Featured Janus - the God with 2 Faces

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Jul 12, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    The double head of Janus is well known for numismatists and coin collectors from the Republican asses.

    1st coin:
    Roman Republic, A. Caecilius, gens Caecilia
    AE - As, 22.99g, 33mm
    Rome, 169-158 BC
    Obv.: Double head of bearded Janus, laureate, above I (value mark)
    Rev.: Prora r.
    above A.CAE (AE ligate), before I (value mark), below ROMA
    Ref.: Crawford 147/1; Sydenham 355; BMC 8112; Caecilia 8; Albert 653
    about VF
    bought at Kricheldorf/Stuttgart, before 1970
    According to some numismatists the prora should be an allusion to Janus' journey from Greece over the sea to Rome.

    The 2nd coin shows the uncommon depiction of Janus as frontal standing deity. Please, look at the next note.

    2nd coin:
    Geta, AD 209-211
    AR - denarius, 19.8mm, 3.02g, 0°
    Rome, AD 209-211
    bearded head, laureate, r.
    Rev.: TR P III COS II PP
    Janus(?), in himation, nude to waist, garment over l. arm, stg. frontal, his 2 faces looking l. and r., holding thunderbolt in l. arm and resting with raised r. hand on reversed spear.
    Ref.: RIC IV/1, 79; C. 197; BMCR 13 var., pl. 65, 8 (Sceptre)
    scarce, VF, slightly toned
    The thunderbolt shows that Janus here has some similarity to Juppiter! Cohen even writes: "Janus or Jupiter." Mattingly: "The 'Janus' with thunderbolt and sceptre is certainly a fanciful expression of the duality of the Empire. The imperial Jupiter is now 'biceps'. It was assuredly a fancy that pleased Geta better than his brother. Caracalla hated the idea of full equality of rule and was always insisting on his own seniority. In the long run he was unwilling to brook a colleague on any terms."

    The third coin is an example of the famous series of temples of Janus under Nero:

    3rd coin:
    Nero, AD 54-68
    AE - dupondius, 13.3g, 27mm
    Rome, c. AD 65
    radiate head r.
    Temple of Janus with trellised windows l. and closed double gate r. decorated with
    in l. and r. field big S - C
    Ref.: RIC I, 284; C. 150; BMCR 198 (var. 1, l. side of temple)
    VF, dark brown patina with earthen highligths around the devices
    Solution of the rev. legend: "After having made peace for the Roman people on land and sea he has closed the temple of Janus". pace parta terra marique in connection with the closing of the temple of Janus has been mentioned first in texts of the inscriptions of the victory monument at Actium, even though according to App. B.C. 5. 130 this phrase probably has been used already after the victory over Sextus Pompeius 36 BC.
    terra marique is a Hellenistic phrase, together with pace parta it appears first under Octavian.
    (Source: Carsten Hjort Lange, Res Publica Constituta: Actium, Apollo and the accomplishment of the Triumviral, Brill 2009; cites Momigliano 1941

    There is a blant inadequacy between the importance of this god and our knowledge (and the knowledge of the Roman mythologists in antiquity too!). So only one inscription with his name is found in whole Italy (of 2 slaves in Assisi). Other inscriptions found in Africa or at the lower Donau are rather an interpretatio Romana of indigenous deities (Pauly). The natural consequence was, that these gaps were filled with fanciful stories.

    The parents of Janus are said to be Apollo and Kreusa, daughter of king Erechtheus of Athens. Kreusa has given birth to him secretly and then brought to Delphi for education. When she was married to Xipheus it appears that she was unable to get children. Xipheus asked the oracle and got order to adopt the first child which he would meet the next day. And that was the infant Janus. He adopted him as son (Aur. Victor de O.G.R. c.2). But this story can't be true because Janus was much older as Erechtheus and even Apollo (Anna Fabra ad Victor. I.c). Hence others claim that his parents were Uranos and Hekate. Because Uranos was seen also as the East itself they suggest that Janus has come from the East. Others claim that he was the son of Saturn and Entoria.

