What Do the Scales of Justice Represent?
The scales of justice, also known as Lady Justice, represent the sought-after fairness and impartiality in the execution of the law. Possibly derived from one of the most ancient Greek deities, Lady Justice has appeared in numerous forms at different times throughout the entirety of Western history since classical antiquity.
Above all, Lady Justice is an allegorical representation of legal moral imperatives. With regard to impartiality, the blindfold ensures that the law offers no leniency on account of outward appearance, nor the opposite. The scales also indicate the desire to treat all even-handedly, despite wealth, station or any other criteria. The sword stands for the need to use force to back up moral imperatives when necessary.
Scholars believe that the original inspiration for Lady Justice may have been the ancient Greek goddess, Themis, one of the Titans and later an adviser to Zeus. Among her most important functions, Themis was tasked with regulating the protection of individuals and of social order among mortals. Themis was also identified with the Oracle of Delphi and as a deity of divine justice. In her arms, the Greek Lady Justice always carries the seal of justice. She is also typically armed with a sword in her opposite hand. As with many other Greek religious-cultural references, the Romans imported depictions of Themis into their own pantheon. In the Roman case, the goddess was named Justitia, and she too was armed with a sword, though the Romans sometimes added scales as well. Later Western depictions commonly include both the scales and the sword, with the blindfold being more frequent in European renditions than in American. However, the basic features of Lady Justice are not unique to the West. Ancient Egyptians honored the similar goddess Maat, and she too was characterized as carrying the sword, but not the scales.