Doors of the Temple of Janus

The Ufford hotel had a large double drawing room, divided by a pair of doors, apparently permanently closed,  into a lounge and a writing room. Jenkins surmises: “Perhaps, like the doors of the Temple of Janus, they are closed only in time of Peace; because years later, when I the saw the Ufford in war-time these particular doors had been thrown wide open.” [AW 9/3]

Roman coin from Nero's reign showing the Gates of the Temple of Janus picture from Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com via Wikimedia  Commons

Roman coin from Nero’s reign showing the Doors of the Temple of Janus
picture from Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com via Wikimedia Commons

The story of these doors, closed in only in time of peace, is recorded in Plutarch’s Lives. (Life of Numa, XIX-XX, translation of the Greek edition ~1517) In Rome, the doors were rarely closed, because some part of the Empire was almost always at war.  Jenkins, looking back from the 1950s, is reminding us how much life in Britain in the 1930s was about to change.  Janus was shown as having two faces because as a king he turned men from barbary to civilization; January was named for him in honor of good government.  The original temple, adjacent to the Roman Forum, no longer exists, and the best images are from old coins.

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