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The mythological God Giano at the origins of the village of Cassano delle Murge

Sunday 26 november 2017

The two-faced Latin deity seems to have been at the base of the Apulian village ... and not only that

The mythological God Giano at the origins of the village of Cassano delle Murge

Cassano delle Murge is a charming village in the province of Bari, about 350 meters above sea level. The location offers a panorama of the most spectacular in the region. Known today as a holiday resort, Cassano delle Murge has ancient origins and the name seems to derive from a Roman god.

It would seem that the name "Cassano" would originate from the Latin Cassius but perhaps it could derive from the devotion of the Apuli, a people who settled in the area around 1000 BC. and they built a temple dedicated to God Giano. From here comes the name "Cassano = Casa Jani".

It would appear that the present Church of the Crucifix, in Cassano delle Murge, was originally built on an ancient crypt of Roman origins, named Santa Maria delle Palme, probably on the ruins of the Temple of Giano.

Church of the Crucific - Cassano delle Murge

But who is this god?

Giano (from the Latin: Ianus) is the god of the beginnings, material and immaterial. It is one of the oldest divinities of the Roman and Latin religions. Giano was depicted with two faces as he could look at both the future and the past and was able, as the god of the door, to look both inside and out. Giano was a god of Roman mythology, in fact, no evidence of correspondents was found in Greek or Etruscan mythologies. Perhaps the figure of Giano could be traced back to that of Sumerian Ushmu God, a two-faced god also called Isimud or, in Babylon, Kaka.

The name of Giano, according to some scholars, would derive from the word ianua "door" or "passage" but in the past there are those who formulated the hypothesis that the name could come from an older form, that of Dianus, attributable to the goddess Diana and hence derived from the Latin word dies, "day".

Giano is one of the oldest Roman-Italic divinities among the "Di Indigetes" (Nationals Gods) and was often invoked with Iuppiter. His cult is very ancient and dates back to an archaic era in which the cults of the people were still linked to the natural cycles of harvesting and sowing. Giano was probably the main god of the Roman Pantheon, and although in that archaic era was the god linked to the natural cycles, in later times his myth became more and more complex, to some extent defined as the father or god of all gods. In fact, it seems that Giano has no parents (Jupiter, for example, is the son of Saturn) and, thanks to his Pater Divorum quality, he had always been. Ovidio, in the Fasti (I, 103 et seq.) recounts that Giano was present when the four elements split apart, giving shape to everything. According to Varrone, Giano is the creator of the world itself, while according to Settimio Sereno, Giano would be "the principle of the gods and sharp seed of things."

Thus, Giano presides at all the beginnings and the passages, material and immaterial, such as the thresholds of houses, doors, bows, but also the beginning of a new, human or economic enterprise, historical and mythical time, gods, the world, humanity, and civilization. In the reform of the Roman calendar, Numa Pompilio dedicated to Giano in the month of January that with the Giulian reform of 46 BC became the first month of the year.

In the classical era, Giano was represented at the doors, passages and bridges, guarding the entrance and exit, carrying the ianitores, a stick and a key, while the two faces looked in both directions.

According to the myth, Giano would be the first King of Latium to give life to Aborigines and found a city on Mount Gianicolo, Gianicola. It seems that in the past there was a fraction of Rome called Gianicolo and that Giano was the founder of one of the villages of the capital. With the Camese nymph, he would have given birth to numerous children, including Tiberius, the god of the Tiber. It was Giano to welcome Saturn, the god of the agriculture that was overthrown by Jupiter, sharing his royalty and allowing him to start the golden age. To restore hospitality, Saturn gave Giano the power to see both the past and the future, giving rise to its double face. Instead, it seems that the power of the doors was donated to him by the Carna nymph. During the ceremonies, the priests of Giano opened the processions even before the priests of Jupiter.

Throughout history, many cities have taken into account the god Giano. In the Middle Ages Genoa assumed Giano as a symbol. Even Tiggiano (Lecce), Subbiano (Arezzo), Selvazzano Dentro (Padua) and Centro Giano (Rome) took the god as their symbol. The name of the city of Avezzano in Abruzzo would be brought back to the god derived from the Latin "Ave Jane", an invocation present on the portal of a temple dedicated to him. A legend tells that the township of Avezzano was born around that temple. In Trieste, Giano's face appears on the fountain at the beginning of Viale XX Settembre, a place where previously there was a fence with a gate marking the end of the city.

Returning to the Church of the Crucifix at Cassano delle Murge, looking at the outside of the church we notice a Latin script on the architrave, which he says

"You who are searching for the daily fruit come into this temple - The Beneficent Tree of God abounds in fruit"

Could it be somehow related to God Giano?

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