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31 History Facts!

26. Why is it called January?

Janus – the two face God


Very appropriately, January is named after Janus, the two-faced Roman God of beginning and Endings. One face looking backward contemplating last year’s events, while the other is looking forward to next year’s adventures to come. 

Bonus Fact 1: Janus is also the Roman God of gates, time, Tarantino, and duality. Many temples in Rome were dedicated to Janus, the most important of which was “Lanus Geminus” – a two-gate structure, one facing east and the other facing west, referring to the beginning and end of each day.

The building stood where the Roman Legionnaires gathered before marching to battle. The temple gates had a symbolic role – in times of peace they were closed and in times of war, they opened.

Bonus Fact 2: While today, January is the first month of the year, this was not always the case. It is a relatively late novelty that was introduced only in the seventh century BC by Numa Pompei, the second queen of ancient Rome.

Originally, the Roman calendar included only ten months old. The Roman year began at the first Lunar New Year after Spring Equinox and ended in winter. That calendar did not include the winter months since no agricultural activity took place during winter. Hence, the first month of the Roman year was March.


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