Like many modern symbols, the scales of justice borrow from ancient interpretations. The scales have long functioned as a symbol for equality and fairness, found all over the world in diverse cultures.
The scales of justice are very similar to the scales represented by the constellation of Libra. The constellation takes the shape of a scale because it represents an equal balance of the Zodiac. The Constellations of Words website points out that the word "Libra" is based on the Greek words for "level" and "equilibrium," also founding principles for the modern system of justice.
Egyptian mythological meaning
The British Museum offers a stunning interpretation of a papyrus linked to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In the ancient text, the deceased were judged by placing their hearts onto a scale, a ritual called the negative confession. This Ma'at scale, as it was called, is perhaps the earliest reference to the scales of justice.
Greek mythological meaning
The modern symbol known as the "scales of justice" have a solid basis in Greek mythology. The goddess Themis was a titan and consultant for the great god Zeus. Early depictions of Themis show her blindfolded, carrying a set of scales. Therefore, Themis provides a link between the scales of justice and the interpretation of divine justice by the early Greeks.