Different gods, same meanings


Heliopolis (Ancient Greek: “City of the Sun” or “City of Helios”; Egyptian: Iunu, “Place of Pillars”; Arabic: ʿĒn Šams, “Eye of the Sun”) was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, the capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome. It is now found at the north-east edge of Cairo.

The ancient Egyptian cult center Junu, in biblical Hebrew referred to as Ôn (אן) or Āwen (און), and to “On” in ancient Greek in the Hebrew bible, was renamed Heliopolis by the Greeks in recognition of the fact that the sun god Ra (Helios in Greek) presided there. Junu is mentioned in the Pyramid Text as the “House of Ra”.

Iunu was also the original source of the worship of the Ennead pantheon that was believed to be headed by the local sun-god Atum, with whom Ra was merged. Although in later times, as Horus gained in prominence, worship focused on the syncretic solar deity Ra-harakhty (literally Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons).

The Egyptian god Atum, was the chief deity of the city Iunu (Heliopolis), who was worshipped in the primary temple, known as Per-Aat (*Par-ʻĀʼat, written pr-t, ‘Great House’) and Per-Atum (*Par-ʼAtāma, written pr-ỉtmw ‘Temple [lit. ‘House’] of Atum”‘; Hebrew: Pithom).

Ra was through Atum, and was as Atum-Ra also seen as the first being and the originator of the Ennead, consisting of Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys. The holiday of ‘The Receiving of Ra’ was celebrated on May 26 in the Gregorian calendar. The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of the god Ra, had its centre here, and possessed a formal burial ground north of the city.

During the Amarna Period, Pharaoh Akhenaten introduced monotheistic worship of Aton, the deified solar disc. As part of his construction projects, he built in Heliopolis a temple named Wetjes Aton (wṯs ỉtn “Elevating the Sun-disc”).

Egyptian mythology, and later Greco—Roman mythology, said that the phoenix (Bennu), after rising from the ashes of its predecessor, would bring the ashes to the altar of the sun god in Heliopolis. Heliopolis was well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, being noted by most major geographers of the period, including Ptolemy, Herodotus and others, down to the Byzantine geographer Stephanus of Byzantium.

The creation account of Heliopolis relates that from the primeval waters represented by Nun, a mound appeared on which the self-begotten deity Atum sat. Bored and alone, Atum spat or, according to other stories, masturbated, producing Shu, representing the air and Tefnut, representing moisture.

To explain how Atum did this, the myth uses the metaphor of masturbation, with the hand he used in this act representing the female principle inherent within him. Some versions however have Atum—identified with Ra—father Shu and Tefnut with Iusaaset, who is accordingly sometimes described as a “shadow” in this pesedjet.

In turn, Shu and Tefnut mated and brought forth Geb, representing the earth, and Nut, representing the nighttime sky. Because of their initial closeness, Geb and Nut engaged in continuous copulation until Shu separated them, lifting Nut into her place in the sky. The children of Geb and Nut were the sons Osiris and Set and the daughters Isis and Nephthys, which in turn formed couples.


In Mesopotamian Religion (Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian), Tiamat is a chaos monster, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods.

It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is ‘creatrix’, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.

The Abzu (Cuneiform: ZU.AB; Sumerian: abzu; Akkadian: apsû) also called engur, (Cuneiform: LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: engur; Akkadian: engurru) literally, ab=’water’ (or ‘semen’) zu=’to know’ or ‘deep’ was the name for fresh water from underground aquifers that was given a religious fertilizing quality in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology.

In the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish, Anshar (also spelled Anshur), which means “sky pivot” or “sky axle”, is a sky god. He is the husband of his sister Kishar. They might both represent heaven (an) and earth (ki). Both are the second generation of gods; their parents being the serpents Lahmu and Lahamu and grandparents Tiamat and Abzu. They, in turn, are the parents of Anu (also An; from Sumerian *An = sky, heaven), another sky god.

In Sumerian mythology, Anu was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. His attribute was the royal tiara. His attendant and minister of state was the god Ilabrat.

