A cat opens a door (Side).

A cat opens a door (Side).

If you think that a door is just there to enter a house, you haven’t read James Yates’ article Janua, which was published in William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities and has now been made available by LacusCurtius‘ Bill Thayer. I was impressed that there was so much to tell about the structure of a door, about customs (like knocking), and about religious beliefs. Yates’ piece was written in 1875, and much archaeological and anthropological research has been done since then, but I wonder if it is possible to add more information. So, enjoy it.

One Response to Doors

  1. Bill Thayer says:

    The more I know of anything, how true and oft repeated! the more there remains. In fact, that article just scratched the surface: not a word, to cite just a pair of examples, about how they were made or installed; nor about the coins often found inside them as foundation deposits. One would also like to know, but that may possibly be unknowable, about how they were oiled and maintained, etc. Existing Roman doors (for example those of the Pantheon; or of the Curia, now at St. John Lateran) are dismissed in a piece of sentence, except for “doors of a supposed temple of Remus, still existing at Rome, and now occupied as a Christian church” which I need to footnote — the church of SS. Cosmo e Damiano, although I don’t seem to have photos of the door and don’t remember them being Roman; the journal item I have onsite about the church ( doesn’t mention them.

    The article in fact highlights one of the great flaws of Smith’s Dictionary: the articles are by and large written by classicists; so every classical reference is dragged out (their Late Antique citations are far poorer, mind you, in keeping with the biases of the 19c), and nomenclature is often very well done — but the actual substance of things, especially engineering, is dismally treated if at all. Their articles on bridges, roads, the arch, etc. are sorely deficient. And although Smith’s has articles on all kinds of architectural elements, it has none on the great Roman invention, the dome….

    To this particular article, I should prolly at least add some photos, I guess.

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