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p624 Janua

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp624‑628 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

JANUA (θύρα), a door. Besides being applicable to the doors of apartments in the interior of a house, which were properly called ostia (Isid. Orig. XV.7; Virg. Aen. VI.43, 81), this term more especially denoted the first entrance into the house, i.e. the front or street door, which was also called anticum (Festus, s.v.), and in Greek θύρα αὐλείος, αὐλεία, αὐλίος, αὐλία (Od. XXIII.19; Pind. Nem. I.19; Menand. p87, ed. Mein.; Harpocration, s.v.; Theophr. Char. 18; Theocrit. XV.43; Charit. I.2; Herodian, II.1). The houses of the Romans commonly had a back-door, called posticum, postica, or posticula (Festus, s.v.; Hor. Epist. I.5.31; Plaut. Most. III.3.27; Sueton. Claud. 18), and in Greek παράθυρα dim. παραθύριον. Cicero (post Red. 6) also calls it pseudothyrion, "the false door," in contradistinction to janua, the front door; and, because it often led into the garden of the house (Plaut. Stich. III.1.40‑44), it was called the garden-door (κηπαία, Hermip. ap. Athen. XV.6).

The door-way, when complete, consisted of four indispensable parts, the threshold, or sill; the lintel; and the two jambs.

The threshold (limen, βηλὸς, οὐδας) was the object of superstitious reverence, and it was thought unfortunate to tread on it with the left foot. On this account the steps leading into a temple were of an uneven number, because the worshipper, after placing his right foot on the bottom step, would then place the same foot on the threshold also (Vitruv. III.4). Of this an example is presented in the woodcut, p97.

The lintel (jugumentum, Cat. de Re Rust. 14; supercilium, Vitruv. IV.6) was also called limen (Juv. VI.227), and more specifically limen superum, to distinguish it from the sill, which was called limen inferum Plaut. Most. (Plaut. Merc. V.1.1). Being designed to support a superincumbent weight, it was generally a single piece, either of wood or stone. Hence those lintels, which still remain in ancient buildings, astonish us by their great length. In large and splendid edifices the jambs or door-posts (postes, σταθμοί) were made to converge towards the top, according to certain rules, which are given by Vitruvius (l.c.). In describing the construction of temples he calls them antepagmenta, the propriety of which term may be understood from the ground-plan of the door at p241, where the hinges are seen to be behind the jambs. This plan may also serve to show what Theocritus means by the hollow door-posts (σταθμὰ κοῖλα θυράων, Idyll. XXIV.15). In the Augustan age it was fashionable to inlay the posts with tortoise-shell (Virg. Georg. II.463). Although the jamb was sometimes nearly twice the length of the lintel, it was made of a single stone even in the largest edifices. A very striking effect was produced by the height of these door-ways, as well as by their costly decorations, beautiful materials, and tasteful proportions.

[image ALT: An engraving of a tiny single-room pediment temple, the entire front of which is taken up by a tall door and the two columns framing it one on each side. The pediment is inscribed IOVI CAPITOLINO. It is taken from an ancient Roman bas-relief.]
The door in the front of a temple, as it reached nearly to the ceiling, allowed the worshippers to view from without the entire statue of the divinity, p625and to observe the rites performed before it. Also the whole light of the building was commonly admitted through the same aperture. These circumstances are illustrated in the accompanying woodcut, showing the front of a small temple of Jupiter, taken from a bas-relief (Mon. Matt. vol. III Tab. 39). The term antepagmentum, which has been already explained, and which was applied to the lintel as well as the jambs (antepagmentum superius, Vitruv. IV.6 §1), implies, that the doors opened inwards. This is clearly seen in the same woodcut, and is found to be the construction of all ancient buildings at Pompeii and other places. In some of these buildings, as for example, in that called "the house of the tragic poet," even the marble threshold rises about an inch higher than the bottom of the door (Gell's Pompeiana, 2nd Ser. vol. I p144), so that the door was in every part behind the door-case. After the time of Hippias the street-doors were not permitted to open outwardly at Athens (Becker, Charikles, vol. 1 pp189, 200); and hence ἐνδοῦναι meant to open the door on coming in, and ἐπισπάσασθαι or ἐφελκύσασθαι to shut it on going out. In a single instance only were the doors allowed to open outwardly at Rome; an exception was made as a special privilege in honour of M. Valerius Publicola (Schneider, in Vitruv. IV.6 §6).

