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Themis, Goddess of Justice


(Image)A ceramic figure of Themis made in China. This is a somewhat classic portrayal of her, one that has the sword and book in her hands, not patio umbrellas.

Themis is a Titan and the goddess of justice.

Themis is one of the first Titanides, the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. But she differs from the others in that she has a defined realm. Her name means ‘marker of boundaries’ from Indo-European ‘dhe-‘, ‘To set, put’ and ‘med-‘, ‘To take appropriate measures’. The goddess seems likely to have Indo-European roots. Though there was a war against the Titans Themis was not involved. But when the war was over Zeus insisted that Themis become part of the foundation of his rule. Themis personifies the order of things as expressed in law, custom, and ethics. What is unique to the Greeks is the limitation of the power of the divine that the realm of Themis provides.

(Odyssey, Book II): “Themis, who looseth and gathereth the meetings of men”

(Hesiod, The Theogony, 1-25): “reverend Themis”

(Hesiod, The Theogony, 116-138): “But
afterwards she(Earth) lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus,
Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis
and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys.”

(Hesiod, The Theogony, (ll. 901-906)): “Next he married bright Themis who
bare the Horae (Hours), and Eunomia (Order), Dike (Justice), and blooming Eirene
(Peace), who mind the works of mortal men, and the Moerae (Fates)
to whom wise Zeus gave the greatest honour, Clotho, and Lachesis,
and Atropos who give mortal men evil and good to have.”

Hesiod, To Ares, (ll. 1-17): “(Ares) ally of Themis”


(ll. 1-3) I will sing of Zeus, chiefest among the gods and
greatest, all-seeing, the lord of all, the fulfiller who whispers
words of wisdom to Themis as she sits leaning towards him.

Pictures of Themis

Themis was a titan usally thought of as justice. A drawing of
a vase painting of Themis is at:
Click here

Themis and nymphswedding of Peleus and Thetis, London 1971.11-1.1

Kerch pelike: showing Zeus and Themis, attended by Hermes, Athena, and othersOverview drawing of the vase, side B, St. Petersburg St. 1793

Images related to Themis:

Themis and Her Impact on Greek Art and Culture

Questions and Answers

Question: why was a women choosen as the goddess of justice and not a man
as a god.

Answer: Themis was born that way and not chosen. Her sex had to be
accepted. Sense is sometimes made by seing how the stories of Themis may have
arisen. Themis was a Titan, one of the older generations of deities. Titans
may represent the deities of a pre-Greek culture. These deities would have
reflected the nature of that culture. In that ancient culture decisions may
have been made by one or more wise women. This type of culture is suggested
by the Furies of ancient Greece. The native American Iroquois had a council
of wise women who were used in this way.

There is also the fact that women do better when there is a system of laws.

Question: who was her mother

Answer: Gaia, the goddess of the earth (actually Gaia = earth).

Question: why does Themis carry a sword?

Answer: The ancient Greeks did not show Themis carrying a sword, nor did
they show her blinded. They did most often show her with a balance
that represented the judgement required for justice. The sword is sometimes
added to represent the force of law in more recent statues of Lady Justice, but
Themis was a goddess and did not need a sword.

Question: What are her symbols and poweres?

Answer: Her symbol is the balance. She had the power to generate order and
she was able to keep that order once it was established.

Question: why is themis, a woman, used as a symbol of justice

Answer: When laws were first used women were the most important divinities
and as divinities they had a judgemental capacity. While the men were away
hunting the women held council.

Question: Who is Themis? Where did she come from? Who are her parents? etc.

Answer: Themis was one of the old ranks of gods and goddesses. She was
the daughter of Uranus and Gaea and so was a Titan. These deities ruled
before Zeus was born. Some of these deities were overthrown, but Themis
was not. Her realm had to do with the order of events and the regulation of
society. Her symbols included scales and cornucopia.

Question: What profession is Themis associated with today?

Answer: The sense of justice which Themis was associated by the Greeks
was both Human law and Divine law. Their sense of Divine law has been
divided into moral law associated with religion and natural law
associated with science. Human law has been divided into civil and criminal
law at the various political levels. In addition laws relating to various
political entities now often have separate status such as corporate law,
non-profit law, foundation law, etc. The fact is that many professions
can be identified including lawyers, politicians, justices, and civil
servants. The various science fields are no longer considered relevant,
but they could be associated anyway.

Question: When was themis born ?

Answer: Themis is an immortal goddess (a Titan) born as a result of the
sexual union of the Earth and Sky (Gaea and Uranos). All we know is that
she was born before Zeus and the other Olympian gods.

Question: Themis and Scales of Justice

Answer: Themis was illustrated, even in ancient times, with scales, to
symbolize the fact that justice requires a consideration of both sides of
a legal case.

Question: Why Themis bandage?

Answer: It is not a bandage but a blindfold. This is so she is not
influenced by what she sees. Eyes can see illusions which need to be
eliminated for a fair decision.

Themis with blindfold

Recent images have Themis with a blindfold and scale but the ancient ones
have only the scale.

Question: what is a cornaucopia?

Answer: A cornucopia is an iconographic symbol of Hades. Reference
The term is Latin and refers to a horn like a ram’s horn used as a container.
Out of the inside of the horn flows many things such as fruits, nuts, and
vegetables. The horn is depicted laying on its side with the produce
overflowing out of its end. It is a symbol of plenty also called the horn
of plenty.

Question: when was Themis born?

Answer: All the gods and goddesses were born before recorded history.

Question: What is the meaning of the scales, the sword, and the torch of Themis?

Answer: The torch illuminates the evidence and makes it visible. The sword
is the sharpness of reason that must evaluate the evidence. The scales weigh
the evidence against the applicable laws.

Question: what does the book mean?

Answer: The book, when present, contains the laws regulating the affairs
of men.

Question: why is themis sometimes pictured with her foot on a stack of books and at times with a snake on the ground near her foot?

Answer: None of the ancient images of Themis have this. The books
reference law books and the snakes symbolize that you must tread litely when
you are working on justice.

Question: where was she born

Answer: Since she is a Titan this is more mysterious and I find no

Question: For what specific event(s) is Goddess Themis most known?

Answer: Themis was associated with two myths. Themis bade Deucalion and
Pyrra to repopulate the earth after the flood, and it was she that told Thetis
that her son would be more powerful han his father.

Question: What is Themis emblem?

Answer: Themis herself is the emblem of justice. Themis on the tripod is
the best ancient emblem involving Themis: Click here

Question: Do the scales she carries have a specific name?

Answer: Sometimes the scales are referenced by the name of the goddess that
holds them. Libra is the most common but Maat and Themis are also possible.

Question: Does the faced medallion worn by themis have a particular meaning. Was
the medallion depicted in earlier images of themis or is it a more
recent addition to the portriat or statues of her?

Answer: My statue of Themis, made in China, includes a medallion of the Gorgon
Medusa. This is likely what you are referring to as it is a very old
image. In classical times it was thought to be the symbol of Zeus. But
previous to the Rule of Zeus it was the symbol of Hera when she was the
primary deity. The Minoans are believed to have worshipped a primary
female deity. We cannot be certain that she was identical to Hera, nor do
we know what the Minoans called their deities, but she is close enough.
Originally it was the image of Hera and not the gorgon Medusa..