The reason for the appearance of the ship remains to be explained. The scythe-bearing god (i. e. Saturn) entered with his vessel a river of Etruria, after traversing the earth. Now, worthy posterity has preserved the ship on money, in commemoration of the arrival of their divine visitant."]

Plutarch speaks to the same effect. (Quaest. Rom.) - Draco of Corcyra has the following in allusion to Janus (apud Athenaeum, xv. p. m. 692), that "he first invented crowns, ships, and boats, and first stamped brass money. On which account, many Greek, Italian, and Sicilian cities engraved on their coins a double head, and on the other side a boat, or a crown, or a ship." - The same also is to be found in Eustathius (ad Odyss. E. v. 251). We have no coin of any Greek or Sicilian city with these types on both sides. All that are extant are undoubtedly Roman. According to Pliny (xxxiii. sec 13), when the as fell as low as the sextantarius, "the mark of brass (i. e. of the as) was, on one side a double Janus, on the other the beak of a ship, and on the triens and quadrans, boats." Eckhel, v. p. 14.



The half-naked figure of Janus Bifrons standing, with spear in right hand, COS. III. S. C. belongs to the second brass of Hadrian.

Janus, the fabled son of Uranus, is believed to have been the most ancient King of Italy, who hospitably received Saturn, when, as a fugitive from Crete, the father of Jupiter, banished by his son, arrived on the shores of Latium. According to the account of Aurelius Victor, Janus was the master-mind of the age in which he lived; he was the founder of a city called Janiculum, taught his people the divisions of the year, the use of shipping, and of money, the rules of justice, and the mode of living happily under the authority of the laws; he also instructed them how to build temples and to honour the Gods with sacrificial worship; to surround the cities with walls, to grow corn and to plant the vine. It was out of gratitude for these alleged benefits that Janus was placed by the Romans in the rank of the Gods, and regarded as presiding over treaties. On the first of January, or in the calends of that month, they celebrated the Janualia. At that festival they offered to Janus a mixture of flour and salt, with incense and with wine. The temple of Janus was said to have been built by Romulus, after he had made peace with the Sabines; and in this temple was a statue with two faces. King Numa ordained that it should be opened during war and shut during peace. In the seventh book of the AEneid, Virgil has described, in some fine verse, this imposing ceremony. The figure of this temple is preserved on medals. It was shut only twice from the foundation of Rome to the year 725; namely, under the reign of Numa, year 38, and after the second Punic war, in 519, under the consulate of Titus Manlius. It was shut three times under Augustus, first in 725, after the Actiac war, and subsequently in 729 and 752. Therefore it became an important event to shut the Janus, an allegorical expression signifying the restoration of peace to the empire. The poets celebrated these memorable closings.

From the first book of Ovid's Tristia, it appears that the temple of Janus was shut under the reign of Tiberius. On a brass coin of Nero we read PACE P. R. TERRA MARIQ. PARTA IANUM CLVSIT. (after having procured peace for the Roman people, on land and on the sea, he, the Emperor, has shut the Janus,) because this temple was called the Janus. Lucan makes mention of the closing of this temple under Nero, to which the coin referred to above refers. Other princes afterwards performed the same ceremony, on a similar consummation of general peace. Trajan not only shut the Janus but embellished its site with an enlarged area. The last epocha when the fane of this deity was closed was under the Emperor Constantius (Gallus), about A.D. 353 or 4.


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