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In ancient Greek culture, Dikē (Greek: Δίκη, English translation: "justice") was the spirit of moral order and fair judgement based on immemorial custom.



The sculptures of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia have as their unifying iconographical conception the dikē of Zeus,[1] and in poetry she is often the attendant (paredros) of Zeus.[2] In the philosophical climate of late fifth century Athens, dikē could be anthropomorphised[3] as a goddess of moral justice.[4] She was one of the three second-generation Horae, along with Eunomia ("order") and Eirene ("peace"):

"Eunomia and that unsullied fountain Dikē, her sister, sure support of cities; and Eirene of the same kin, who are the stewards of wealth for mankind — three glorious daughters of wise-counselled Themis."[5]

She ruled over human justice, while her mother Themis ruled over divine justice. Her opposite was adikia ("injustice"): in reliefs on the archaic Chest of Cypselus preserved at Olympia,[6] a comely Dikē throttled an ugly Adikia and beat her with a stick.

The later art of rhetoric treated the personification of abstract concepts as an artistic device, which devolved into the allegorizing that Late Antiquity bequeathed to patristic literature. In a further euhemerist interpretation, Dikē was born a mortal and Zeus placed her on Earth to keep mankind just. He quickly learned this was impossible and placed her next to him on Mount Olympus.

See also


  1. ^ Jeffrey M. Hurwit, "Narrative Resonance in the East Pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia' The Art Bulletin 69.1 (March 1987:6-15).
  2. ^ For example, in Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonna, 1377, or in Plutarch's Life of Alexander 52, or, in yet another tradition, in the Orphic hymn 61. 2.
  3. ^ See Walter Burkert, "The special character of Greek anthropomorphism", in Greek Religion III.4 (Harvard University Press) 1985:182-89.
  4. ^ She is already given a genealogy, as daughter of Themis, in Hesiod, Theogony 901, and approaches the throne of Zeus with lamentation at human injustices, Works and Days, 239f, both poems ca. late seventh century BCE.
  5. ^ Pindar, Thirteenth Olympian Ode 6 ff (Conway, tr.).
  6. ^ Minutely described by Pausanias in the later second century CE (Pausanias, Description of Greece, v.18.2.

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