Tonight we are saying goodbye to 2014 and welcoming a new year as 2015. We look back on the year gone past, and look forward to the coming year. We can only look in one direction at a time. It is the two-faced god Janus Bifrons, who could look in both directions, and the coming month was named Ianuarius, from which we got January.
On the eve of the new year, we should think of going back into history to identify the real Janus. He was a mortal who is believed to have come from Thessaly and became the ruler of Latium. He brought a Golden Age to the country by ensuring peace and through agriculture and trade. He was the father of Tiberinus and Fontus. Janus was deified after his death, and his statues depicted two faces, one clean shaven and one bearded. Bergen Evans' Dictionary of Mythology says, "It was a peculiarity of this god that the doors of his temple were kept open in time of war and closed in time of universal peace. They were rarely closed."
In Rome his temple was 'Ianus Germinus' (Twin Janus), on Argiletum, the street that ran from the residential area to the Roman Forum. The double door building, one door faced the rising sun and the other, the setting sun. It was built by Numa Pompilus (715 - 673 BCE), the second king of Rome after Romulus. He tried to make his countrymen more religious and lead them away from conflicts and violence. When Rome was at war the temple doors were open. The doors of the temple were closed once by Titus Manilus Torquatus in 235 BCE and by Galus Octavius after the battle of Actium against Cleopatra and Mark Antony (31 BCE). As Augustus Caesar he closed it twice more. With his two faces, looking at the past and the future Janus became associated with doorways and people had the Janus face on their front doors and on gates of cities. Romans called him 'Divom deus' the god of gods, and was one of the earliest of Roman gods.
Janus was also associated with beginnings and transitions. Janus Face has come to be considered as having two sharply contrasting characters or aspects, which has been applied to many aspects of life.
Simon Mackezie and Tess Davis published a report in the British Journal of Criminology, on the trafficking of cultural treasures. They said the middlemen work with a Janus face, the dark side handling the illegal looters, and shows the clean face to the international market. This applies to all middlemen, the traders, and businessmen.
The misunderstood Janus face applies to almost all human beings, because we do not show the same face to everybody. The face we show our parents, to our spouses, to our children, may not be the same, and the face we show our employers or our employees, or our clients, our readers or our fans, could be another, totally different one.
Arthur Koestler wrote 'Janus: A Summing Up' about his philosophy of 'Holarchy' as a way of organizing knowledge and nature. He claimed that everything is formed of, what he called 'Holons', where one holon is always a part of a larger holon, which itself was a part of a still larger holon. Each holon had a Janus face, one face looking down or outward and the other face looking up or inward. This theory was further developed by Ludwig von Bertalanffy and Herbert Simon.
We find Janus in fiction, like 'Victory on Janus' by Andre Norton, 'Math Fiction:The Janus Equation' by Steven G. Spruill, 'The Janus Room' by Martha Bryman and many more. Even though Janus was not named, the two-faced god and man has always been a common and popular theme among poets and novelists. Prof. Carlos Baker (Princeton), wrote the essay 'The Poet as Janus: Originality and Imitation in Modern Poetry'. He quotes Edward Wagenknecht, "there is no such thing as complete originality in a writer and all literary work are Janus-faced." And Shelley, "we look before and after, and pine for what is not". The poet looks before, to his ancestors and looks after to the still-to-be-finished lyric.
Cholesterol has been called a Janus-faced molecule, a double-edged sword in the human body. It is an essential building block, with 23% of body cholesterol residing in the brain. It can also be lethal when it forms plaques on the surface of arteries and subsequently causes coronary heart disease. Nitric Oxide has also been called a Janus molecule. It is produced in the body by an essential amino acid L-arginine and functions as a messenger molecule. It can be protective or toxic, due to various factors.
Dr. D. B. Zorov et al. has proposed that mitochondria as Janus Bifrons. Mitochondria which are considered as the 'power plants of the cells' in living organisms are able to predetermine the development of the cells and its death. This is nature's way of development and control. Yet man has tried to take over this process, to determine birth, development and death, which is the root of all evil. The Janus-faced man is trying to decide who should live and who should die.
Let us close the doors of the Janus temple. "The terrible iron-constricted Gates of War shall shut; and safe within them shall stay the godless and ghastly Lust of Blood, propped on his pitiless piled armory, and still roaring from gory mouth, but held fast by a hundred chains of bronze knotted behind his back" (Virgil, Aeneid, 1.293-296)
Let us close the doors of the Janus temple forever, seal it permanently, so that no one would ever be able to open it again and declare war on his brother.