doors, janitors, Janus and January / by Anthony Gibbins

The word ianua means door. I have a very worn t-shirt adorned with a picture of Jim Morrison and co, and the word ianuae printed in that iconic Doors font. It’s now way too old to make out the image, but I’m loathe to throw it away.

The slave who stood by the door, both guard and greeter of guests, was a ianitor (the root of our janitor), or, if female, a ianitrix.

The god of doorways was Ianus. He was depicted with two faces, one turned in each direction, and he presided over the beginnings and endings of endeavors. He had a special relationship to war, and the twin gates of his temple would be opened at the beginning of aggressions and closed again at the return of, so called, peace. It is telling that at the time of Augustus the gates were said to have been closed twice in Rome’s more than 700 year history!

Finally, there is an adjective Ianuarius that means concerning Ianus. The month sacred to him, situated at the beginning and ending of the year, was the mensis Ianuarius, our January.

Claudia hurries straight to the home of Marcellus. She knocks on the door. The door having been opened, she hands over the money to the very happy Marcellus.