Themis - Goddess of Justice

"Justice is blind."

Themis
Themis. Wesley VanDinter/Getty Images

"Justice is blind."

Themis, in Greek mythology, was the personification of divine or natural law, order, and justice. Her name means justice. She was worshipped as a goddess in Athens.

Themis was also credited with wisdom and foresight or prophecy (her son's name, Prometheus, means "foresight"), and with knowing secrets unknown even to Zeus. She was also known as a protector of the oppressed and a protector of hospitality.

Law and Order?

The "law and order" which Themis protected was in the sense of "natural" order or law, what was "proper" especially related to family or the community. Such customs were perceived as natural in origin, though 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.

Images of Themis:

Themis was depicted as a beautiful woman, sometimes blind with a bandage over her eyes, and holding a pair of scales in one hand, a sword or cornucopia in the other. A similar image was used for the Roman goddess Iustitia (Justitia or Lady Justice). The images of Themis or Lady Justice blindfolded is more common by the 16th century C.E.; seen as gifted with prophecy, there'd be no need for her to be blindfolded.

Nemesis and Themis shared a temple at Rhamnous. The idea was that when Themis (divine or natural law) was ignored, then Nemesis would go into action, as goddess of retribution against those who committed hubris (arrogance) in rejecting divine law and order.

Parentage of Themis:

Themis was one of the Titans, a daughter of Uranus (the heavens) and Gaia (the earth).

Offspring of Themis:

Themis was a consort or wife of Zeus after Metis. Their offspring were the Fates (Moirai or 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.

By her Titan husband Iapetus, Themis was said to be mother of Prometheus ("foresight"), and she gave him knowledge that helped him to escape the punishment of Zeus. (In some myths, the mother of Prometheus was Clymene.)

Dike, another goddess of justice, said to be one of the daughters of Themis, in early Greek depictions would carry out the decisions of the Fates, decisions which were above the influence even of the gods.

Themis and Delphi:

Themis followed her mother Gaia in occupying the Oracle at Delphi. Some say that Themis originated the Oracle. Themis eventually turned over the Delphic office -- some say to her sister Phoebe, others say to Apollo.

Themis and the First Humans:

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.

Apples of the Hesperides

In the story of Perseus, Atlas refused to help Perseus because Themis had warned Atlas that Zeus would try to steal the golden apples of the Hesperides.