1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Themis

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THEMIS, in Greek mythology, the personification of justice. In Homer θέμις is used both as a common and as a proper noun. As a common noun (plural θέμιστες, θέμιτες, θέμιδες), 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 and 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 (ὕβρις), 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 ίχναία (ἴχνος, 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, Enmenides, 2; Euripides, Iphig. in T. 1181). Orphic poetry makes her a daughter of Helios, whose eye is all-seeing (πανδέρκης) 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 Antiquités; H. Ahrens, Die Göttin Themis (1862); R. Hirzel, Themis, Dike, und Verwanzttes (1907).