    Anyway after the death of Xipheus he was unsatisfied with his inheritance and with a large armada he moved off to Italy. There he occupied a mountain and founded a town on it which was called after him Ianiculum. It is said that he ruled so piously and kindly that no laws are needed to avoid crimes. He is said to have been the first to erect temples to the gods and to offer sacrifices to them. They have consisted of grain and wine.

    He was considered as important inventor. So he gave order to surround the cities with walls and to provide the houses with doors and keys. He is said to have invented the ships and the first money. He has made the barbaric inhabitants of Italy who to civilized humans and has taught them agriculture. Others said that this was actually Saturn. But it is said that when Saturn was expelled by Jupiter Janus has admitted him hostily and permitted him to built the city of Saturnia close to Ianiculum. Other claim that it was Saturn who first ruled Italy and that Janus was his governor. This was the time which was then recalled by the Romans as 'Aurea Aetas', the Golden Age (not before Ovid)

    But because it was impossible that Saturn and Janus have lived contemporarily - which was believed in antiquity - the theory emerged that Saturn actually has been Sterkes, father of Picus, king of Laurentium, who was called Saturn only after his deification.

    In later times the importance of Janus has been expanded. After the world was created heaven, earth, sea and anything have been closed and opened at his will. He is said to have been the guardian of the world and to send war and peace. Together with the Horae he has watched the gates of heaven (Ovid, Fasti). Hence he was seen as keeper of housedoors and as god of the year. Finally he should have been identical with Chaos, the primal ground!

    At sacrifices the first offerings were brought to Janus. The 1st day of the year was sacred to him.

    He is usually depicted as venerable king with two faces of which one was looking forwards, the other sitting at the back of the neck was looking backwards. Additionally he was holding a key in his r. hand by which he could open up the temple and in his left hand a rod. At his feet 12 altars were placed. In the Etruscan city of Phalerae (Faleri) the Romans had discovered a statue of Janus with 4 faces. It is said that this was the reason that later Janus temples in Rome had 4 gates. Sometimes he was depicted with the face of a young man and the face of an old man. Plinius writes, that he has raised a hand and has bent the fingers in a way that - according to an old kind of counting - the number of 365, the number of days of the year, was expressed.

    It has believed that Janus was originated from Perrhaibia in Northern Greece. There he has taken his sister Kamese as wife and has become with her father of Aithex and Olisthe. He has come to Italy 150 years before Aeneas and have ruled for 16 years. The 2 faces he has got because he has ruled over two different people or because he has ruled together with Saturn. Plutarch suggests that the two faces mean that Janus has made from a barbaric and cruel people a civilized and decent people, even with the help of Saturn. Others believe that the 2 faces mean begin and end, or rising and setting of the sun. Or one face is the Orient the other the Occident. The 4 faces then should mean the 4 parts of the world. The key he has used to open the heaven for the sun and to close it in the evening. The 12 altars at his feet are the 12 months (Hederich).

    By others it is doubted that he has taken his own sister as wife. Augustinus e.g. doesn't know of any moral delict of Janus which was so common among the gods. Even though some think that he has pursued the nymph Karne fallen in love with her.

    Ovid (Fast.) tells the story of the nymph Cardea who lived in the grove of Helernus at the river Tiber. She made a bad play with her suitors: Appointed to a rendezvous she sent them ahead to a place between the bushes claiming that she felt ashamed under the open sky. When the suitors lost sight of her she slipped away. But that doesn't work with the double-faced Janus and Cardea had to abandon herself. In gratitude Janus bestowed her the control over thresholds, hinges and doorhandles. But that seems to be a confusuion with the nymph Karne (Carne).

    The temple of Janus:
    After raping the Sabin women the Romans were in war with the Sabins. In this war the following has happened:

    When the Sabins wanted to enter Rome the Romans tried to close the city gate at the Viminialis hill. But they didn't succeed. Everytime the city gate opened again. But when now the Sabins used this gate to enter the city a big stream of boiling water from the temple of Janus gushed over them and beyond the gate so that the Sabins were burned or drowned.

