Images of Lady Justice can be found across the world. She appears as a statue, on bank notes, coins, in heraldry (especially in the arms of legal government agencies) and is even a popular tattoo choice.
The depiction of a woman portraying justice dates back to the ancient Greece and Roman times. Themis was the Greek guardian of law and order and was also a goddess of prophecy and of oaths and came to represent clear-sightedness. In Roman mythology she was known as Justitia, and given her wealth of talents and ability to dispense justice, she sat next to Zeus (considered the greatest of the gods) and offered advice. In more modern times she is simply known as Lady Justice, and while artists have altered her appearance over the centuries, there are some common themes.
The Scales of Justice
In her left hand Lady Justice holds balance scales. Known as the scales of justice, they signify that all sides of a legal dispute must be taken into consideration: That all evidence is weighed in an impartial unbiased manner and that there should be a fair balance between the interests of one individual and those of another.
Lady Justice typically holds a double edge sword in her right hand, the sides representing the power of reason and justice respectively. In some instances she holds the sword aloft and at other times she is shown holding the sword with its tip pointing down. But regardless of its position, this weapon conveys the idea that justice should be swift and it holds the mighty weight of punishment and the power over life and death.
Since the 16th century our lady is posed wearing a blindfold – meaning that justice should be meted out objectively, without any fear or favour, regardless of money, wealth, power, or identity. However, in early reproductions of her as a goddess she does not wear a blindfold because as an oracle and able to foretell the future regardless of whether her eyes are covered or not.
She is garbed in a Greco-Roman toga or tunica, in the tradition of classical goddesses, philosophers, and prophets.
Sometimes she is portrayed holding in one hand the fasces (a bundle of rods around an ax) as a symbol of judicial authority, and a flame or torch in the other symbolising truth. But regardless of her size, styling and nature, Lady Justice is an important reminder to remain committed to the spirit and process of the law.