He was one of the oldest gods in the Sumerian pantheon and part of a triad including Enlil (god of the air) and Enki (god of water). He was called Anu by the later Akkadians in Babylonian culture. By virtue of being the first figure in a triad consisting of Anu, Enlil, and Enki (also known as Ea), Anu came to be regarded as the father and at first, king of the gods.

Anu is so prominently associated with the E-anna temple in the city of Uruk (biblical Erech) in southern Babylonia that there are good reasons for believing this place to be the original seat of the Anu cult. If this is correct, then the goddess Inanna (or Ishtar) of Uruk may at one time have been his consort.

Anu had several consorts, the foremost being Ki (earth), Nammu, and Uras. By Ki he was the father of, among others, the Anunnaki gods. By Uras he was the father of Nin’insinna.

According to legends, heaven and earth were once inseparable until An and Ki bore Enlil, god of the air, who cleaved heaven and earth in two. Anu existed in Sumerian cosmogony as a dome that covered the flat earth; Outside of this dome was the primordial body of water known as Tiamat (not to be confused with the subterranean Abzu).

An and Ki were, in some texts, identified as brother and sister being the children of Anshar and Kishar. In Sumerian, the designation “An” was used interchangeably with “the heavens” so that in some cases it is doubtful whether, under the term, the god An or the heavens is being denoted.

The Akkadians inherited An as the god of heavens from the Sumerian as Anu-, and in Akkadian cuneiform, the DINGIR character may refer either to Anum or to the Akkadian word for god, ilu-, and consequently had two phonetic values an and il.

Hittite cuneiform as adapted from the Old Assyrian kept the an value but abandoned il. Ki later developed into the Akkadian goddess Antu (also known as “Keffen Anu”, “Kef”, and “Keffenk Anum”).


Among Egyptian pesedjets, the most important was the Great Pesedjet, also called the Ennead of Heliopolis, after its centre of worship. Heliopolis was dedicated to the worship of the god Atum and thrived from the Old Kingdom until its decline under the Ptolemaic rulers.

The development of the Ennead remains uncertain. Egyptologists have traditionally theorised that the priesthood of Heliopolis established this pesedjet in order to stress the preeminence of the sun-god above other deities, incorporating gods which had been venerated elsewhere for centuries while ignoring others.

The most prominent of such deities was Osiris, god of vegetation and of the netherworld, who was incorporated into the Ennead as Atum’s great-grandson. However, in the 20th century, some Egyptologists question the whole scenario.

What appears almost certain is that the Ennead first appeared when the cult of the sun god Ra, which had gained supreme ascendency during the 5th dynasty, declined during the 6th dynasty.

After propagation of the Ennead, the cult of Ra – identified with Atum – saw a great resurgence until being superseded by the worship of Horus and the identification of the two as Ra-harakhty (Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons).

The Ennead faced competition by other groupings: At Memphis, the priests of Ptah identified their deity with the primeval mound, the place on which Atum arose first, giving him precedence over the Ennead.


Baalbeck is a town in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon situated east of the Litani River. The history of settlement in the area of Baalbeck dates back about 9,000 years, with almost continual settlement of the tell under the Temple of Jupiter, which was a temple since the pre-Hellenistic era.

Recent archaeological finds have been discovered in the deep trench at the edge of the Jupiter temple platform during cleaning operations. These finds date the site Tell Baalbeck from the PPNB neolithic to the Iron Age. They include several sherds of pottery including a teapot spout, evident to date back to the early Bronze Age.

After Alexander the Great conquered the Near East in 334 BC, the existing settlement was named Heliopolis from helios, Greek for sun, and polis, Greek for city. The city retained its religious function during Greco-Roman times, when the sanctuary of the Heliopolitan Jupiter-Baal was a pilgrimage site.

