Monday, April 15, 2013

Justitia - Roman Goddess of Justice.

Unlike other Goddesses of Justice, Maat, Themis, and Dike, the Roman goddess Justitia was not reckoned among the major gods. As with most of the other Greek gods taken over in Roman mythology, she is mentioned in very few narrative accounts. From the texts of Ovid and Virgil, one obtains the image of a goddess of Justice who has left the earth because of man's corrupt and wicked nature and who now scarcely concerns herself any longer with human affairs. From these and other accounts, it furthermore appears that Justitia does not only show analogies with Dike (with whom she is usually equated), but also with Astraia/Astraea, another daughter of Themis and Zeus, alternatively regarded as the daughter of Astraeus and Eos. She is in this respect known as the constellation Virgo, the virgin of the stars, and as the nurse of the whole universe. No images of Justitia from Roman times have remained, and where mention is made of sculptures, the latter appear to show some correspondence with Dike and Nemesis and to be of Greek rather than Roman origin. It was Aequitas (fairness) rather than Justitia who was personified by the Romans. Justitia was (mostly) equated with positive law, whereas Aequitas required the balancing of all the circumstances of the case. In later times, Aequitas and Justitia were not clearly distinguished from each other as symbols. We thus find Aequitas or Justitia depicted on coins with a cornucopia and with scales, sometimes with a scepter or a staff, sometimes without any attributes. Sometimes only the head of a woman appears, with the transcription, "Justitia".

In the Middle Ages, images of Justitia are characterized by a combination of Christian and Greek-Roman thinking. In this regard, the sword of Dike and the scales of Aequitas/Justitia begin to play an important role. Justitia now becomes one of the Christian virtues entering into battle with the vices. She is personalized and sometimes depicted with accessories, such as a scale. In exceptional instances, Justitia is a male figure. In one image from the eleventh century, Justitia is depicted with a protractor and (optical) plummet, together with three other virtues.

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