Lady Justice is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. Her attributes are a blindfold, a balance, and a sword. She often appears as a pair with Prudentia, who holds a mirror and a snake.
The Goddess Iustitia
Iustice was one of the virtues celebrated by emperor Augustus in his clipeus virtutis, and a Temple of Iustitia was established in Rome 8 January 13 BC by emperor Tiberius. Iustitia became a symbol for the virtue of justice that every emperor wished to associate his regime with; emperor Vespasian minted coins with the image of the goddess seated on a throne called Iustitia Augusta, and many emperors after him used the image of the goddess to proclaim themselves protectors of justice.
Though formally called a goddess with her own temple and cult shrine in Rome, it appears that she was from the onset viewed more as an artistic symbolic personification rather than as an actual deity with religious significance.
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The personification of justice balancing the scales dates back to the Goddess Maat, and later Isis, of ancient Egypt. The Hellenic deities Themis and Dike were later goddesses of justice. Themis was the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, in her aspect as the personification of the divine rightness of law.
There are three distinctive features of Lady Justice: a set of scales, a blindfold, and a sword.
Lady Justice is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case's support and opposition. The depiction dates back to ancient Egypt, where the God Anubis was frequently depicted with a set of scales on which he weighed a deceased's heart against the Feather of Truth.
The Greek goddess Dike is depicted holding a set of scales.
Bacchylides, Fragment 5 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.):
If some god had been holding level the balance of Dike (Justice).
The scales represent the weighing of evidence, and the scales lack a foundation in order to signify that evidence should stand on its own.
Since the 16th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents impartiality, the ideal that justice should be applied without regard to wealth, power, or other status. The earliest Roman coins depicted Justitia with the sword in one hand and the scale in the other, but with her eyes uncovered. Justitia was only commonly represented as "blind" since about the end of the 15th century. The first known representation of blind Justice is Hans Gieng's 1543 statue on the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) in Berne.
Instead of using the Janus approach, many sculptures simply leave out the blindfold altogether. For example, atop the Old Bailey courthouse in London, a statue of Lady Justice stands without a blindfold; the courthouse brochures explain that this is because Lady Justice was originally not blindfolded, and because her "maidenly form" is supposed to guarantee her impartiality which renders the blindfold redundant. Another variation is to depict a blindfolded Lady Justice as a human scale, weighing competing claims in each hand. An example of this can be seen at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis, Tennessee.
The cover of a 2006 issue of Rolling Stone proclaimed TIME TO GO!, focusing on the perceived corruption that dominated Congress. The drawing showed a bunch of figures evoking reactionary politics emerging from the Capitol. One of the figures was Lady Justice lifting her blindfold, implying that the then-composition of Congress had politicized the criminal justice system.
The last distinctive feature of Lady Justice is her sword. The sword represented authority in ancient times, and conveys the idea that justice can be swift and final.
Lady Justice in art
The Justice, in front of the Supreme Court of Brazil
Lady Justice seated at the entrance of The Palace of Justice, Rome, Italy
Themis, Itojyuku, Shibuya-ku, Japan
Themis, Chuo University Suginami high school, Suginami-ku, Japan
The Law, by Jean Feuchère
Shelby County Courthouse, Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Justitia in the Superior Courts Building in Budapest, Hungary
Gerechtigkeit, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1537
Lady Justice and her symbols are used in heraldry, especially in the arms of legal government agencies.
Justitia in arms of Ilshofen in Baden-Württemberg
Scales balanced on a sword in the arms of Hörby
Prudentia and Justitia as supporters in the armorial achievement of Landskrona
Justice holding scales, $0.50 U.S. fractional currency.
- (Goddesses of Justice): Astraea, Dike, Themis, Prudentia
- (Goddesses of Injustice): Adikia
- (Aspects of Justice): (see also: Triple goddess/Triple goddesses/Triple deity/Triple Goddess (neopaganism))
- 5 Astraea, 24 Themis, 99 Dike and 269 Justitia, main belt asteroids all named for Astraea, Themis, Dike and Justitia, Classical goddesses of justice.
- Durga, Hindu goddess of justice
- Lady Luck
- Lady Liberty
- Hamilton, Marci. God vs. the Gavel, page 296 (Cambridge University Press 2005): "The symbol of the judicial system, seen in courtrooms throughout the United States, is blindfolded Lady Justice."
- Fabri, The challenge of change for judicial systems, page 137 (IOS Press 2000): "the judicial system is intended to be apolitical, its symbol being that of a blindfolded Lady Justice holding balanced scales."
- "IUSTITIA". treccani.it.
- Brent T. Edwards. "Symbolism of Lady Justice". Retrieved 24 February 2017.
- See "The Scales of Justice as Represented in Engravings, Emblems, Reliefs and Sculptures of Early Modern Europe" in G. Lamoine, ed., Images et representations de la justice du XVie au XIXe siecle (Toulouse: University of Toulose-Le Mirail, 1983)" at page 8.
- Image of Lady Justice in Berne.
- Image of Lady Justice in London.
- Colomb, Gregory. Designs on Truth, p. 50 (Penn State Press, 1992).
- Image of Lady Justice in Memphis.
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