Known as Heliopolis during the period of Roman rule, it was one of the largest sanctuaries in the empire and contains some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon. The gods that were worshipped at the temple – Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus – were grafted onto the indigenous deities of Hadad, Atargatis, and a young male god of fertility. Local influences are seen in the planning and layout of the temples, which vary from the classic Roman design.


Atum, sometimes rendered as Atem or Tem, is an important deity in Egyptian mythology. His name is thought to be derived from the word tem which means to complete or finish. Thus he has been interpreted as being the ‘complete one’ and also the finisher of the world, which he returns to watery chaos at the end of the creative cycle. As creator he was seen as the underlying substance of the world, the deities and all things being made of his flesh or alternatively being his ka.

Atum is one of the most important and frequently mentioned deities from earliest times, as evidenced by his prominence in the Pyramid Texts, where he is portrayed as both a creator and father to the king.

In the Heliopolitan creation myth, Atum was considered to be the first god, having created himself, sitting on a mound (benben) (or identified with the mound itself), from the primordial waters (Nu).

In the Old Kingdom the Egyptians believed that Atum lifted the dead king’s soul from his pyramid to the starry heavens. He was also a solar deity, associated with the primary sun god Ra. Atum was linked specifically with the evening sun, while Ra or the closely linked god Khepri were connected with the sun at morning and midday.

In the Book of the Dead, which was still current in the Graeco-Roman period, the sun god Atum is said to have ascended from chaos-waters with the appearance of a snake, the animal renewing itself every morning.

Atum is the god of pre-existence and post-existence. In the binary solar cycle, the serpentine Atum is contrasted with the ram-headed scarab Khepri—the young sun god, whose name is derived from the Egyptian hpr “to come into existence”. Khepri-Atum encompassed sunrise and sunset, thus reflecting the entire solar cycle.

Atum was a self-created deity, the first being to emerge from the darkness and endless watery abyss that existed before creation. A product of the energy and matter contained in this chaos, he created his children—the first deities, out of loneliness. He produced from his own sneeze, or in some accounts, semen, Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. The brother and sister, curious about the primeval waters that surrounded them, went to explore the waters and disappeared into the darkness. Unable to bear his loss, Atum sent a fiery messenger, the Eye of Ra, to find his children. The tears of joy he shed on their return were the first human beings.

He is usually depicted as a man wearing either the royal head-cloth or the dual white and red crown of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, reinforcing his connection with kingship. Sometimes he also is shown as a serpent, the form he returns to at the end of the creative cycle, and also occasionally as a mongoose, lion, bull, lizard, or ape.


To the Egyptians, the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. This made the sun deity very important, as the sun was seen as the ruler of all that he created. The sun disk was either seen as the body or eye of Ra. Ra was the father of Shu and Tefnut, whom he created. Shu was the god of the wind, and Tefnut was the goddess of the rain. Sekhmet was the Eye of Ra and was created by the fire in Ra’s eye. She was a violent lioness.

Ra was thought to travel on two solar boats called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years), or morning boat and the Mesektet, or evening boat. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the Duat, the literal underworld of Egypt.

While Ra was on the Mesektet, he was in his ram-headed form. When Ra traveled in his sun boat he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command) as well as Heka (magic power). Sometimes members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set, who overcame the serpent Apophis, and Mehen, who defended against the monsters of the underworld. When Ra was in the underworld, he would visit all of his various forms.

Apophis, the God of chaos, was an enormous serpent who attempted to stop the sun boat’s journey every night by consuming it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare. During the evening, the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum or in the form of a ram.

The Mesektet, or the Night boat, would carry him through the underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth. These myths of Ra represented the sun rising as the rebirth of the sun by the sky goddess Nut; thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god as well.

When Ra was in the underworld, he merged with Osiris, the god of the dead, and through it became the god of the dead as well.

With the Ancient Egyptian’s complicated polytheistic beliefs, Ra was worshipped as the creator god to some Ancient Egyptians, specifically his followers at Heliopolis. It was believed that Ra wept, and from the tears he wept came man. These cult-followers believed that Ra was self-created, while followers of Ptah believed that Ra was created by Ptah.

