Janus is the Roman god known as the custodian of the universe. He is the god of beginnings and the guardian of gates and doors. He is lord over the first hour of every day, the first day of the month and January, the first month of the year. Two heads back to back represent Janus, each looking in opposite directions. His double-faced head appears on many Roman coins. Originally, one face was bearded and one was not, most likely representing the sun and the moon. In his right hand he holds a key. He was worshipped at the beginning of planting time, harvest, marriages, births and other important beginnings in a person’s life.

The Romans believed you could ensure good endings if you began an endeavor with prayers to Janus. His principle temple in the Forum had doors facing east and west to mark the beginning and end of the day. Between the doors stood his statue gazing in opposite directions. In every home, the morning prayer was addressed to him and in many domestic undertakings, his help was sought.

Janus also represents the transition between primitive life and civilization, between rural and urban existence. He also maintains the balance between peace and war and youth and old age. Janus was considered to be a great king during the Golden Age and brought the people peace and great wealth. He introduced money, cultivation of the fields and the law. He was considered the protector of Rome.

When Romulus and his associates kidnapped the Sabine Virgins, the Sabines sought revenge. The daughter of one of the guards on Capitolian Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome, betrayed her country and guided the enemy into the city. The Sabines attempted to climb the hill but Janus made a hot spring erupt from the ground and the would-be attackers fled. After this, the gates of his temple were always left open in times of war so the god could intervene as necessary. In times of peace, the gates were closed.