He is an Italic deity with no syncretic counterpart to be found in other cultures. Latin or specifically Etruscan in origin, He shares the Etruscan name for door, janua.
The earliest representations, however, appear to have been the two-faced heads, which are frequently seen on Etruscan medals found at Volaterrae. A statue with four faces was brought to Rome after the conquest of the Etruscan town of Falerii (Serv. ad Aen. vi. 607; Macrob. l. c.)I was recently reading Macrobius, the second book cited above and it has been very helpful in understanding Janus and Saturn and their relationship and positions within the pantheon of Rome.
While He might be considered a "minor" deity these days, He was a pretty big deal in ancient Italy. Not only was He the one invoked at the new year, He was invoked at the start of the new day and the new month and the new season for sowing seed. Why sowing seed? Wasn't Saturn credited with that? Glad you asked! Legend has it that Janus was King of Italia and when Saturn fled Jupiter, He was welcomed by Janus in exchange for sharing the secrets of sowing seed. Janus has his own city! The Janiculum, or as it's also known: Gianicolo! For those who have been following for a while, this past September I went to the Feast of San Gennaro, aka Saint Januarius. Just sayin... thought it would be appropriate to include that here in a post about Janus ;) From the holy wiki:
The Janiculum was a center for the cult of the god Janus, and the fact that it overlooked the city made it a good place for augurs to observe the auspices.
In Roman mythology, Janiculum is the name of an ancient town founded by the god Janus
I've wondered too, is Janus an epithet? Janus, God of new beginnings, doorways, choices, keys... Is He an aspect of another deity? He feels similar to Mercury and Hermes and Terminus, but something about him is vastly different. He has also been identified with Sol and with Apollo:
The identity of Janus with the Sun was commonly expressed by his indicating with the fingers of the right hand, and in later times by his counting in his right hand 300 pebbles, and in his left. In some representations he held in his right hand a staff or sceptre, and in his left a key by which he is symbolically described as the god who had power over the entrance of heaven; hence he had the surnames of Patulcus or Patulcius, and Clusius or Clusiviuns.While the others travel past, give rise to, or mark boundaries, Janus is the God of that moment when you are neither here nor there- on the lintel, neither inside or out; Potential energy itself.
Here is the perfect poem for Janus and so tonight I dedicate it to Him!
Dear, Limnal God of beginnings and endings, May my choices be wise, my transitions be easy! Hail Janus!
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference