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The Goddess Themis In Greek Mythology

Updated on October 3, 2016
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

Themis Goddess of Justice

The name of the Greek goddess Themis might not necessarily be a famous one today; but imagery associated with the Greek goddess is more recognisable than most people will imagine. For Themis was the Goddess of Justice in Ancient Greece, and today, statues of the female personification of justice, with sword and scales in her hands are common place.

Themis in Greek mythology, as the goddess of Justice, was actually an important figure, ensuring that was right and proper would come to the forefront.

Statue of Themis

Released into PD
Released into PD | Source

Themis in Greek Mythology

Themis was one of the female Titans, one of the six daughters of Ouranus and Gaia, and therefore sister to the six male Titans.

The Titans, under the leadership of Cronus, would become rulers of the cosmos, in the time before Zeus, when they overthrew Ouranus.

Subsequently, each of the Titans was given dominion over a particular aspect of the cosmos, and as such, Themis became associated with divine law and order, and therefore justice. As a result, it was the goddess Themis who was said to have given mankind the rules by which they should live.

Themis would issue rules and decrees on behalf of the gods, and would then work closely with the goddess Nemesis, to ensure that the rules were followed.

Themis and the Oracles

As well as divine law and order, Themis in Greek mythology, was also closely associated with the Oracles.

Originally, the oracle sites and the priestesses were associated with the goddess Gaia, but then ownership was passed onto Themis, and her sister Phoebe. Themis would then be widely worshipped as the goddess of prophecies.

In some versions of the stories of Greek mythology, it is Themis who warns Prometheus not to fight against Zeus during the Titanomachy; Themis foreseeing the outcome of the war. It is also occasionally said that it was Themis who warned Zeus about the son of Thetis becoming more powerful than his father.

Ownership for the Oracle sites would eventually be passed over to Apollo, when the Olympian gods and goddesses became the dominant deities. A symbolic of this passing of control would occur when Apollo killed the Python at Delphi, but despite this, Themis would still be associated with the Oracles throughout antiquity.

Allegory of Justice - Themis

School of Marcello Bacciarelli (1731–1818) PD-art-100
School of Marcello Bacciarelli (1731–1818) PD-art-100 | Source

Zeus and Themis

The rule of the Titans would end when Zeus brought the Golden Age of Greek mythology to an end; and most of the Titan’s sphere of influences would be taken over by Olympian deities.

Themis though remained as the Goddess of Justice and her story would continue.

Hera is widely recognised as being the wife of Zeus, but in Greek mythology, Hera was only the third wife of the supreme god. Before Hera, Zeus had been wed to Metis, the mother of Athena, and also Zeus was married to Themis.

The relationship between Zeus and Themis would bring forth two sets of daughters, the Horai and the Moirai.

This set of Horai were the three sisters Dike, Eirene and Eunomia; and these were goddesses of the seasons, and also the divisions of time, both roles making them goddess of order.

The Moirai were also three sisters, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, and were also referred to as the three Fates. These daughters of Themis would also be goddesses of order, for they controlled the life thread of all mortals.

At some point Themis would cease to be the wife of Zeus, although she did not end up being swallowed like Metis, and subsequently, Themis and Hera were considered to be on good terms.

Themis on Mount Olympus

Whilst not one of the 12 Olympian deities, Themis, nevertheless, still retained a privileged position upon Mount Olympus, and the goddess of Justice would often be depicted as an advisor to Zeus.

In some versions of the story of the Trojan War, it was Zeus and Themis who planned the war, from the throwing of the apple to the fall of Troy. Themis of course also advised Zeus about which mortal or immortal had broken the laws set down by the gods.

As an additional role, Themis was also believed to be the goddess who organised the assembly of the gods upon Mount Olympus, as well as their feasts and celebrations.

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