Themis: Wikis


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Themis from the Temple of Nemesis, Rhamnous, Attica, signed by the sculptor Chairestratos, c. 300 BCE.

Themis (Greek: Θέμις) is an ancient Greek goddess. She is described as "of good counsel", and is the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom. Themis means "law of nature" rather than human ordinance, literally "that which is put in place", from the verb τίθημι, títhēmi, "to put". To the ancient Greeks she was originally the organizer of the "communal affairs of humans, particularly assemblies".[1] Moses Finley remarked of themis, as the word was used by Homer in the 8th century, to evoke the social order of the 10th- and 9th-century Greek Dark Ages:

Themis is untranslatable. A gift of the gods and a mark of civilized existence, sometimes it means right custom, proper procedure, social order, and sometimes merely the will of the gods (as revealed by an omen, for example) with little of the idea of right.[2]

Finley adds, "There was themis—custom, tradition, folk-ways, mores, whatever we may call it, the enormous power of 'it is (or is not) done'. The world of Odysseus had a highly developed sense of what was fitting and proper."[3]


Mythological function

Statue of Themis, Chuo University, Japan

The personification of abstract concepts is characteristic of the Hellenes. The ability of the goddess Themis to foresee the future enabled her to become one of the Oracles of Delphi, which in turn led to her establishment as the goddess of divine justice.

Some classical representations of Themis (illustration, right) did not show her blindfolded (because of her talent for prophecy, she had no need to be blinded) nor was she holding a sword (because she represented common consent, not coercion). Themis built the Oracle at Delphi and was herself oracular. According to another legend, Themis received the Oracle at Delphi from Gaia and later gave it to Phoebe.[4]

When Themis is disregarded, Nemesis brings just and wrathful retribution, thus Themis shared the Nemesion temple at Rhamnous (illustration below). Themis is not wrathful: she, "of the lovely cheeks", was the first to offer Hera a cup when she returned to Olympus distraught over threats from Zeus (Iliad xv.88).

Themis presided over the proper relation between man and woman, the basis of the rightly ordered family (the family was seen as the pillar of the deme), and judges were often referred to as "themistopóloi" (the servants of Themis). Such was the basis for order upon Olympus too. Even Hera addressed her as "Lady Themis." The name of Themis might be substituted for Adrasteia in telling of the birth of Zeus on Crete.

Themis was present at Delos to witness the birth of Apollo. According to Ovid, it was Themis rather than Zeus who told Deucalion to throw the bones of "his Mother" over his shoulder to create a new race of humankind after the Deluge.

Hesiod's description and contrast to Dike

In Greek mythology, Hesiod mentions[5] Themis (Greek: Θέμις) among the six sons and six daughters of Gaia and Uranus (Earth and Sky). Among these Titans of primordial myth, few were venerated at specific sanctuaries in classical times.

Themis occurred in Hesiod's Theogony as the first recorded appearance of Justice as a divine personage. Drawing not only on the socio-religious consciousness of his time but also on many of the earlier cult-religions, Hesiod described the forces of the universe as cosmic divinities. Hesiod portrayed temporal justice, Dike, as the daughter of Zeus and Themis (daughter of Uranus and Gaia).

Dike executed the law of judgments and sentencing and, together with her mother Themis, carried out the final decisions of Moira. For Hesiod, Justice is at the center of religious and moral life, who, independently of Zeus, is the embodiment of divine will. This personification of Dike will stand in contrast to justice viewed as custom or law, and as retribution or sentence.[6]

Consorts and children

The only consort for Themis mentioned in sources below is Zeus.

Horae: the Hours

With Zeus she more certainly bore the Horae,[7] those embodiments of the right moment – the rightness of Order unfolding in Time – and Astraea.

First Generation (other names are also known)

Second Generation

Moirae: the Fates

Followers of Zeus claimed that it was with him that Themis produced the Three Fates[8] A fragment of Pindar,[9] however, tells that the Moirae were already present at the nuptials of Zeus and Themis; that in fact the Moirae rose with Themis from the springs of Okeanos the encircling World-Ocean and accompanied her up the bright sun-path to meet Zeus at Mount Olympus.


A Roman equivalent of one aspect of Hellenic Themis, as the personification of the divine rightness of law, was Iustitia (Anglicized as Justitia). Her origins are in civic abstractions of a Roman mindset, rather than archaic mythology, so drawing comparisons is not fruitful. Portrayed as an impassive woman, holding scales and a double-edged sword (sometimes a cornucopia), and since the 1500s usually shown blindfolded, the sculpted figure outside a courthouse is Iustitia or Lady Justice, not Themis.

See also


  1. ^ (University of Washington School of Law) Themis, Goddess of Justice
  2. ^ Finley, The World of Odysseus, rev. ed.(New York: Viking Prewss) 1978: 78, note.
  3. ^ Finley, op. cit. p. 82.
  4. ^ Aeschylus, Eumenides 1 ff.
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 132; this origin was part of Orphic tradition as well (Orphic Hymn 79).
  6. ^ Donna Marie Giancola, "Justice and the Face of the Great Mother (East and West)"
  7. ^ Hesiod, Theogony, 901ff.
  8. ^ Hesiod, Theogony, 904.
  9. ^ Pindar, fragment 30.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'THEMIS, in Greek mythology, the personification of justice. In Homer 04us is used both as a common and as a proper noun. As a common noun (plural BEuu rrc , Bejlctes, %Auk), it is the body of rules and precedents established at the beginning of the world, as a guarantee of its order and harmony (see Greek Law); personified, Themis is the servant or companion of Zeus, her chief function being to summon the assemblies of both gods arid men (Odyssey, ii. 68). In the Hesiodic theogony, she is the daughter of Uranus and Gaea, and according to Pindar the wife of Zeus, by whose side she sits, assisting him with her advice, which is even better than that of any of the gods. She is the mother of the Horae and of the Moirae (Fates), an indication of her influence in the physical and moral world. She is the representative of divine justice in all its relations to men, and takes special cognizance of the rights of hospitality. Her opposite is Hybris (i f3pcs), insolent encroachment upon the rights of others, on whose track she follows to punish, like Nemesis. In this aspect both Themis and Nemesis are called ixvaia ('Xvos, track). In the lexicon of Festus, Themis is described as the goddess who prescribes that which is right in accordance with divine law (fas) and is herself identical with this divine law. She is also a prophetic divinity, and there was a tradition that the oracle at Delphi had first been in the hands of Gaea, who transferred it to Themis (sometimes identified with her) by whom it was handed over to Apollo (Aeschylus, Eumenides, 2; Euripides, Iphig. in T. 1181). Orphic poetry makes her a daughter of Helios, whose eye is all-seeing (ravO pro075) and penetrates all mysteries. She was especially honoured at Athens, Delphi, Thebes, Aegina and Troezene, where there was an altar dedicated to a triad of Themides (on the analogy of the triads of Horae, Charites, Moirae). In art she was represented as of dignified and commanding presence, with the cornucopiae (symbolizing the blessings resulting from order) and a pair of scales.

See article "Justitia" by J. A. Hild in Daremberg and Saglio's Dict. des Antiquites; H. Ahrens, Die Gottin Themis (1862); R. Hirzel, Themis, Dike, and Verwandtes (1907).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun


  1. (Greek mythology) A Titan, the embodiment of divine order, law and custom. She was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus.


Simple English

Theia is a Titan in Greek mythology. Her parents are Gaia and Uranos. He is also featured in the game golden sun 2 as the famous and one of the weakest weapons around the game called the Themis Axe.

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