[image ALT: An engraving of a tall pedimented doorway. The door itself is of four bronze panels bordered with series of rosettes; over it a latticed transom. The pediment bears a two-line Latin inscription. It is ]
The lintel of the oblong door-case was in all large and splendid buildings, such as the great temples, surmounted either by an architrave and cornice, or by a cornice only. As this is not shown in the bas-relief above introduced, an actual door-way, viz., that of the temple of Hercules at Cora, is here added. Above the lintel is an architrave with a Latin inscription upon it, and above this a projecting cornice supported on each side by a console, which reaches to a level with the bottom of the lintel. The top of the cornice (corona summa, Vitruv. IV.6 §1) coincided in height with the tops of the capitals of the columns of the pronaos, so that the door-way, with its superstructure, was exactly equal in height to the columns and the Antae. This superstructure was the hyperthyrum of Vitruvius (l.c.), and of the Greek architects whom he followed. The next woodcutº shows one of the two consoles which support the cornice of a beautiful Ionic door-way in the temple of Minerva Polias at Athens. In the inscription relating to the building of that temple, which is now in the Elgin collection of the British Museum, the object here delineated is called οὖς τῷ ὑπερθύρῳ. Other Greek names for it, used by Vitruvius (IV.6 §4), are parotis and ancon, literally a "side-ear" and "an elbow." The use of consoles, or trusses, in this situation was characteristic of the Ionic style of architecture, being never admitted in the Doric. It is to be observed that Homer (Od. VII.90), Hesiod (Scut. 271), and Herodotus (I.179), use the term ὑπέρθυρον, or its diminutive ὑπερθύριον, to include the lintel. Upon some part of the hyperthyrum there was often an inscription, recording the date and occasion of the erection, as in the case of the temple of Hercules above represented, or else merely expressing a moral sentiment, like the celebrated "Know thyself" upon the temple at Delphi.

The door itself was called foris or valva, and in Greek σανίς, κλισίας, or θύρετρον. These words are commonly found in the plural, because the door-way of every building of the least importance contained two doors folding together, as in all the instances already referred to. When foris is used in the singular, we may observe that it denotes one of the folding-doors only, as in the phrase foris crepuit, which occurs repeatedly in Plautus, and describes the creaking of a single valve, opened alone and turning on its pivots. Even the internal doors of houses were bivalve (Gell's Pompeiana, 2nd Ser. vol. I p166); hence we read of "the folding-doors of a bed-chamber" (fores cubiculi, Suet. Aug. 82; Q. Curt. V.6; σανίδες εὖ ἀραρυῖαι, Hom. Od. XXIII.42; πύλαι διπλαῖ, Soph. Oed. Tyr. 1261). But in every case each of the two valves was wide enough to allow persons to pass through without opening the other valve also. p626Even each valve was sometimes double, so as to fold like our window-shutters (duplices complicabilesque, Isid. Orig. XV.7). The mode of attaching doors to the door-way is explained under the article Cardo.

