From: lauf-s <lauf-s@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 21 May 1999 11:24:53 -0400
Agonalia - a festival in honor of Janus celebrated in Rome on the 9th of
January and the 21st of May.
Janus is my favorite Roman god.
Janus - an old Italian deity. He was represented with a face on the front
and another on the back of his head. The month of January was sacred to him,
as were all other beginnings. The myth makes him a king of Latium or
Etruria, where he hospitably received Saturn when expelled by Jupiter from
Crete. He had a small temple in the Forum, with two doors opposite to each
other, which in time of war stood open and in time of peace were shut; the
temple was trice closed on this account. With reference to his temple, the
deity was called Janus geminus or Janus Quirinus.
[yikes! in its over 800 year history, Rome was at peace only three times?!?]
I like Janus because he can see in front of him and he can see behind him --
into the future and into the past? Also, I like to wonder whether Janus was
?two faced? or was he schizophrenic?
Within his large plan of the Campo Marzio, Piranesi applies the label
?Circus Agonalis sive Alexandri? to the original Circus of Domitian which is
today Rome?s Piazza Navona. Albeit obscure information, Piranesi was indeed
correct in his designation because the emperor Alexander Severus rebuilt the
Circus of Domitian and renamed it in honor of Janus. It is fun to imagine
all the big goings-on over 1700 years ago today within what is now the
Another monument in honor of Janus that still stands in Rome today is the
Arch of Janus Quadrifrons, which is in the Forum Boarium. It is one of those
unique four-way arches, and, according to Banister Fletcher, is ?of poor
design.? What is most interesting about this arch, however, is that it was
constructed under Constantine the Great AFTER he converted to Christianity.
I believe this signifies two important facts. First, the aristocratic and
pagan population of Rome still had tremendous influence and power. Second,
whoever designed this arch was extremely clever in that Janus, precisely
because of his ?two faced? nature, was the perfect god to reflect
Constantine?s own political position -- exactly because of his conversion
from paganism to Christianity, Constantine himself is Rome?s ultimate
Janus-like emperor. [Personally, I can?t help but believe that it was
Constantine?s mother Helena (that most saintly of architects) that thought
all this poignant symbolism through.] And, in an almost too good to be true
sense, the Arch of Janus may well have predicted (looked towards) European
architecture?s next 1200 years: Banister Fletcher notes ?it has a simple
cross-vault with embedded brick box-ribs at the groins, affording a further
instance of the progressive character of Roman construction techniques: such
ribs are possibly the prototypes of Gothic rib vaults. [Fletcher is being a
little two faced himself here -- first the Arch of Janus is not good design,
and then the arch is progressive construction!] Could it really be that the
first ribbed cross-vaults ever were built in late antiquity? Do these
vaults, built by ancient Rome?s first Christian emperor, unwittingly and
uncannily prophesies a whole new future era of Western architecture? [And is
it possible that Helena, besides being the first master architect of
Christianity, is also the world?s proto-Gothic architect?]
Constantine converted to Christianity the night before the Battle at the
Milvian Bridge (October 28, 312) which lead into the City of Rome. He saw a
vision of the (Christ) Cross in the sky, and hence ordered his troops to
paint the (Christ) Cross on their shields. Constantine was victorious over
the usurpative emperor Maxentius, and on October 29 entered Rome in triumph.
Constantine?s mother, St. Helena, is most known for having discovered the
True Cross in Jerusalem (most recently dated c. 324-25). If you asked me, I?
d say the ?signs? surrounding this incredible mother-son team are still