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Personification of Starvation
Member of the Family of Eris
Personal information
SiblingsLethe, Ponos, Algos, Hysminai, Machai, Phonoi, Androktasiai, Neikea, Amphillogiai, Pseudea, Logoi, Dysnomia, Atë, Horkos
Roman equivalentFames

Limos (/ˈlˌmɒs/; Ancient Greek: Λιμός, romanizedLimos meaning 'starvation'), Roman Fames /ˈfɑːˌmz/, is the deity and personification of starvation, hunger and famine in ancient Greek religion and mythology. Unlike the other gods of the pantheon, Limos is of indeterminate sex, and was portrayed as either male or female depending on region and cult. Limos was opposed by Demeter, goddess of grain and the harvest with whom Ovid wrote Limos could never meet, and Plutus, the god of wealth and the bounty of rich harvests.[2] In the book of Revelation, he is represented as the rider of the black horse.[3]


According to Hesiod's Theogony, Limos is the child of the goddess Eris ("Discord"), who was the daughter of Nyx ("Night").[4] Limos' siblings include Toil (Ponos), Forgetfulness (Lethe), Stories (Logoi), Lies (Pseudea), Oaths (Horkos), Quarrels (Neikea), Disputes (Amphillogiai), Manslaughters (Androktasiai), Battles (Hysminai) and Wars (Makhai), Anarchy (Dysnomia), Pains (Algea), and Ruin (Ate).

And hateful Eris bore painful Ponos ("Hardship"),
Lethe ("Forgetfulness") and Limos ("Starvation") and the tearful Algea ("Pains"),
Hysminai ("Battles"), Makhai ("Wars"), Phonoi ("Murders"), and Androktasiai ("Manslaughters");
Neikea ("Quarrels"), Pseudea ("Lies"), Logoi ("Stories"), Amphillogiai ("Disputes")
Dysnomia ("Anarchy") and Ate ("Ruin"), near one another,
and Horkos ("Oath"), who most afflicts men on earth,
Then willing swears a false oath.[5][6]


The gender of Limos is not consistent in surviving literature. The gender of Limos seems to have varied depending on dialect, as the Greek noun limos was feminine in Doric Greek and masculine in Attic Greek,[7] and accordingly was personified as a goddess in Sparta.[8] In a temple of Apollo at Amyclae, near Sparta, a statue of Limos showed her in female form as was the case in the temple of Athena Chalcioecus, in Sparta.[9][10] Callimachus of Cyrene, who preserves one of the versions of Limos' only notable myth, has the deity as a male one.[8] What the gender of this deity would be to Homer is indeterminable.[8] The Roman poets, who wrote in Latin language, used the feminine noun Fames[11] and likewise personified them as a female deity.[12]


Sentinel of Hades[edit]

In Virgil's Aeneid, Limos is one of a number of spirits and monsters said to stand at the entrance to the Underworld.[13][14] Seneca the Younger writes that she "lies with wasted jaw" by Cocytus, the Underworld river of lamentation.[15][16]

Virgil's account[edit]

Aeneas is guided by the Sibyl through the Underworld:

They walked exploring the unpeopled night,
Through Pluto's vacuous realms, and regions void,
As when one's path in dreary woodlands winds
Beneath a misty moon's deceiving ray,
When Jove has mantled all his heaven in shade,
And night seals up the beauty of the world.
In the first courts and entrances of Hell
Luctus/ Penthus (Sorrows) and vengeful Curae (Cares) on couches lie:
There sad Senectus/ Geras (Old Age) abides, Morbus/ Nosos (Diseases) pale,
And Metus/ Deimos (Fear), and Fames/ Limos (Hunger), temptress to all crime;
Egestas/ Aporia (Want), base and vile, and, two dread shapes to see,
Labor/ Ponos (Bondage) and Letum/ Thanatos (Death): then Sopor/ Hypnos (Sleep), Death's next of kin;
And Gaudia (Dreams of Guilty Joy). Death-dealing Bellum/ Polemos (War)
Is ever at the doors, and hard thereby
The Eumenides'/ Furies' beds of steel, where wild-eyed Discordia/ Eris (Strife)
Her snaky hair with blood-stained fillet binds.[17]