By the Fifth Dynasty (2494 to 2345 BC) Ra or Re had become a major god in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the midday sun. In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the god Horus, as Re-Horakhty (“Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons”). He was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the earth, and the underworld. He was associated with the falcon or hawk.

When in the New Kingdom the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra. During the Amarna Period, Akhenaten suppressed the cult of Ra in favour of another solar deity, the Aten, the deified solar disc, but after the death of Akhenaten the cult of Ra was restored.

All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra, who called each of them into existence by speaking their secret names. Alternatively humans were created from Ra’s tears and sweat hence the Egyptians call themselves the “Cattle of Ra.”

In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them. When she became bloodthirsty she was pacified by mixing beer with red dye.

The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, had its centre in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city.


Uni was the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon and the patron goddess of Perugia. Uni was identified by the Etruscans as their equivalent of Juno in Roman mythology and Hera in Greek mythology. With her husband Tinia and Menrva, she was part of a powerful trinity. Uni appears in the Etruscan text on the Pyrgi Tablets as the translation of the Phoenician goddess Astarte.

Juno and Januar

Juno (Latin: Iūno) is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife) of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Juno is the equivalent to Hera, the Greek goddess for love and marriage. Juno is the Roman goddess of love and marriage, and many people believe that the most favorable time to marry is June, the month named after the goddess.

Juno also looked after the women of Rome. As the patron goddess of Rome and the Roman Empire, Juno was called Regina (“Queen”) and, together with Jupiter and Minerva, was worshipped as a triad on the Capitol (Juno Capitolina) in Rome.

Juno’s own warlike aspect among the Romans is apparent in her attire. She often appeared sitting pictured with a peacock armed and wearing a goatskin cloak. The traditional depiction of this warlike aspect was assimilated from the Greek goddess Hera, whose goatskin was called the ‘aegis’.

The name Juno was also once thought to be connected to Iove (Jove), originally as Diuno and Diove from *Diovona. At the beginning of the 20th century, a derivation was proposed from iuven- (as in Latin iuvenis, “youth”), through a syncopated form iūn- (as in iūnix, “heifer”, and iūnior, “younger”). This etymology became widely accepted after it was endorsed by Georg Wissowa.

Iuuen- is related to Latin aevum and Greek aion through a common Indo-European root referring to a concept of vital energy or “fertile time”. The iuvenis is he who has the fullness of vital force.

In some inscriptions Jupiter himself is called Iuuntus, and one of the epithets of Jupiter is Ioviste, a superlative form of iuuen- meaning “the youngest”. Iuventas, “Youth”, was one of two deities who “refused” to leave the Capitol when the building of the new Temple of Capitoline Jove required the exauguration of deities who already occupied the site.

Ancient etymologies associated Juno’s name with iuvare, “to aid, benefit”, and iuvenescendo, “rejuvenate”, sometimes connecting it to the renewal of the new and waxing moon, perhaps implying the idea of a moon goddess.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (Latin: Ianus) is the god of beginnings and transitions, and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January (Ianuarius) in his honor.

Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The doors of his temple were open in time of war, and closed to mark the peace. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange, and in his association with Portunus, a similar harbor and gateway god, he was concerned with travelling, trading and shipping.

Janus had no flamen or specialized priest (sacerdos) assigned to him, but the King of the Sacred Rites (rex sacrorum) himself carried out his ceremonies. Janus had a ubiquitous presence in religious ceremonies throughout the year, and was ritually invoked at the beginning of each one, regardless of the main deity honored on any particular occasion.

What is known of the rites of October 1 shows at Rome the legend has been used as an aetiological myth for the yearly purification ceremonies which allowed the desacralisation of soldiers at the end of the warring season, i.e. their cleansing from the religious pollution contracted at war. The story finds parallels in Irish and Indian mythologies. These rites took place in October, month that at Rome saw the celebration of the end of the yearly military activity.