The remaining specimens of ancient doors are all of marble or of bronze; those made of wood, which was by far the most common material, have perished. The door of a tomb at Pompeii (Mazois, Ruines de Pompéi, vol. 1 pl. XIX fig. 4) is made of a single piece of marble, including the pivots, which were encase in bronze, and turned in sockets of the same metal. It is 3 feet high, 2 feet 9 inches wide, 4¼ inches thick. It is cut in front to resemble panels, and thus to approach nearer to the appearance of a common wooden door, and it was fastened by a lock, traces of which remain. The beautifully wrought tombs of Asia Minor and other eastern countries have stone doors, made either to turn on pivots or to slide sideways in grooves. Doors of bronze are often mentioned by ancient writers (Herod. I.179; Plin. H. N. XXXIV.7). The doors of a supposed temple of Remus, still existing at Rome, and now occupied as a Christian church, are of this material. Mr. Donaldson (Collection of Door-ways from Ancient Buildings, London, 1833, pl. 21) as represented them filling up the lower part of the door-way of the temple at Cora, as shown in the last woodcut, which is taken from him. The four panels are surrounded by rows of small circles, marking the spots on which were fixed rosettes or bosses, similar to those which are described and figured in the article Bulla, and which served both to strengthen and to adorn the doors. The leaves of the doors were sometimes overlaid with gold, as we see from the doors in the temple of Solomon at Jerusalem (1 Kings, vi.32‑35); at other times they were enriched with the most exquisite carving (Ovid. Met. VIII.705; Virg. Georg. III.26, Aen. VI.20‑33). Those in the temple of Minerva, at Syracuse, are said by Cicero (Verr. IV.56) to have exceeded all others in the curious and beautiful workmanship executed upon them in gold and ivory. "It is incredible," says he, "how many Greeks have left writings descriptive of the elegance of these valves." One of the ornaments was "a most beautiful Gorgon's head with tresses of snakes," probably occupying the centre of a panel. In addition to the sculptures upon the valves themselves, the finest statues were sometimes placed beside them, probably at the base of the antepagmenta, as in the magnificent temple of Juno in Samos (Cic. Verr. I.23). In the fancied palace of Alcinous (Od. VII.83‑94) the door-case, which was of silver with a threshold of bronze, included folding-doors of gold; whilst dogs, wrought in gold and silver, guarded the approach, probably disposed like the avenue of sphinxes before an Egyptian temple. As luxury advanced among the Romans metal took the place of wood, even in the doors of the interior of a house. Hence the Quaestor Sp. Carvilius reproved Camillus for having his chamber doors covered with bronze (aerata ostia, Plin. l.c.).

A lattice-work is to be observed above the bronze doors in the last woodcut, Mr. Donaldson having introduced it on the authority more especially of the Pantheon at rome, where the upper part of the door-way is filled with a window such as that here represented. Vitruvius (IV.6 §1) calls it the hypaethrum, and his language implies that is was commonly used in temples.

The folding-doors exhibited in the last woodcut, instead of a rebate such as we employ, have an upright bronze pilaster standing in the middle of the door-way, so as to cover the joining of the valves. The fastenings of the door (claustra, Ovid. Amor. I.6.17; obices) commonly consisted in a bolt (pessulus; μάνδαλος, κατοχεύς, κλεῖθρον, Att. κλῇθρον, Soph. Oed. Tyr. 1262, 1267, 1294) placed at the base of each foris, so as to admit of being pushed into a socket made in the sill to receive it (πυθμὴν, Soph. Oed. Tyr. 1261). The Pompeian door-ways show two holes corresponding to the bolts of the two fores (Gell, Pompeiana, 2nd Ser. vol. 1 p167); and they agree with numerous passages which mention in the plural number "the bolts," or "both the bolts" of a door (Plaut. Aulul. I.2.26, Curc. I.2.60‑70; Soph. ll. cc.; Callim. in Apoll. 6).

The annexed woodcut shows an ancient boltº preserved in the Museum at Naples (Mazois, Ruines de Pompéi, vol. I part 2, pl. VII).

[image ALT: An engraving of an assortment of highly ornamented ancient Roman bronze hardware for doors.]

