Themis, Goddess of Justice

A gold statue of Themis features a blindfold and the scales of justice in her left hand
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In Greek mythology, Themis was the personification of divine or natural law, order, and justice. Her name means justice. She was worshipped as a goddess in Athens. She was also credited with wisdom, foresight, and prophecy (her son's name, Prometheus, means "foresight"). She was acquainted with secret mysteries unknown even to Zeus. Themis was a protector of the oppressed and a promoter of hospitality.

Law and Order

The "law and order" that Themis venerated was in the sense of natural order and what was proper, especially as is related to family or the community. Such customs were perceived as natural in origin, though they would today be seen as cultural or social constructs. In Greek, "themis" referred to divine or natural law, while "nomoi" to laws created by people and communities.

Themis Imagery

Themis was depicted as a beautiful woman, sometimes holding a pair of scales in one hand and a sword or cornucopia in the other. A similar image was used for the Roman goddess Iustitia (Justitia or Lady Justice).

Justice is blind.

The depiction of Themis or Lady Justice blindfolded is more common in the 16th century and modern times. Blindness represents fairness and impartiality as well as the gift of prophecy. Those who see the future do not experience the present with mundane vision, which distracts from oracular "second sight."

Family Unit

Themis was one of the Titans, a daughter of Uranus (the heavens) and Gaia (the earth). She was a consort or wife of Zeus after Metis. Their offspring were the Fates (the Moirai, Moerae, or Parcae) and the Hours (Horae) or Seasons. Some myths also identify as their offspring Astraea (another personification of justice), nymphs of the Eridanus River, and the Hesperides, or nymphs of sunset.

Some myths propose for her husband the Titan Iapetus, with whom Themis was the mother of Prometheus (foresight). She gave him the knowledge that helped him to escape punishment by Zeus. In some myths, however, the mother of Prometheus was Clymene, instead.

In early Greek depictions, another goddess of justice, Dike, would carry out the decisions of the Fates. Said to be one of the daughters of Themis, Dike's fateful responsibilities were above the influence even of the gods.

Oracular Worship

Themis followed her mother Gaia in occupying the Oracle at Delphi. In some traditions, Themis originated the Oracle. She eventually turned over the Delphic office either to Apollo or her sister, Phoebe.

Themis shared a temple at Rhamnous with Nemesis, because those who ignore divine or natural laws must face comeuppance. Nemesis is the goddess of divine retribution against those who committed hubris (arrogance, excessive pride, and defiance of Olympus) in rejecting law and order.

Themis in Myth

In Ovid's telling, Themis helped Deucalion and Pyrrha, the first human beings, learn how to re-populate the earth after the great worldwide flood. In the story of Perseus, the hero was refused help from Atlas, who had been warned by Themis that Zeus would try to steal the golden apples of the Hesperides.