Seneca's account[edit]

The foul pool of Cocytus' sluggish stream lies here;
here the vulture, there the dole-bringing owl utters its cry,
and the sad omen of the gruesome screech-owl sounds.
The leaves shudder, black with gloomy foliage
where sluggish Sopor/ Hypnos (Sleep) clings to the overhanging yew,
where sad Fames/ Limos (Hunger) lies with wasted jaws,
and Pudor/ Aedos (Shame), too late, hides her guilt-burdened face.
Metus/ Deimos (Dread) stalks there, gloomy Pavor/ Phobos (Fear) and gnashing Dolor/ Algos (Pain),
sable Luctus/ Penthus (Grief), tottering Morbus/ Nosos (Disease)
and iron-girt Bella/ Enyo (War); and last of all slow
Senectus/ Geras (Old Age) supports his steps upon a staff.[18]

King's punishment[edit]

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Limos is said to make her home in a freezing and gloomy wasteland at the farthest edge of Scythia, where the soil is barren and nothing grows. Demeter seeks her opposite's help there after being angered by the Thessalian king Erysichthon, who cut down a grove that was sacred to the goddess. By way of an oread nymph (as the two can never meet in person), Demeter bids Limos curse Erysichthon with never-ending hunger. The nymph beholds the fearsome spirit in a stony field:

Her hair was coarse, her face sallow, her eyes sunken; her lips crusted and white; her throat scaly with scurf. Her parchment skin revealed the bowels within; beneath her hollow loins jutted her withered hips; her sagging breasts seemed hardly fastened to her ribs; her stomach only a void; her joints wasted and huge, her knees like balls, her ankles grossly swollen.[19]

Limos does as Demeter commands; at midnight she enters Erysichthon's chamber, wraps the king in her arms and breathes upon him, "filling with herself his mouth and throat and lungs, and [channeling] through his hollow veins her craving emptiness". Thereafter, Erysichthon is filled with an unquenchable hunger which ultimately drives him to eat himself.[2]


  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 227
  2. ^ a b Ovid (1998). Metamorphoses. Translated by Melville, A.D. (trans.). Oxford University Press. pp. 195–197.
  3. ^ Hutchinson, Jane Campbell (2013). Albrecht Durer: A Guide to Research. Routledge. p. 58. ISBN 978-1135581725. Archived from the original on 2023-01-13. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
  4. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 227
  5. ^ Caldwell, p. 42 lines 226-232, with the meanings of the names (in parentheses), as given by Caldwell, p. 40 on lines 212–232.
  6. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 226–232 Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Kilarski, pp 72-73
  8. ^ a b c Hopkinson, p. 135
  9. ^ West 1966, p. 231
  10. ^ Hodkinson and Powell, p. 102
  11. ^ A Latin Dictionary s.v. fames
  12. ^ Schaffner, Brigitte (2006). "Fames". In Cancik, Hubert; Schneider, Helmuth (eds.). Brill's New Pauly. Translated by Christine F. Salazar. Basle: Brill Reference Online. doi:10.1163/1574-9347_bnp_e409620. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  13. ^ Virgil (1916). Virgil: Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid. Translated by Fairclough, H.G. Harvard University Press.
  14. ^ Virgil, Aeneid 276
  15. ^ Seneca the Younger (1917). Seneca: Tragedies. Translated by Frank Justus. Harvard University Press.
  16. ^ Seneca, Hercules Furens 691
  17. ^ Virgil, Aeneid 268–281
  18. ^ Seneca, Hercules Furens 686–696
  19. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.791 ff.


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