From Art to Artifact:  Making Sense of Roman Coins


Roman Bronze, Head of Janus

The obverse of this bronze coin (Crawford 35/1) cast in or after 240 BCE depicts the head of Janus, the Roman god of doorways and the namesake of the month of January. who had twin faces looking either directon. In ancient Rome, the cult of Janus had military implications: his temple in the Forum was only closed when Rome was at peace, only twice during the Roman Republic.

Janus and the Dioscuri can be distinguished on coins by their ages. The Dioscuri are always depicted youthfully without beards, whereas Janus always has a full, thick beard. This distinction notwithstanding, the representation of the Dioscuri as Janiform surely recalls the cult of Janus and its military implications.