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This Day in History:
Italian Contributions in the Month of January

January was named for the Roman God, Janus. He reined over the Gates of Heaven, which Christians later assigned to St. Peter.  It was the beginning of everything in the Roman world.  He was the god of all exits and entrances. Hence all gates and doors were regarded as holy. In this, there is more than mythology: We see here a deep insight into the nature of Time, for between the has-been and the yet-to-come is the winking present that alone is perceived reality. The Hindu world pictured this as Shiva's third eye which transforms all to naught, as does every fleeting instant in the incessant stream of time. Christ is sometimes described as pater futuri seaculi: Father of Ages unborn.

In most traditions, as at one time among the ancient Romans too, the year began with the onset of spring. It was March, the month of sowing, which was the first of the months, making - as their names still remind us - the months from September to December seventh (septem: seven) to the tenth (decem: ten) months. Though this is the time of the year when the earth is at its perihelion (closest to the sun in its elliptical orbit), 1 January has no observed astronomical significance such as a solstice.  The little Temple for Janus that Claudius Duilus is said to have erected in 260 BCE in the Forum Olitorium is buried in antiquity, alive only in the obscure pages of history, but his name is here to stay in the calendars of many peoples.

 

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Much of the information found here was compiled from...


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