Lady Justice  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Lady Justice (Justitia), the Roman goddess of Justice, who is equivalent to the Greek goddess Dike, is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems.

Depiction

The personification of justice balancing the scales of truth and fairness dates back to ancient Egypt and the Goddess Maat, and later Isis. The Roman Empire replaced the ancient Egyptian legal system with its own laws but adopted the image of a female goddess: Justitia has frequently been depicted as a matron carrying a sword and scales, and wearing a blindfold. Her modern iconography, which frequently adorns courthouses and courtrooms, conflates the attributes of several goddesses who embodied Right Rule for Greeks and Romans, blending Roman blindfolded Fortuna (luck) with Hellenistic Greek Tyche (fate), and sword-carrying Nemesis (vengeance).

Justitia's attributes parallel those of the Hellenic deities Themis and Dike. Themis was the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, in her aspect as the personification of the divine rightness of law. However, the mythological connection is not a direct one. A more appropriate comparison is Themis' daughter Dike, who was imagined carrying scales:

"If some god had been holding level the balance of Dike"

is an image in a surviving fragment of Bacchylides's poetry.

Justitia 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. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party.

Blindfold

Lady Justice is often depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is (or should be) meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness; blind justice and blind impartiality. 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 fifteenth 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.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lady Justice" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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