Janus’ Gate

Janus Gate.jpg

Janus was the Roman God of boundaries.  Many homes had a shrine to Janus at the entrance.  The two faced god looked inwards and outwards at the same time.  He was the God of doormen.

In the Roman Forum stood the Temple of Janus, an arched portico which could be closed by two gates.  The gates were shut in time of peace and opened in time of War.  For most of the history of Rome the gates remained open.

Janus also marks the boundary of the year, giving us the name for the Month of January.


Amoretti IV: by Edmund Spenser

New year forth looking out of Janus gate,
doth seem to promise hope of new delight:
And bidding the old Adieu, his passed date
bids all old thoughts to die in dumpish spright
and calling forth out of sad Winters night,
fresh love, that long hath slept in cheerless bower:
Wills him awake, and soon about him dight
his wanton wings and darts of deadly power.
For lusty spring now in his timely hour,
is ready to come forth him to receive:
And warns the Earth with diverse coloured flower,
to deck herself, and her fair mantle weave.
Then you fair flower, in whom fresh youth doth reign,
prepare yourself new love to entertain.

Facing Forward


Janus, the Roman God, has two faces.  One looks backwards and one looks forwards.  Janus is the God of new beginnings.  He was invoked at the beginning of any enterprise, and was often side by side with another God.  If you wanted to declare war you invoked the God Mars, but also Janus.  As long as Rome was at war the doors to the temple of Janus remained open.  At peace they were closed.

Janus is a God of transitions, lanes, passages and gates. It is from Janus that we get Janitor, originally a gatekeeper rather than toilet cleaner.  Janus should therefore be the God of gatekeepers such as border guards, receptionists, PAs and the helpdesk guy who resets the password you forgot.  St Peter, who carries the keys to the pearly gates, has been called ‘the Janitor of Heaven’.

Because it marks the transition to a new year January was named after Janus.   It is a time to review the year gone and plan the time to come.

2013 was not a good year for many reasons, both micro and macro, the personal and the global.  Frankly, it is best forgotten, which is why I like the poem below.  So I will not be wallowing in nostalgia for the departed year and will instead focus on the future.


Start Where You Stand; by Berton Braley


Start where you stand and never mind the past,

The past won’t help you in beginning new,

If you have left it all behind at last

Why, that’s enough, you’re done with it, you’re through;

This is another chapter in the book,

This is another race that you have planned,

Don’t give the vanished days a backward look,

Start where you stand.


The world won’t care about your old defeats

If you can start anew and win success;

The future is your time, and time is fleet

And there is much of work and strain and stress;

Forget the buried woes and dead despairs,

Here is a brand-new trial right at hand,

The future is for him who does and dares,

Start where you stand.


Old failures will not halt, old triumphs aid,

Today’s the thing, tomorrow soon will be;

Get in the fight and face it unafraid,

And leave the past to ancient history,

What has been, has been; yesterday is dead

And by it you are neither blessed nor banned;

Take courage, man, be brave and drive ahead,

Start where you stand.’