In Greek mythology, Pheme (// FAY-may; Greek: Φήμη, Roman equivalent: Fama), also known as Ossa, 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. 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. James C. Bulman's Arden Shakespeare edition notes numerous lesser known theatrical examples.
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".
- p. 161
- 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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