By night, the front-door of the house was further secured by means of a wooden and sometimes an iron bar (sera, repagula, μοχλὸς) placed across it, and inserted into sockets, on each side of the door-way (Festus, s.v. Adserere; Ovid. Amor. I.6.24‑56). Hence it was necessary to remove the bar (τὸν μοχλὸν παράφερειν, ἀναμοχλεύειν, Eurip. Med. 1309) in order to open the door (reserare). (Theophrast. Char. 18; Plutarch, Pelop. p517, ed. Steph.; Plaut. Cist. III.18; Ovid. Met. V.120.) Even chamber-doors were secured in the same manner (Heliodor. VI p281, ed. Comm.; cubiculi obseratis foribus, Apul. Met. IX); and here also, in case of need, the bar was employed as a further security in addition to the two bolts (κλῇθρα συμπεραίνοντες μόχλοις, Eurip. Orest. 1546, 1566, Iph. Aul. 345, Androm. 952). To fasten the door with the bolt was januae pessulum obdere, with the bar januam obserare (Ter. Eun. III.5.55, IV.6.26, Heaut. II.3.37). At Athens a jealous husband sometimes even proceeded to seal the door of the women's apartment (Aristoph. Thesm. p627422; Menand. p185, ed. Mein). The door of a bed-chamber was sometimes covered with a curtain [Velum].

In the Odyssey (I.442, IV.802, XXI.6,46‑50) we find mention of a contrivance for bolting or unbolting a door from the outside, which consisted in a leathern thong (ἱμάς) inserted through a hole in the door, and by means of a loop, ring, or hook (κλείς, κληίς), which was the origin of keys, capable of laying hold of the bolt so as to move it in the manner required. The bolt by the progress of improvement was transformed into a lock, and the keys found at Herculaneum and Pompeii and those attached to rings (Gorlaei, Dactylioth. 42, 205‑209) prove, that among the polished Greeks and Romans, the art of the locksmith (κλειδοποιὸς) approached very nearly to its present state (Achill. Tat. II.19).

The door represented in the first woodcut to this article has a ring upon each valve, which was used to shut the door, and therefore called the ἐπισπαστῆρ. Herodotus (VI.91) tells a story of a captive who having escaped to a temple of Ceres, clung to the rings on the doors with both his hands. This appendage to the door, which was sometimes gilt and very handsome, was also called, on account of its form, κρίκος and κορώνη, i.e. a "circle" or "crown" (Hom. Od. I.441, VII.90); and, because it was used sometimes as a knocker, it was called ῥόπτρον (Harpocrat., s.v.; Xen. Hellen. VI.4 §36). The term κόραξ, "a crow" (Brunch, Anal. III.168), probably denoted a knocker more nearly approaching the form of that bird, or perhaps of its neck and head. The lowest figure in the last woodcut shows a richly ornamented epispaster, from the collection at Naples. That with a lion's head is taken from a bas-relief, representing the doors of a temple, in the collection at Ince-Blundell, near Liverpool. The third figure is from the Neapolitan Museum.

Before the door of a palace, or of any private house of a superior description, there was a passage leading to the door from the public road, which was called vestibulum (Isid. Orig. XV.7; Plaut. Most. III.2.132; Gell. XVI.5) and πρόθυρον (Vitruv. VI.7.5; Hom. Od. XVIII.10‑100; Herod. III.35, 140). It was provided with seats (Herod. VI.35). It was sometimes covered by an arch [Camera], which was supported by two pillars (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. II.469); and sometimes adorned with sculptures (Virg. Aen. VII.181; Juv. VII.126). Here persons waited, who came in the morning to pay their respects to the occupier of the house (Gell. IV.1). In the vestibule was placed the domestic altar [Ara]. The Athenians also planted a laurel in the same situation, besides a figure designed to represent Apollo (Aristoph. Thesm. 496; Plaut. Merc. IV.1.11, 12); and statues of Mercury were still more frequent (Thucyd. VI.27), being erected there on the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief (Schol. ad Aristoph. Plut. 1155).

