Symbol of Justice – Meaning, elements and characteristics

We explain what the symbol of justice is and the characteristics of each of its elements: the lady, the balance and the sword.

symbol of justice
The symbol of justice comes from the ancient Greek goddess Diké.

The symbol of justice

When we speak of the symbol of justice, we traditionally refer to the figure of a blindfolded woman, in whose hands are held a scale and a sword. This woman is known as the “lady of justice” or the “goddess of justice”.

It is commonly used as an allegory for the values ​​of justice in the buildings and documents of legal systems in the West. On many occasions, instead of the complete woman, it is possible to use only the scale or the sword.

This symbol has changed over the centuries, since its origin is difficult to determine in time, but its symbolism brings together elements from different Western mythological traditions, such as Egyptian or Greco-Roman, central in the historical construction of our culture.

Similar representations are found in countries as different as Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia or the Czech Republic, with minor variations such as a scepter, a book, a throne, a shield or a crown, each of the Which adds specific meanings to the allegory, such as that justice must reign, or that it must protect those who need it. However, the sword and the scale are always its most common emblems.

The lady of justice

The woman who normally acts as a symbol of justice It is a representation of the Roman goddess iustitia (“Justice”), equivalent to He says or Diké in original Greek mythology. According to this tradition, she was the daughter of Zeus and Themis, the latter also assimilated to justice (and in fact, she was represented holding a balance).

Dice appears in ancient Greek tragedies as a punishing deity, who watches over fairness and pierces the hearts of the unjust with his sword, in a role very similar to that of the Erinyes, deities who watched over maternal rights. One of his epithets was astrea and was assimilated to the constellation Virgo.

In tradition, both Dice and his mother Themis embody the symbol of justice, although many of their attributes are shared with other Roman goddesses such as Fortuna (the blindfold) or Nemesis (the sword of revenge).

But its modern blindfold representation comes from the 15th century, and is interpreted under the slogan of the blindness of justice, that is, that justice must be delivered without looking at who: without distinguishing anyone by sex, race, origin, etc. In fact, the first “blind” statue of iustitia It was the work of Hans Giengen in 1543, and today it decorates the Fountain of Justice in Bern, Switzerland.

The scales of justice

symbol of justice anubis scales
The symbol of the balance comes from the god Anubis, who weighed the hearts of humans.

For its part, the scales often held by the lady justice has a history of its own that dates back to ancient Egypt, in whose culture the concept of Maat, universal balance, was vital. So much so that this concept was embodied in a goddess with the same name, in whose hands a scale was drawn precisely.

In addition, the Egyptians thought that in the underworld the deceased would be judged by Anubis, who would deposit his heart on a scale and an ostrich feather on the other plate, to see if he was worthy of entry into the realm of the dead. That is the reason why the heart was buried along with the corpse, unlike the rest of the organs, extracted during the mummification process.

This symbol was inherited by the Greeks and in turn by the Romans, and comes to us today as an emblem of equity, that is, of the decisions taken with the greater good in mind. The scales (or sometimes the very hands of the goddess iustitia) measures the weight of things, contrasting the individual well-being with the collective, or the short-term good with the long-term good.

Sword of justice

As we have said before, the sword of justice can come from other similar deities, such as Nemesis (“retribution”), or Diké herself. Anyway represents the punishing arm of justice, so it was often an executioner or executioner sword. This sword can even be double-edged, thus symbolizing reason and justice, which can be wielded in equal parts.

The sword of justice was an emblem of absolutist monarchies, in which the power to administer justice fell entirely in the hands of the king or monarch. In fact, it is still in the crown jewels of the United Kingdom. Its modern interpretation, on the other hand, points to the monopoly of violence that is granted to the forces of the State: only in this way can it be exercised fairly, for which there is the judicial power in the Republic.