One of the oldest of the gods in the Roman pantheon. He was represented as having two faces, one looking forwards and the other backwards. His legends were purely Roman and were bound up with those dealing with the origin of the town. According to some mythographers, Janus was a native of Rome where at some point he had ruled with Camesus, a mythical king of whom nothing is known. Others claim that Janus was a foreigner, a native of Thessaly, who was sent as an exile to Rome where he was welcomed by King Camesus, who shared his kingdom with him. Janus was supposed to have built a city on a hill, which was consequently called Janiculum. He came to Italy with his wife Camise or Camasenea and they had children, the best-known being Tiber, eponym of the river Tiber. After the death of Camesus, he ruled Latium alone. Janus received Saturn when he was driven from Greece by his son Jupiter (see Cronus and Zeus). While Janus ruled on the Janiculum Saturn ruled over Saturnia, a village situated on the heights of the Capitol. The reign of Janus was said to have had all the features of the Golden Age: men were perfectly honest; there was plenty; and there was also complete peace. Janus was said to have invented the use of money. The oldest bronze Roman coins indeed had the effigy of Janus on the right side and the prow of a boat on the reverse. Janus was said to have civilized the first natives of Latium, although this was sometimes attributed to Saturn.

When Janus died he was deified. Other legends were attached to him: one miracle in particular was attributed to him, which saved Rome from being conquered by the Sabines. After Romulus and his companions had carried off the Sabine women, Titus Tatius and the Sabines attacked the city again. One night Tarpeia, the daughter of the Warden of the Capitol, delivered the citadel into the hands of the Sabines. They scaled the heights of the Capitol and were just about to turn on the defenders when Janus launched a jet of hot water in front of the attackers which frightened them and put them to flight. To commemorate this miracle it was decided that in time of war the door of the Temple of Janus should always be left open so that the god could come to the aid of the Romans. It was only closed if the Roman Empire was at peace. Janus was also said to have married the Nymph Juturna whose shrine and spring were not far from his own temple in the Forum. He was said to have had a son by her, the god Fons or Fontus, the god of springs. In his satiric poem about the transformation of the Emperor Claudius into a pumpkin (Apocolocyntosis), Seneca tells how Janus, a skilful speaker and an habitué of the forum, and expert in the ability to see forwards and backwards, pleaded in defence of Claudius.


Table of Sources:
- Carmen Saliare in Varro, De Ling. Lat. 7, 26
- Piso, Annals, quoted ibid. 5, 165
- Livy 1, 19, 2, etc.
- Ovid, Fasti 1, 63-299; Met. 14, 785ff.
- Virgil, Aen. 7, 180; 7, 610; 8, 357; 12, 198
- Serv. on Aen. 1, 291 and 8, 319
- Plutarch, Quaest. Rom. 41, 274e-f
- Macrob. Sat. 1, 7, 19; 1, 9
- Aug. Civ. Dei 7, 4
- Solinus 2, 5
- Joann. Lyd. De Mensibus 4, 1-2. Cf. P. Grimal, Letters d'Humanité IV, 1945
- L. A. Holland, 'Janus and the Bridge' in Papers and Monographs, American Academy in Rome. 21, 1961.