    In memory of their victory over the Sabins the Romans opened the Romulus temple of Janus always when they were in war hoping that Janus would help them as back then against the Sabins. But when there was peace in the entire Roman Empire this temple was closed in a ritual ceremony. This happened actually in 700 years only threetimes: first under Numa, then after the first Punic War and finely under Augustus after the battle of Actium. This temple had 2 opposite gates (Plutarch).

    But it is said too that Romulus has built this first temple for Janus only after his peace agreement with Titius Tatius (Varro). A second temple for Janus was erected later by C. Duilius at the Forum Holitorium and then a third one by Augustus on the Forum Romanum. The temples of Duilius and Augustus had 4 gates (Serv. ad Virgil). Furthermore an Aedem for Janus was built by Horatius bearing the name of the Curiatic Janus in memory of the victory of Horatius over the Curatii. Look below!

    How the temple is described on coins of Nero (Jordan in Roscher):
    "On coins of Nero the closed Ianus appears as cubiform building of which front and one side are visible. Those consists of a gate with closed valvae, which are made by two Corinthian columns bearing an arch. Of the similar gate which undoubtless made up the backside the corner column can be seen. The sidewall which connects both gates is square and reaches only 3/4 of the height of the gates. Its open upper quarter is closed by a lattice, on the columns in the front as at the side stay two-part beams; but there is no roof with fastigium. Undoubtless the building is not an aedes but a double ianus whose sidewalls are only plutea."

    Janus is the guardian of public gates and gateways which are called ianus too (but not the private ones! For the private ones Portunus was responsible). Ianus was too the god of all beginnings and was mentioned in prayers first of all. How the connection between beginning and transition could have come about is unclear. The most famous of all was the Ianus Geminus. It was composed of 2 archways connected at its sides and stood on the northern side of the Forum and made up the gateway to the Argiletum and to the Quirinal hill. The annalist Piso at Varro reports that Numa has decided to close the archway only when there was peace in the entire empire. Until Augustus - who has closed it threetimes - we hear only of a short closing 235 BC after the First Punic War. But this war has ended already in 241 BC so that it is probably a confusion of T. Manlius T.f. Torquatus, cos. 235, with A. Manlius T.f. Torquatus, cos. 241. In his Monumentum Ancyranum (res gestae, 2, 42) Augustus records two closings where he has probably included the closing by Numa. This ritus seems to be very old but first Augustus has reinvented it because of political reasons. But there is the suggestion too that it was Augustus himself who first has introduced this tradition at all! Nero and Vespasian have closed the temple of Janus as well, where Nero has closed the temple after he has lost the campaign in Armenia against the Parthians. This closing is depicted on his coins.

    The last emperor who has opened the temple of Janus - according to Eutrop - was Gordian III before going to war against the Parthians, where he suffered death.

    The interpretation of the symbolic meaning of this rite is not consistent: Vergil (Aeneis) writes that war will be enclosed, Ovid (Fast.) and Horaz (Epist.) suggest peace will be retained. The myth tells: Here the Sabins were restrained by hot sulfuric springs (Ovid met. 14, 78 ff., and others). That there once were hot springs we hear from Varro too. Roscher thinks, that in event of war the temple was held open to ensure that the soldiers after a successful return could come home at any time and the city was not locked up to them.

    Further cult sites connected to Janus:
    In Rome was a further cult site, named Tigillum sororium: A bar across a street at the Mons Oppius was attached to two opposite houses. At the sides were located altars of Ianus Curiatus and Iuno Sororia. On 1st of october a sacrifice was offered at this place. H.J.Ross has explained that sororius belongs to sororiare 'to swell' (in particuliar of the mammae, the breasts) and Curiatius is connected to curia. It seems to be a case of transition ritus of puberty when the former important curiae accepted new members. The aetiological myth which connects the names with the struggle of Curatii and Horatius hasn't know that any longer. This myth tells of a yoke under which Horatius has to go throughout daily because in rage he has killed his sister after his victory over the 3 Curatii. Juno is here the female genius.

