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Sculpture of Pheme/Fama on the roof of the Dresden University of Visual Arts. It was sculpted by Robert Henze [de]

In Greek mythology, Pheme (/ˈfm/ FEE-mee; Greek: Φήμη, Phēmē; Roman equivalent: Fama), also known as Ossa in Homeric sources,[1] was the personification of fame and renown, her favour being notability, her wrath being scandalous rumours. 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.[2]

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. 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". In Homer Pheme is called Rumour the goddess or the messenger of Zeus.

In English Renaissance theatre, Rumour was a stock personification, best known from William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2 in the quote "Open your ears; for which of you will stop The vent of hearing, when loud Rumour speaks?". James C. Bulman's Arden Shakespeare edition notes numerous lesser known theatrical examples.[3]

Linguistic associations[edit]

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".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Homer, Iliad 2. 93 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) : "[The Greeks] marched in order by companies to the assembly, and Ossa (Rumour) walked blazing among them, Zeus' messenger, to hasten them along." Homer, Odyssey 2. 216 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) : "[Telemakhos (Telemachus) departs in search of his father Odysseus :] ‘Perhaps some human witness will speak, perhaps I shall hear some rumour (ossa) that comes from Zeus, a great source of tidings for mankind.’" Homer, Odyssey 24. 412 ff : "Ossa (Rumour) as herald was speeding hotfoot through the city, crying the news of the suitors' [of Penelope] hideous death and doom."
  2. ^ "Pheme". Retrieved July 14, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ p. 161
  4. ^ 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(The fame of the antiquity and its transformations between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance)," in Sergio Audano, Giovanni Cipriani (ed.), Aspetti della Fortuna dell'Antico nella Cultura Europea: atti della settima giornata di studi(Aspects of Ancient Fortune in European Culture: Proceedings of the Seventh Study Day), Sestri Levante, 19 Marzo 2010 (Foggia: Edizioni il Castello, 2011) (Echo, 1), 35–74.

External links[edit]