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As the Titaness goddess of divine law and order, Themis was regarded as one of the most important and beloved of the Greek goddesses. Known for her ability to cut through hearsay and lies, Themis is revered for always keeping a level head, balanced and fair. She played an instrumental role in events like the Trojan war and the assemblies of Gods. She is likewise credited as being the predecessor of Lady Justice, a popular symbol of justice today.
Who is Themis?
Despite being a Titan, Themis took the side of the Olympians during the Titanomachy. In fact, when Zeus rose to power, she sat in the throne beside him not only as a trusted advisor and confidant, but as his first wife. She had made herself invaluable due to her prophetic gifts, which allowed her to see the future and prepare accordingly for it.
Themis as the Daughter of Earth and Sky
Going back to her roots, Themis is a Titaness and daughter of Uranus (sky) and Gaia (earth), along with numerous siblings. The Titans staged an insurrection against their father Uranus, and the Titan Cronus took his place.
This great shuffle in divine power benefited the female Titans, too, as each one of them gained a privileged position and a specific role to play as leaders. Themis emerged to become the Goddess of Divine Law and Order, and, in effect, the Goddess of Justice.
She’s said to have issued the laws by which mortals should live their lives. Themis is thus often depicted holding a balance scale and a sword. As the embodiment of fairness, she is praised for always sticking to facts and considering all the pieces of evidence presented before deciding who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong.
Themis as an Early Bride of Zeus
Themis was one of the earliest brides of Zeus, second only to Metis, Athena’s mother. Zeus’ love interests almost always end up in a tragedy, but Themis was able to evade this ‘curse.’ She remained a revered and respected goddess. Even Hera, Zeus’ jealous wife, could not hate the goddess and still addressed her as ‘Lady Themis.’
Themis Foresees the Fall of Titans
Aside from her infallible sense of justice and order, Themis is also associated with the Oracles of Gaia because of her gift of prophecy. She knew the Titans would fall and saw that the war would not be won by brute strength but by gaining the upper hand in another way. This helped Olympians take advantage by releasing the Cyclopes from Tartarus.
Stories Involving Themis
The beloved Themis was mentioned in many stories from ancient Greece, starting off with Hesiod’s Theogony, which listed down Themis’ children and their importance in terms of the administration of law. Her children included Horae (hours), Dike (justice), Eunomia (order), Eirene (peace), and the Moirai (fates).
Themis is also instrumental in the following stories:
In this literary work, Themis is presented as the mother of Prometheus. Promethus received Themis’ prophecy that the war would not be won by strength or force, but by craft. Other sources, however, present Prometheus as a nephew, not a child, of Themis.
Themis Plans the Trojan War
Several versions of the epic tale of the Trojan War listed Themis as one of the brains behind the whole war. Alongside Zeus himself, Themis is said to have staged the whole thing that led to the fall of the Age of Heroes, starting off with Eris throwing the Golden Apple of Discord all the way to the Sacking of Troy.
The Divine Assemblies
Themis is known as the presider of Divine Assemblies, as a logical extension of her role as the administrator of law and justice. Likewise, Zeus would call upon Themis to summon the gods into assembly so they could hear his king’s decrees.
Themis Offers Hera A Cup
In one of these assemblies, Themis noticed that Hera was flustered and terrified, having just fled Troy after receiving threats from her husband Zeus, who had accosted her for disobedience. Themis came running to greet her and offered her a cup to comfort Hera. The latter even confided in her, reminding her that more than anyone, Themis would understand the stubborn and arrogant spirit of Zeus. This story shows that the two goddesses always remained in each other’s good graces.
The Birth of Apollo
Being the prophetic goddess of the oracle of Delphi, Themis was present during the birth of Apollo. Themis helped Leto nurse Apollo, who even received nectar and ambrosia directly from Themis.
Significance of Themis in Culture
Widely considered the people’s goddess because of her role in ensuring justice and fairness, Themis was worshipped across dozens of temples during the height of Greek civilization. This is despite the fact that most Greeks thought Titans to be distant and irrelevant to their lives.
But perhaps the biggest influence of Themis on popular culture is the modern depiction of Lady Justice, with her classical robes, balanced scales and sword. The only difference between depictions of Themis and Justitia (the Roman equivalent of Themis) is that Themis never had a blindfold. Notably, it was only in more recent renderings that Justitia had the blindfold herself.
Below is a list of the editor’s top picks featuring the statue of Themis.
What Does Themis Symbolize?
Themis is justice personified, and symbolizes justice, rights, balance, and of course, law and order. Those who pray to Themis are asking cosmic forces to bring them justice and accord fairness to their lives and endeavors.
Lessons from Themis’ Story
Unlike most Titans and Olympians, Themis invited no enemies and solicited little criticism, because of the way she lived life and administered justice.
The Importance of Law and Order
Civilization is rooted in having law and order, as personified by Themis herself. Having a set of established rules that apply to all is at the root of a fair and just society, and Themis remains a reminder that even divine powers could not hold peace for very long without first upholding law and order.
Foresight – Key to Success
It was through Themis’ prophecies and visions of the future that Olympians, including Zeus, were able to evade danger. She is proof that foresight and planning wins battles and conquers wars.
Dignity and Civility
Being the ex-bride of Zeus, Themis easily could have fallen vulnerable to the vengeful and jealous ways of Hera. However, she gave Hera no reason to come after her because she remained dignified and was always civil and polite when dealing with Zeus and Hera.
Themis is the goddess of divine law and order.
Themis is a Titaness.
Uranus and Gaia are Themis parents.
Themis lives on Mount Olympus with the other gods.
Themis is married to Zeus and is one of his wives.
Yes, the Moirai and Horae are Themis’ children.
In Ancient Greece, Themis was never depicted with a blindfold. More recently, her Roman counterpart Justitia has been portrayed wearing a blindfold to symbolize that justice is blind.
For as long as people are committed to justice and fairness, so the legacy of Themis remains. She is one of the very few ancient gods whose principles remain relevant and politically correct even in modern times. To this day, the majority of the world’s courthouses contain an image of Lady Justice, standing steadfast as a reminder of Themis’ lessons in justice, law, and order.