    On the Forum Holitorium near the theatre of Marcellus Janus has another temple which was vowed by C. Duilius during the sea battle of Mylae in 260 BC (Tac. Ann. 2, 49). Day of foundation was 17th of August. This temple was restaurated by Augustus and newly consecrated by Tiberius AD 17. The ancient calendars don't know of a feast of Janus, but the Agonium on 9th of January belongs to him. Unprovable and probably wrong is the claim - again and again repeated - that the rex sacrorum was an own priest for Janus and that sacrifices to Janus took place at all calends. Macrobius knows only of 12 altars.

    Beside the Ianus Geminus the most known is the Ianus Quadrifons vowed by Domitian on the Forum Transitorium. This was a four-gate sanctuary with a four-faced statue, which was said to be from Falerii (If it was actually true that this statue came from Falerii it was called Ianus only because of the 4 faces. Its actual meaning is unknown).

    Another Ianus Quadrifons - partially preserved even today - stood on the Forum Boarium over the Cloaca maxima, a four-arched marble arch. But this tetrapylon has nothing to do with Janus at all. The name is a misinterpretation from the time of Renaissance. Probably the entrances to the Forum formerly were formed by Ianus archs. Jordan therefore calls Ianus 'the patron of the marketplace'.

    In Roman mythology Ianus stands rather isolated. In Greek mythology and in the pantheon of Greek deities Ianus is unknown.

    The double face, known alread from the old Republican as, can well be the adoption of the double-faced Hermes or Apollo. It is said that the bronze statue from the Ianus Geminus should have illustrated with its fingers the number 365. But that is fanciful, because it is the number of days of the solar year and not of the Numan year and could arise only after Ianus was connected to sun and year.

    Ianus was not only a personification of entrance but a living numen, on whose workings the fate of humans was depending. Doors and thresholds were sacred. We recall why Romulus has killed his brother Remus. Doorposts have been anoint on weddings, the bride carried over the threshold. By the Ianus archs the Forum was treated as quasi equal to the private atrium (Roscher)

    Etymologically Ianus is naturally related to ianua, = door. But the etymology of ianua is unexplained until today. Ciceros has suggested that there is a relation to ire, = to go.

    Until 153 BC Ianuarius was the 11th month of the old Roman calendar.

    But why the 11th month of the old year was called Ianuarius is unknown, even wether this month is named after this god at all!

    The lack of knowledge has misled to far-reaching speculations: Ianus should have been a sky god and via Etruria a Syrian-Hittite god has taken influence. Originally he should have been a god of river-crossings. As god of begining he already in the later republic became creator and inventor. But more realistic is the conception that at the Ianiculum important Italian trade routes were crossing and all new and foreign goods came to Rome here, and that the Romans therefore ascribed all these things to Ianus. He was called pater in honour. But the term deus deorum is totally un-Roman.

    Sadly we have no remains of the Roman temple of Janus. But we know the description of the temple of Duilius from Plinius: This temple was the most northern on the Forum Holitorium, the grain market. It was a peripteros without columns at its back. It was standing on a 26m long and 15m broad podium and had 6 columns of Ionic style. Still today we can see some columns and parts of the podium beside the church San Nicola in Carcere. But I must confess that this is not undisputed.

    History of Art:
    In Fine Arts Ianus was depicted only rarely. A column with the double-faced Ianus appears on the left side of Nicolas Poussin's "Dance of Live", about 1638, an assembly of various allegories of time. In a similar connection Janus appears as figur with two heads, a youthful and a senile one, in the fresco "Triumph of History over Time" from Anton Raphael Mengs (1772-1773), Biblioteca Vaticana, Rome. Two paintings of Louis de Boullogne, 1681, and Charles Andre van Loo "Auguste faissant fermer le temple de Janus", about 1750, both in the Musee de Beaux-Arts in Amiens/France, have as subject the closing of the temple by Augustus. A more allegorical depiction of the same issue is shown on a painting of Peter Paul Rubens, 1635, today in the Hermitage/St. Petersburg.

