Blind Justice Sketch Copyright of Shani Oates

Nemesis was the goddess of indignation against, and retribution for, evil deeds and undeserved good fortune. She was a personification of the resentment aroused in men by those who commited crimes with apparent impunity, or who had inordinate good fortune.

Nemesis directed human affairs in such a way as to maintain equilibrium. Her name means she who distributes or deals out. Happiness and unhappiness were measured out by her, care being taken that happiness was not too frequent or too excessive. If this happened, Nemesis could bring about losses and suffering. As one who checked extravagant favours byTykhe (Fortune), Nemesis was regarded as an avenging or punishing divinity.

In myth Nemesis was particularly concerned with matters of love. She appears as an avenging agent in the stories of Narkissos and Nikaia, whose callous actions brought about the death of their wooers. In some versions of the Trojan War, she was the mother of Helene, and is shown in scenes of her seduction by Paris pointing an accusing finger at the girl.

Nemesis was often sometimes depicted as a winged goddess. Her attributes were apple-branch, rein, lash, sword, or balance. Her name was derived from the Greek wordsnemêsis and nemô, meaning “dispenser of dues.” The Romans usually used the Greek name of the goddess, but sometimes also called her Invidia (Jealousy) and Rivalitas (Jealous Rivalry).

Nemesis was the goddess of righteous indignation who punished boasts of hubris.

Hesiod, Works and Days 175 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“Would that I were not among the men of the fifth age, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labour (kamatos) and sorrow (oizys) by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils.

And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth. The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonour their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another’s city.

There will be no favour (kharis) for the man who keeps his oath or for the just (dikaios) or for the good (agathos); but rather men will praise the evil-doer (kakos) and his violent dealing (hybris). Strength will be right (dike) and reverence (aidos) will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. Envy (zelos), foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all.

And then Aidos (Shame) and Nemesis (Indignation), with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows (lugra algea) will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil.”

Hymn to Nemesis
 (1st Century C.E.)

(for Voice, Lyra, Psithyra)

“Nemesis, winged one that tips the scales of life,
dark-eyed goddess, daughter of Justice,
you restrain the futile pride of mortals with your unyielding bridle and,
hating hurtful vanity, destroy black envy: below your wheel, always
moving but leaving no trace, the fortune of man turns.
Unseen, you come at once to defeat arrogance;
by your hand you gauge the span of life, and, frowning,
you scrutinize the thoughts of men, you always hold the balance.
Be merciful, hallowed judge, winged Nemesis, life’s force.
We honor you, Nemesis, immortal goddess,
victory incarnate with wings unfurled, faultless,
sharing the throne of Justice; you resent human vanity and banish
men to Tartarus below”

Hymn to Nemesis

Nemesis I call,
Almighty Queen
whose piercing sight sees all the deeds of mortals,
Eternal and much revered.
who alone judges the deeds of mortals.

Wise counselor,
who changes the course of the human heart,
forever transforming,
working without rest.

Every mortal knows Your influence,
men groan beneath the weight of Your righteous chains.

You know the thoughts in every mind,
and the soul ruled by lawless lust,
unwilling to obey reason, is judged by You.

Divine Equity,
Yours is the power to see and hear and rule.

Come, Holy Goddess, and listen to my prayer,
and take these mystics under Your protection.

Far avert form us,
Oh Nemesis,
dire and hostile impious counsels, arrogant and base.

And give us beneficent aid in our hour of need,
And abundant strength lend to our powers of reason.

~ by meanderingsofthemuse on July 7, 2012.

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