Lady Justice (Latin: Iustitia) is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. Her attributes are a blindfold, scales, and a sword. She often appears as a pair with Prudentia.
Justice was one of the virtues celebrated by emperor Augustus in his clipeus virtutis, and a temple of Iustitia was established in Rome on 8 January 13 BC by emperor Tiberius. Iustitia became a symbol for the virtue of justice with which every emperor wished to associate his regime; emperor Vespasian minted coins with the image of the goddess seated on a throne called Iustitia Augusta, and many emperors after him used the image of the goddess to proclaim themselves protectors of justice.
Though formally called a goddess with her own temple and cult shrine in Rome, it appears that she was from the onset viewed more as an artistic symbolic personification rather than as an actual deity with religious significance.
The personification of justice balancing the scales dates back to the goddess Maat, and later Isis, of ancient Egypt. The Hellenic deities Themis and Dike were later goddesses of justice. Themis was the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, in her aspect as the personification of the divine rightness of law.
Lady Justice is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from one hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case's support and opposition.
The Greek goddess Dike is depicted holding a set of scales.
Bacchylides, Fragment 5 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (Greek lyric c. 5th B.C.):
If some god had been holding level the balance of Dike (Justice).
The scales represent the weighing of evidence, and the scales lack a foundation in order to signify that evidence should stand on its own.
Since the 16th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents impartiality, the ideal that justice should be applied without regard to wealth, power, or other status. The earliest Roman coins depicted Justitia with the sword in one hand and the scale in the other, but with her eyes uncovered. Justitia was only commonly represented as "blind" since the middle of the 16th century. The first known representation of blind Justice is Hans Gieng's 1543 statue on the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) in Berne.
Instead of using the Janus approach, many sculptures simply leave out the blindfold altogether. For example, atop the Old Bailey courthouse in London, a statue of Lady Justice stands without a blindfold; the courthouse brochures explain that this is because Lady Justice was originally not blindfolded, and because her "maidenly form" is supposed to guarantee her impartiality which renders the blindfold redundant. Another variation is to depict a blindfolded Lady Justice as a human scale, weighing competing claims in each hand. An example of this can be seen at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis, Tennessee.
The sword represented authority in ancient times, and conveys the idea that justice can be swift and final.
The Justice, in front of the Supreme Court of Brazil
Lady Justice seated at the entrance of The Palace of Justice, Rome, Italy
Themis, Itojyuku, Shibuya-ku, Japan
Themis, Chuo University Suginami high school, Suginami-ku, Japan
The Law, by Jean Feuchère
Shelby County Courthouse, Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Themis, Old courthouse, Ghent, Belgium
Gerechtigkeit, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1537
Lady Justice and her symbols are used in heraldry, especially in the arms of legal government agencies.
Justitia in arms of Ilshofen in Baden-Württemberg
Scales balanced on a sword in the arms of Hörby
Prudentia and Justitia as supporters in the armorial achievement of Landskrona
Justice holding scales, $0.50 U.S. fractional currency.