January
   , JANUS, JANITOR
   Janus was appointed to his job as god of gates and doors because he had two faces, one looking backward and the other forward. It was said that he knew the past and foresaw the future — an attribute that can be represented by a door because it looks two ways.
   The Romans had some doubts about the trustworthiness of Janus. His temple in the Roman Forum had two doors which were closed when Rome was at peace but open during wartime. The open doors meant that the god had gone out to assist the warriors. During peacetime, the doors were closed to make certain that this god, the safeguard of the city, would not escape. Clearly the Romans took no chances with Janus. When at peace, they would slam the cloors shut in both his faces. Ovid tells the story of the nymph of Carna, who beguiled her suitors by inducing them to go into a cave with the promise that she would follow shortly after and let them make love to her; she then promptly ran away. But when she tried this trick on Janus, he saw her departing with his second, backward-looking face, whereupon she granted him her favors, and he in return gave her the power to chase away nocturnal vampires, a power she used to save their son Proca.
   From Janus came the word janitor, meaning doorkeeper. The responsibility of the janitor eventually extended to the entire building. Janus also gives us January, the name of the first month in the year.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

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