The Depiction Of Justice

In ancient Greece, the oldest depiction of justice was the goddess Astraea. Astraea was a Titanide, a descendant of the Titans, a powerful race of gods that ruled the Earth in the so called Golden Age.

Astraea was daughter of Zeus (the supreme god) and Themis (the second wife of Zeus). For some time, Astraea and her mother were in charge of administer justice. Astraea judged the humans whereas her mother Themis represented the divine justice.

But Astraea, horrified by the evil and cruel human condition abandoned the Earth. It is said that she was the last immortal that lived amongst the humans.

Zeus granted her to go back to the Olympus and Astraea became the assistant of her father, being the carrier of his lightnings.

She was a loyal assistant, so Zeus gave her permission to keep her virginity, being the only virgin amongst all the Titanides. And as a reward, he placed her amongst the stars to become part of the constellation of Virgo (that means "the virgin"). The scales she was carrying in her hands became the constellation of Libra.

So Themis had to represent Justice in the Earth, appearing in the Iliad of Homer, and being depicted as a sweet goddess that gives wise advice to humans although other times she dictates the orders of her husband Zeus.

Justice, 50 Fleet Street, London
Photo by mira66

If humans didn't accept the punishments of Themis, Nemesis was sent, a vindictive goddess that gave punishments full of rage and fury.

The judicial sentences had the name of "Themistas" in honor of goddess Themis.

In Roman mythology, the goddess of Justice is depicted with a helmet, a scales, and a cornucopia (the Horn Of Abundance), and is in company of a lion that represents the strength and fear of facing Justice. She was called "Fas", that meant "what is just".

But since year 452, with pope Leo the Great, this depiction changed progressively. The lion was replaced by a sword, with the purpose to exert authority with firmness, and the scales was sometimes replaced by a papyrus or a book that represented the written law.

It was some centuries later and during the French Revolution when Justice started to appear blindfolded, wanting to depict a more objective and impartial justice.

-Emma Alvarez-

© 2008 by Emma Alvarez. Link to this post without copying the text.

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