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In Greek mythology, Pheme (// FAY-may; Greek: Φήμη, Roman equivalent: Fama) was the personification of fame and renown, her favour being notability, her wrath being scandalous rumors. She was a daughter either of Gaia or of Elpis (Hope), was described as "she who initiates and furthers communication" and had an altar at Athens. A tremendous gossip, Pheme was said to have pried into the affairs of mortals and gods, then repeated what she learned, starting off at first with just a dull whisper, but repeating it louder each time, until everyone knew. In art, she was usually depicted with wings and a trumpet.
In Roman mythology, Fama ("rumor") was described as having multiple tongues, eyes, ears and feathers by Virgil (in Aeneid IV line 180 and following) and other authors. She is also described as living in a home with 1000 windows so she could hear all being said in the world. Virgil wrote that she "had her feet on the ground, and her head in the clouds, making the small seem great and the great seem greater."
The Greek word pheme is related to ϕάναι 'to speak' and can mean "fame", "report", or "rumor". The Latin word fama, with the same range of meanings, is related to the Latin fari ("to speak"), and is, through French, the etymon of the English 'fame'.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 1st Edition, 1891, s.v. 'fame'
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Ossa"
- Gianni Guastella, "La Fama degli antichi e le sue trasformazioni tra Medioevo e Rinascimento," in Sergio Audano, Giovanni Cipriani (ed.), Aspetti della Fortuna dell'Antico nella Cultura Europea: atti della settima giornata di studi, Sestri Levante, 19 marzo 2010 (Foggia: Edizioni il Castello, 2011) (Echo, 1), 35-74.
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