Three etymologies were proposed by ancient erudites, each of them bearing implications about the nature of the god. The first one is based on the definition of Chaos given by Paul the Deacon: hiantem, hiare, be open, from which word Ianus would derive by loss of the initial aspirate. In this etymology the notion of Chaos would define the primordial nature of the god.

Another etymology proposed by Nigidius Figulus is related by Macrobius: Ianus would be Apollo and Diana Iana, by the addition of a D for the sake of euphony. This explanation has been accepted by A. B. Cook and J. G. Frazer. It supports all the assimilations of Janus to the bright sky, the sun and the moon. It supposes a former *Dianus, formed on *dia- < *dy-eð2 from Indo-European root *dey- shine represented in Latin by dies day, Diovis and Iuppiter. However the form Dianus postulated by Nigidius is not attested.

In Roman mythology, Diana (lt. “heavenly” or “divine”) was the goddess of the hunt, the moon and birthing, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals. She was equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, though she had an independent origin in Italy. Diana was worshipped in ancient Roman religion and is revered in Roman Neopaganism and Stregheria.

Diana was known to be the virgin goddess of childbirth and women. She was one of the three maiden goddesses, Diana, Minerva and Vesta, who swore never to marry.

According to mythology, Diana was born with her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delos, daughter of Jupiter and Latona. Diana made up a triad with two other Roman deities: Egeria the water nymph, her servant and assistant midwife; and Virbius, the woodland god. Oak groves were especially sacred to her.

According to Georges Dumezil the forerunner of all frame gods is an Indian epic hero who was the image (avatar) of the Vedic god Dyaus. Having renounced the world, in his roles of father and king, he attained the status of an immortal being while retaining the duty of ensuring that his dynasty is preserved and that there is always a new king for each generation.

The Scandinavian god Heimdallr performs an analogous function: he is born first and will die last. He too gives origin to kingship and the first king, bestowing on him regal prerogatives. Diana, although a female deity, has exactly the same functions, preserving mankind through childbirth and royal succession.

The celestial character of Diana is reflected in her connection with light, inaccessibility, virginity, and her preference for dwelling on high mountains and in sacred woods. Diana therefore reflects the heavenly world (diuum means sky or open air) in its sovereignty, supremacy, impassibility, and indifference towards such secular matters as the fates of mortals and states. At the same time, however, she is seen as active in ensuring the succession of kings and in the preservation of humankind through the protection of childbirth.

James G. Frazer links Diana with the male god Janus as a divine couple. Frazer identifies the two with the supreme heavenly couple Jupiter-Juno and additionally ties in these figures to the overarching Indoeuropean religious complex. This regality is also linked to the cult of trees, particularly oaks. In this interpretative schema, the institution of the Rex Nemorensis and related ritual should be seen as related to the theme of the dying god and the kings of May.

Diana (pronounced with long ‘ī’ and ‘ā’) is an adjectival form developed from an ancient *divios, corresponding to later ‘divus’, ‘dius’, as in Dius Fidius, Dea Dia and in the neuter form dium meaning the sky. It is rooted in Indoeuropean *d(e)y(e)w, meaning bright sky or daylight, from which also derived the name of Vedic god Dyaus and the Latin deus, (god), dies, (day, daylight), and ” diurnal”, (daytime).

The interpretation of Janus as the god of beginnings and transitions is based on a third etymology indicated by Cicero, Ovid and Macrobius, which explains the name as Latin, deriving it from the verb ire (“to go”).

Modern scholars have conjectured that it derives from the Indo-European root meaning transitional movement (cf. Sanskrit “yana-” or Avestan “yah-“, likewise with Latin “i-” and Greek “ei-“.). Iānus would then be an action name expressing the idea of going, passing, formed on the root *yā- < *y-eð2- theme II of the root *ey- go from which eō, ειμι.

From Ianus derived ianua (“door”), and hence the English word “janitor” (Latin, ianitor).

