Do you know the origin of the name “January”?

The King of Rome Numa Pompilius (753 – 673 BC) had a temple erected dedicated to the most ancient Latin god, the god of gods, namely Two-faced Janus (Ianus Geminus). He reigned in the golden age and hosted Cronus, who took refuge in Italy after he was chased away by Zeus.

In Roman times, if you strolled around the city, you would have seen the statues of Two-faced Janus on the doors (ianua) of the houses and on the gates of the city, with one face looking inward and the other outward.
He was the god of transit, of the present, and of the future and for this, he was represented with two faces. He had to be the first god who was mentioned in prayers, he was the one who taught civil living to the Aborigines of Lazio but, above all, he was also the god of the beginning, and therefore of the morning and of the first month of the year called like the god Ianus, from here Ianuarius and…here we go January!

There’s something else…

  • Nearby the Forum there was a gate, built by Numa Pompilius, which was opened when the State was at war, to let the militia go out and come back, and was closed in time of peace.
  • Sometimes it was also represented with four faces; the temples dedicated to Four-faced Januswere built with four exactly equal walls and a door and three windows on each side. The four doors represented four seasons of the year and the twelve windows the months.
  • According to the Gregorian calendar, January is the first month of the year. But it is Numa Pompilius who, for the first time, in 713 BC., sets January and February as the first months of the year (Numian calendar of 355 days).
    However, it will take centuries before the Romans get over it! In fact, for them, until the second century BC, the year began in March because in this month the military activities and the mandate of the consuls began. After 153 B.C. they decided instead to start the year with the month of January, the period in which the magistrates and consuls were elected.
  • The New Year’s Day. In the Middle Ages, the Roman calendar (Julian calendar) was still observed, but in the Christian world, New Year’s Day could coincide with Christmas (25 December), the Annunciation (25 March), or Easter. In the 16th century, the Christians began to celebrate the new year on the day of the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, on January 1st. This date was made official in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII with the reform of the calendar that takes its name from him.