    I have added
    (1) a pic of the remains of the temple of Janus of Duilius on the Forum Holitorium

    (2) a pic of Rubens' paintings


    (1) Augustus, Res gestae (Monumentum Ancyranum)
    (2) Vergil, Aeneis
    (3) Ovid, Fasti
    (4) Ovid, Metamorphoses
    (5) Horaz, Epistulae
    (6) Tacitus, Annales

    (1) Der Kleine Pauly
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770 (online too)
    (3) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie, 1886 (online too)

    (1) Wikipedia (Temple of Janus)
    (2) www.neue-akropolis.de
    (3) www.theoi.com
    (4) www.stefan-ramseier.ch

    Best regards
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  3. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Good article.
    While all denominations come with the above legends, the smaller asses more often abbreviated VBIQue "everywhere" for a better fit. There are also variations on the temple including whether it is 3/4 right or left. Aurei show it straight on from the front.
    rb1125fd3268hd.jpg rb1120b02188lg.jpg
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  4. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status Supporter

    Bravo!:cigar::pompous::artist: Another fantastic eye opening write up! Janus really is a god that the more I learn of the less I know:wacky:
    Roman Republic Janus
    Anonymous (AT or TA series), As,Rome, 169-158 BC, AE, (g 22.83, mm 32, h 12). Laureate head of Janus; above, I, Rv. Prow r.; above, AT or TA; before, I; below, ROMA. Crawford 192/1; Sydenham 372
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  5. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    Nice write-up, @Jochen1 . Today, Janus seems such a conundrom... hard to really understand his true meaning to the Romans. He is featured on many Roman Republic coins, but seems featured onl a few times after Augustus.

    I have several Janus and Januforms... here are a few of mine:

    Troas Tenedos late 5th-early 4th C BCE AR Obol 8mm 0.60g Janiform hd female-male - Labrys within incuse square SNG Ash 1235 HGC 6 387


    RR Anon AR Heavy Denarius Quadrigatus Didrachm 215-213 Janus Roma Relief tablet S 32 Cr 28-3.jpg
    RR Anon AR Heavy Denarius Quadrigatus Didrachm 215-213 Janus Roma Relief tablet S 32 Cr 28-3

    RR Anon AR Heavy Quinarius - Drachm Half Quadrigatus 225-212 BCE 3.1g 18mm Janus Jupiter in Quadriga L Victory ROMA Cr 28-4 S 35 SCARCE


    RR M Furius LF Philus AR Denarius 119 BCE Janus Sear 156.jpg
    RR M Furius LF Philus AR Denarius 119 BCE Janus Sear 156


    RR Anon AE As after 211 BC Janus I Prow Cr 56-2 Sear 627.jpg
    RR Anon AE As after 211 BC Janus I Prow Cr 56-2 Sear 627

    RImp Pompey 42-38 BC AE As Janus Prow Magnus S 1394 Cr 479-1.jpg
    RImp Pompey 42-38 BC AE As Janus Prow Magnus Sear 1394 Cr 479-1
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  6. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Great write-up @Jochen1 - thanks for going to the trouble to present all of this information - it makes for stimulating reading.
    Jochen1 likes this.
  7. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Another superlative article by Jochen 1, who is an endless source of ancient & numismatic knowledge :D! I've posted this coin / medal before but it seems appropriate to post it again for this article, see photo below. It was struck in pure gold by the famous coin forger Slavey Petrov, "the Bulgarian", in the style of the famous Tenedos tetradrachm, 34 mm, 19.95 gm. This example is also a male - female Januform head like the genuine example of an ancient Tenedos coin posted by Alegandron, posted again below my photo for comparison.