The Donaria offered to the gods were suspended not only from the Antae, but likewise from the door-posts and lintels of their temples (Virg. Aen. III.287, V.360; Ovid. Trist. III.1.34; Hor. Carm. IV.15.8, Epist. I.1.5, I.18.56; Pers. Sat. VI.45; Plin. H. N. XXXV.4), as well as of palaces, which in ancient times partook of the sanctity of temples (Virg. Aen. II.503, VII.183). Victors in the games suspended their crowns at the door of a temple (Pind. Nem. V.53). In like manner persons fixed to the jambs and lintels of their own doors the spoils which they had taken in battle (Festus, s.v. Resignare; Plin. H. N. XXXV.2). Stag's horns and boar's tusks were on the same principle used to decorate the temples of Diana, and of the private individuals without had taken these animals in the chace. Owls and other nocturnal birds were nailed upon the doors as in modern times (Pallad. de Re Rust. I.35). Also garlands and wreaths of flowers were suspended over the doors of temples in connection with the performance of religious rites, or the expression of public thanksgiving, being composed in each case of productions suited to the particular divinity whom they were intended to honour. In this manner the corona spicea was suspended in honour of Ceres (Tib. I.1.21; see also Virg. Ciris, 95‑98). Laurel was so used in token of victory, especially at Rome (Ovid. Met. I.562), where it sometimes overshadowed the Corona Civica on the doors of the imperial palace (Ovid. Trist. III.1,35‑49; Plin. H. N. XV.39; laureatis foribus, Sen. Consol. ad Polyb. 35; Val. Max. II.8 §7). The doors of private houses were ornamented in a similar way, and with different plants according to the occasion. More especially, in celebration of a marriage either laurel or myrtle was placed about the door of the bridegroom (Juv. VI.79, 228; Claud. de Nupt. Hon. et Mar. 208). Catullus, in describing an imaginary marriage, supposes the whole vestibulum to have been tastefully overarched with the branches of trees (Epithal. Pel. et Thet. 278‑293). The birth of a child was also announced by a chaplet upon the door (Juv. IX.84), and a death was indicated by cypresses, probably in pots, placed in the vestibulum (Plin. H. N. XVI.60; Serv. ad Virg. Aen. III.64). In addition to trees, branches, garlands, and wreaths of flowers, the Romans sometimes displayed lamps and torches before the doors of their houses for the purpose of expressing gratitude and joy (Juv. XII.92). Music, both vocal and instrumental, was sometimes performed in the vestibulum, especially on occasions when it was intended to do honour to the master of the house, or to one of his family (Pind. Nem. I.19, 20, Isth. VII.3).

It was considered improper to enter a house without giving notice to its inmates. This notice the Spartans gave by shouting; the Athenians and all other nations by using the knocker already described, but more commonly by rapping with the knuckles or with a stick (κρούειν, κόπτειν, Becker, Charik. vol. I pp230‑234; Plat. Protag. pp151, 159, ed. Bekker). In the houses of the rich a porter (janitor, custos, θυρωρός) was always in attendance to open the door (Tibull. I.1.56). He was commonly a eunuch or a slave (Plat. l.c.), and was chained to his post (Ovid. Amor. I.6; Sueton. de Clar. Rhet. 3). To assist him in guarding the entrance, a dog was universally kept near it, being also attached by a chain to the wall (Theocrit. XV.43; Apollodor. ap. Athen. I.4; Aristoph. Thesm. 423, Lysist. 1217; Tibull. II.4.32‑36); and in reference to this practice, the warning Cave Canem, εὐλαβοῦ τὴν κύνα, was sometimes written near the door. Of this a remarkable example occurs in "the house of the tragic poet" at Pompeii, where it is accompanied by the figure of a fierce dog, wrought in mosaic on the pavement (Gell's Pomp. 2nd Ser. vol. I pp142, 145). Instead p628of this harsh admonition, some walls or pavements exhibited the more gracious SALVE or ΧΑΙΡΕ (Plat. Charm. p94, ed. Heindorf). The appropriate names for the portion of the house immediately behind the door (θυρών, Soph. Oed. Tyr. 1242, Elect. 328), denotes that it was a kind of apartment; it corresponded to the hall or lobby of our houses. Immediately adjoining it, and close to the front door, there was in many houses a small room for the porter (cella, or cellula janitoris, Sueton. Vitell. 16; Varro, de Re Rust. I.13; θυρωρεῖον, Pollux, I.77).

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