800px-Dresden Fama (2005)

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 (Greek: Φήμη) was the goddess (or spirit) of rumor, report, and gossip, her favor 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."

Ancient Text

Hesiod, Works and Days 760 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Do as I tell you and keep away from the gossip of people. For Pheme (Rumour) is an evil thing, by nature, she's a light weight to lift up, oh very easy, but heavy to carry, and hard to put down again. Pheme (Rumour) never disappears entirely once many people have talked her big. In fact, she really is some sort of goddess."

Bacchylides, Fragment 2 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Speed to holy Keos (Ceos), Pheme (Report), you giver of majesty, and carry the message of gracious name, that Argeius won the victory [in the Games]."

Bacchylides, Fragment 10 :
"Pheme (Report), you visit the tribes of mortals and to all . . . because with their eyes they have looked on golden blessed Nike (Victory)."

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 151 ff (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) : 
"Chorus: O sweetly-speaking message of Zeus, in what spirit have you come to glorious Thebes from golden Pytho? I am on the rack, terror shakes my soul, O Delian healer [oracular Apollon] to whom wild cries rise, in holy fear of you, wondering what debt you will extract from me, perhaps unknown before, perhaps renewed with the revolving years. Tell me, immortal Phama (Report), child of golden Elpis (Hope)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 17. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"They [the Athenians] are conspicuous . . . for their devotion to religion. They have an altar of Aidos (Shame), one to Pheme (Rumour) and one to Hormes (Effort)."

Anonymous, Dionysus and Lycurgus Fragment (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 129) (Greek epic C3rd A.D.) :
"[Lykourgos (Lycurgus) was driven mad by the god Dionysos:] Baneful Rumour (phêmê) of his madness should arrive at Thebes on wings and summon Ardys and Astakios, his two sons, and Kytis who married him and was subdued to his embrace. They, when led by Rumour’s (phêmê) many tongues they came, found Lykourgos just now released from suffering, worn out by madness."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 5. 370 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Already Pheme (Rumour) self born had flown from the hills to Autonoe, proclaiming her son's [Aktaion's] fate torn to pieces by his dogs."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 18. 1 ff : 
"Meantime manytongued Pheme (Rumour) was on the wing; and she flew along the whole line of Assyrian cities, proclaiming the name of Dionysos with his gift of the vine, the glorious fruit of grapes ,and his bold warfare with the Indians."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 44. 123 ff : 
"[Dionysos returned to Thebes after his victorious campaign in India:] Already Pheme (Rumour) was flying about the seven-gated city proclaiming the rites of Dionysos."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 47. 1 ff : 
"Pheme (Rumour) was flitting up and down the city, announcing of herself that Dionysos of the grapes had come to visit Athens."


  • Elpis (spirit of hope)(mother)