It has long been believed that Janus was present among the theonyms on the outer rim of the Piacenza Liver in case 3 under the name of Ani. This fact created a problem as the god of beginnings looked to be located in a situation other than the initial, i.e. the first case. After the new readings proposed by A. Maggiani, in case 3 one should read TINS: the difficulty has thus dissolved. Ani has thence been eliminated from Etruscan theology as this was his only attestation. Maggiani remarks that this earlier identification was in contradiction with the testimony ascribed to Varro by Johannes Lydus that Janus was named caelum among the Etruscans.

On the other hand as expected Janus is present in region I of Martianus Capella’s division of Heaven and in region XVI, the last one, are to be found the Ianitores terrestres (along with Nocturnus), perhaps to be identified in Forculus, Limentinus and Cardea, deities strictly related to Janus as his auxiliaries (or perhaps even no more than concrete subdivisions of his functions) as the meaning of their names implies: Forculus is the god of the forca, a iugum, low passage, Limentinus the guardian of the limes, boundary, Cardea the goddess of hinges, here of the gates separating Earth and Heaven.

The problem posed by the qualifying adjective terrestres earthly, can be addressed in two different ways. One hypothesis is that Martianus’s depiction implies a descent from Heaven onto Earth.

However Martianus’s depiction does not look to be confined to a division Heaven-Earth as it includes the Underworld and other obscure regions or remote recesses of Heaven. Thence one may argue that the articulation Ianus-Ianitores could be interpreted as connected to the theologem of the Gates of Heaven (the Synplegades) which open on the Heaven on one side and on Earth or the Underworld on the other.

From other archaeological documents though it has become clear that the Etruscans had another god iconographically corresponding to Janus: Culśanś, of which there is a bronze statuette from Cortona (now at Cortona Museum). While Janus is a bearded adult Culśans may be an unbearded youth, making his identification with Hermes look possible.

His name too is connected with the Etruscan word for doors and gates. According to Capdeville he may also be found on the outer rim of the Piacenza Liver on case 14 in the compound form CULALP, i.e., “of Culśanś and of Alpan(u)” on the authority of Pfiffig, but perhaps here it is the female goddess Culśu, the guardian of the door of the Underworld. Although the location is not strictly identical there is some approximation in his situations on the Liver and in Martianus’ system.

A. Audin connects the figure of Janus to Culśanś and Turms (Etruscan rendering of Hermes, the Greek god mediator between the different worlds, brought by the Etruscan from the Aegean Sea), considering these last two Etruscan deities as one. This interpretation would then identify Janus with Greek god Hermes. Etruscan medals from Volterra too show the double headed god and the Janus Quadrifrons from Falerii may have an Etruscan origin.

Roman and Greek authors maintained Janus was an exclusively Roman god. This Roman pretence looks to be excessive according to R. Schilling, at least as far as iconography is concerned. The god with two faces appeared repeatedly in Babylonian art.

Reproductions of the image of such a god, named Usmu, on cylinders in Sumero-Accadic art is to be found in H. Frankfort’s work Cylinder seals (London 1939) especially in plates at p. 106, 123, 132, 133, 137, 165, 245, 247, 254. On plate XXI, c, Usmu is seen while introducing worshippers to a seated god.

Janus-like heads of gods related to Hermes have been found in Greece, perhaps suggesting a compound god.

William Betham argued that the cult arrived from the Middle East and that Janus corresponds to the Baal-ianus or Belinus of the Chaldeans sharing a common origin with the Oannes of Berosus.

P. Grimal considers Janus as a conflation of a Roman god of doorways and an ancient Syro-Hittite uranic cosmogonic god.

The Roman statue of the Janus of the Argiletum, traditionally ascribed to Numa, was possibly very ancient, perhaps a sort of xoanon, like the Greek ones of the 8th century BC.

In Hinduism the image of double or four faced gods is quite common, as it is a symbolic depiction of the divine power of seeing through space and time. The supreme god Brahma is represented with four faces. Another instance of four faced god is the Slavic god Svetovid.

