QnA about Origin of Lady of Justice
A reader sent an e-mail question on the origin of the Lady of Justice. This page includes only the brief statement given in answer to the question.
The origin may be Themis, a Greek mythological goddess. One of the Titans, pre-Hellenic nature deities born to Uranus and Ge, she remained and advised Zeus after his purge of the old pantheon. In depictions of her, she carries the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other, her eyes covered. She became an oracle at Delphi, and became known as a goddess of divine justice.
A daughter of Themis and Zeus, Dike, known as a goddess of justice but not divine justice, presided over the apportionment of things among mortals, the protection of individuals and the keeping of social and political order. She carried a sword without a scale of justice. At times Dike is said to be the same (or is she confused with?) Astraea. Astraea is also said to be a daughter of Themis and Zeus and is known as a goddess of justice. Also known as daughter of Eos and Astraeus 1, her head was crowned with ears of grain and for its measure carried a balance or scale. Astraea was the last of the immortals to leave earth after the Golden Age. She has also been called a goddess of purity and innocence. She became the constellation Virgo. Dike left earth when the Race of Bronze was born.
The Egyptians honored Maat, the daughter of the sun god, Ra. She also carried a sword but without a scale of justice.
Justitia, a Roman goddess of justice, wore a blindfold. She had been depicted with sword and scales, but was not always so.
Representations of the Lady of Justice in the Western tradition occur in many places and at many times. She sometimes wears a blindfold, more so in Europe, but more often she appears without one. She usually carries a sword and scales. Almost always draped in flowing robes, mature but not old, no longer commonly known as Themis, she symbolizes the fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, avarice, prejudice, or favor.
- For an excellent resource about Mythology in literature and art, see Theoi Greek Mythology, Exploring Mythology in Classical Literature and Art
- A remarkable list of representations of Lady Justice exists at Images of the Goddess of Justice
- Kennedy, Randy. "That Lady With the Scales Poses for Her Portraits." The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Dec. 2010. Web. 29 Dec. 2015. http://www.nytimes.com.