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Fama (Fame, Rumor; from the Latin fari meaning to speak; equivalent to the Greek Pheme, also known as Ossa in Homeric sources) is the personification of the public voice in Roman mythology, and was an allegorical deity.

Featured image: Fama (Juan Bautista, 1732)

Fama, which means “rumor” in Roman mythology, was depicted by Virgil and other writers as having several mouths, eyes, ears, and feathers. She made the little look large and the mighty seem larger, according to Virgil, since she “had her feet on the earth and her head in the heavens.” Pheme is referred to in Homer as Rumor, the goddess or the messenger of Zeus.

Rumor! What evil can surpass her speed?
In movement she grows mighty, and achieves
strength and dominion as she swifter flies.
small first, because afraid, she soon exalts
her stature skyward, stalking through the lands
and mantling in the clouds her baleful brow.
The womb of Earth, in anger at high Heaven,
bore her, they say, last of the Titan spawn,
sister to Coeus and Enceladus.
Feet swift to run and pinions like the wind
the dreadful monster wears; her carcase huge
is feathered, and at root of every plume
a peering eye abides; and, strange to tell,
an equal number of vociferous tongues,
foul, whispering lips, and ears, that catch at all.
At night she spreads midway ‘twixt earth and heaven
her pinions in the darkness, hissing loud,
nor e’er to happy slumber gives her eyes:
but with the morn she takes her watchful throne
high on the housetops or on lofty towers,
to terrify the nations. She can cling
to vile invention and malignant wrong,
or mingle with her word some tidings true.
She now with changeful story filled men’s ears,
exultant, whether false or true she sung:
how, Trojan-born Aeneas having come,
Dido, the lovely widow, Iooked his way,
deigning to wed; how all the winter long
they passed in revel and voluptuous ease,
to dalliance given o’er; naught heeding now
of crown or kingdom—shameless! lust-enslaved!
Such tidings broadcast on the lips of men
the filthy goddess spread; and soon she hied
to King Iarbas, where her hateful song
to newly-swollen wrath his heart inflamed.”

P. Vergilius Maro, Aeneid, Book 4, source


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