    Slavey replica, 19.95 gm.jpg
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  8. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Another fine article, Jochen.

    I got this Commodus sestertius featuring Janus in a shrine - not the temple you show in the OP, I'm guessing.

    Commodus Sest. Janus temple Apr 2019 (0).jpg

    Commodus Æ Sestertius
    (186 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    M COMMODVS ANT P FELIX AVG BRIT, laureate head right / [P M TR P XI IMP VII] around, COS V PP below, domed distyle temple w. Janus standing facing, holding sceptre, SC across fields.
    RIC 460; Cohen 489; Sear 5780.
    (24.77 grams / 30 mm)
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  9. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Well-Known Member

    Thank you @Jochen1 for the interesting writeup, coins, and wealth of Janus material. Your post prompted me to look up the vivid Ovid Metamorphoses IV Reference for the Sabine story...

    "Till then the path by Janus' fane was open, never yet had floods risen to impede the way. But now they laid hot sulfur of a faint blue light beneath the streaming fountain and with care applied fire to the hallowed ways with smoking pitch. By these and many other violent means hot vapors penetrated to the source of the good fountain.—Only think of it! Those waters which had rivaled the cold Alps, now rivaled with their heat the flames themselves! And, while each gate post steamed with boiling spray, the gate, which had been opened (but in vain) to hardy Sabines just outside, was made impassable by the heated fountain's flood, till Roman soldiers had regained their arms."

    Here is a Janus coin - condition a bit rough:
    M Acilius.jpg
    Sicily, Panormos, circa 120 BC
    Æ As (5.11g, 20.4mm) Manius Acilius, Quaestor.
    Obv: Laureate and bearded head of Janus; I above
    Rev: MAN (ligate) ACILI Q within laurel-wreath; star pattern of pellets at top
    Ref: SNG ANS 599; Calciati I pg. 342; 71; BMC Sicily pg. 126, 1
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  10. Nvb

    Nvb Well-Known Member

    That's a wonderful and educational post @Jochen1 . Your time and effort is appreciated by many here.

    Here is my one and only Janus, and one of my all time favorite coins:

    Didrachm or Quadrigatus, Anonymous, Rome, Silver, Crawford:28/3


    Material: Silver
    Weight: 6.65 g
    Diameter: 24.50 mm
    Obverse: Laureate head of Janus,
    Reverse: Jupiter, hurling thunderbolt and holding scepter, in galloping quadriga right driven by Victory ROMA
    Crawford 28/3
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  11. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Supporter! Supporter

    Fantastic post Jochen, many thanks

    I can't dare to post my didrachm after the one above, so here my D. Junius L.F. Silanus, As (91 BC) instead


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  12. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    C. Fonteius, Rome, 114-113 BC. AR Denarius (20mm, 3.93g, 5h). Laureate, janiform heads of the Dioscuri; I to l. R/ Galley l. with three rowers, gubernator at stern. Crawford 290/1; RBW 1120; RSC Fonteia 1.
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  13. JBGood

    JBGood Collector of coinage Supporter

    One of my few Imperatorial bronze coins. The obverse shows the the head of Janus with the features of Cn. Pompeius Magnus. Somewhat feminine I'd say?
  14. JBGood

    JBGood Collector of coinage Supporter

    Couple more Janus head coins.....

    Cluvius Saxula 169-158BC.jpg

    Cluvius Saxula
    Æ As. Uncial standard
    169-158 BC.
    Laureate head of bearded Janus; I (mark of value) above
    Prow of galley right; I (mark of value) to right.
    Crawford 173/1; Sydenham 360

    M. Furius L.F. Philus.jpg

    M. Furius L.f. Philus. 120 BC. AR Denarius (19mm, 3.78 g, 12h). Rome mint. Laureate head of Janus / Roma standing left, holding wreath and scepter; to left, trophy of Gallic arms flanked by a carnyx and shield on each side; star above. Crawford 281/1; Sydenham 529; Furia 18.
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