I’m worrying about the janiform heads on the quadrigati and prow bronzes today and how they might relate to each other and Roman cult practices. This is bringing me back to a number of different posts on related subjects and has led me to some other goodies as well.
First, the three earlier posts to catch you up on my thinking:
Here’s Meadows succinct footnote in his Mars Eagle essay on scholarly views:
[More recently there is W. Hollstein’s ‘Ovids « Fasti » und das « aes grave » mit der Prora’ in Noctes Sinenses ; Festschrift fur Fritz-Heiner Mutschier zum 65. (2011), 59-67. I’m not convinced by the idea of the types as references to 241 BC, but he raises many interesting observations.]
I was leaning towards a ‘Penates as Dioscuri, Dioscuri as Penates’ reading and then I came across the bizzare late passage below. Over 700 years after the coins. This is the only know association of Janus with Penates, and yet looking at the coins and the young Etruscan bifrons deity, Culsans, I’m almost tempted to believe Procopius that on some level the identity of Janus was tangled up in Roman minds with that of the Penates…and the Dioscuri… and probably the Lares too. I’m no scholar of religion. I’ve no idea how this worked in the experiences of individual Romans, but the iconographic borrowings and overlaps seem clear enough…
Procopius’ Histories (5.25.20):
ὁ δὲ Ἴανος οὗτος πρῶτος μὲν ἦν τῶν ἀρχαίων θεῶν, οὓς δὴ Ῥωμαῖοι γλώσσῃ τῇ σφετέρᾳ Πένατες ἐκάλουν.
At that time some of the Romans attempted secretly to force open the doors of the temple of Janus. This Janus was the first of the ancient gods whom the Romans call in their own tongue “Penates.” And he has his temple in that part of the forum in front of the senate-house which lies a little above the “Tria Fata”; for thus the Romans are accustomed to call the Moirai. And the temple is entirely of bronze and was erected in the form of a square, but it is only large enough to cover the statue of Janus. Now this statue, is of bronze, and not less than five cubits high; in all other respects it resembles a man, but its head has two faces, one of which is turned toward the east and the other toward the west. And there are brazen doors fronting each face, which the Romans in olden times were accustomed to close in time of peace and prosperity, but when they had war they opened them. But when the Romans came to honour, as truly as any others, the teachings of the Christians, they gave up the custom of opening these doors, even when they were at war. During this siege, however, some, I suppose, who had in mind the old belief, attempted secretly to open them, but they did not succeed entirely, and moved the doors only so far that they did not close tightly against one another as formerly.
And just for the record we can’t assume that that statue in the temple of Janus as it is described for us was in anyway an ‘original’ representation of the God:
And then besides, King Numa dedicated the statue of the two-faced Janus; a deity who is worshipped as presiding over both peace and war. The fingers, too, are so formed as to indicate three hundred and sixty-five days,or in other words, the year; thus denoting that he is the god of time and duration. (Pliny NH 34.33)
If the fingers represented the days of year and counted 365 then Pliny and by extension Procopius were looking at a statue created after Caesar’s reform of the calendar presumably from the Augustan restoration of the temple (so Graf in Brill’s New Pauly, s.v. Ianus).