Other analogous or comparable deities of the prima in Indoeuropean religions have been analysed by G. Dumézil. They include the Indian goddess Aditi who is called two faced as she is the one who starts and concludes ceremonies, and Scandinavian god Heimdallr.

The theological features of Heimdallr look similar to Janus’s: both in space and time he stands at the limits. His abode is at the limits of Earth, at the extremity of the Heaven, he is the protector of the gods; his birth is at the beginning of time, he is the forefather of mankind, the generator of classes and the founder of the social order.

Nonetheless he is inferior to sovereign god Oðinn: the Minor Völuspá defines his relationship to Oðinn almost with the same terms as which Varro defines that of Janus, god of the prima to Jupiter, god of the summa: Heimdallr is born as the firstborn (primigenius, var einn borinn í árdaga), Oðinn is born as the greatest (maximus, var einn borinn öllum meiri). Analogous Iranian formulae are to be found in an Avestic gāthā (Gathas).

In other towns of ancient Latium the function of presiding on beginnings was probably performed by other deities of feminine sex, notably the Fortuna Primigenia of Praeneste.

The ancient Greeks had no equivalent to Janus, whom the Romans claimed as distinctively their own. Modern scholars, however, have identified analogous figures in the pantheons of the Near East. His name in Greek is ‘Ιανός (Ianós).

An association of the god to the Greek concept of Chaos is considered contrived by G. Capdeville, as the initial function of Janus would suffice to explain his place at the origin of time. Capdeville mentions also Varro apud Augustine, De Civitate Dei VII 8, who uses the word hiatus to explain the assimilation of Janus to the world : Ianus would be the gap (hiatus) through which the sky, represented as the dome of the palate, is manifest: the first meaning of palatum was sky.

Capdeville finds a reminiscence of the same etymololgy also in Valerius Messala augur’s definition, apud Macrobius Saturnalia I 9, 14, that sounds as somehow related to Paulus’s: “He who makes and rules everything, keeping together with the force of the allcovering heaven the heavy nature of earth and water collapsing into the deep with the light nature of fire and wind escaping into the boundless high.”

The relationship of the female sovereign deity with the god of beginnings and passages is reflected mainly in their association with the kalendae of every month, which belong to both, and in the festival of the Tigillum Sororium of October 1.

Janus as gatekeeper of the gates connecting Heaven and Earth and guardian of all passages is particularly related to time and motion. He holds the first place in ritual invocations and prayers, in order to ensure the communication between the worshipper and the gods. He enjoys the privilege of receiving the first sacrifice of the new year, which is offered by the rex on the day of the Agonium of January as well as at the kalendae of each month: These rites show he is considered the patron of the cosmic year.

Ovid in his Fasti has Janus say that he is the original Chaos and also the first era of the world, which got organised only afterwards. He preserves a tutelary function on this universe as the gatekeeper of Heaven. His nature, qualities and role are reflected in the myth of him being the first to reign in Latium, on the banks of the Tiber, and there receiving god Saturn, in the age when the Earth still could bear the gods. The theology of Janus is also presented in the carmen Saliare.

According to Johannes Lydus the Etruscans called him Heaven. His epithets are numerous Iunonius is particularly relevant, as the god of the kalendae who cooperates with and is the source of the youthful vigour of Juno in the birth of the new lunar month. His other epithet Consivius hints to his role in the generative function.

M. Renard advanced the view that Janus and not Juppiter was the original paredra or consort of Juno, on the grounds of their many common features, functions and appearance in myth or rites as is shown by their cross coupled epithets Janus Curiatius and Juno Sororia: Janus shares the epithet of Juno Curitis and Juno the epithet Janus Geminus, as sororius means paired, double.

Renard’s theory has been rejected by G. Capdeville as not being in accord with the level of sovereign gods in Dumezil’s trifunctional structure. The theology of Janus would show features typically belonging to the order of the gods of the beginning. In Capdeville’s view it is only natural that a god of beginnings and a sovereign mother deity have common features, as all births can be seen as beginnings, Juno is invoked by deliverers, who by custom hold a key, symbol of Janus.

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