Greek Janiform Kantharos, Athens, c. 470-460 BC

With the faces of an Ethiopian and a satyr, of molded earthenware with slip decoration.

Bicephalous (two-faced) pottery of this type can be traced to the Ionic potters of the eastern Mediterranean in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. At times the heads were made to create a striking and deliberate contrast like this piece and other times the faces were made just alike (example). This two-faced format remained popular in Attic and South Italian pottery well into the Roman era when it became known as “janiform” after the Roman two-faced god Janus.

The ancient Greeks had no equivalent to Janus so the Romans claimed him distinctively as their own. He was the god of beginnings and transitions, and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.