Emese was daughter of Prince Önedbelia of Dentumoger and the mother of High Prince Álmos in Hungarian historical mythology, thus, she was the ancestress of the Árpád dynasty, the dynasty which founded the Hungarian Kingdom. Due to a lack of reliable source material, it is difficult to separate the legends concerning Emese from her actual role as a historical person.
Emese in legend
Emese's Dream, the legend concerning the conception of Prince Álmos, is one of the earliest known tales from Hungarian history. The legend can be tentatively dated to around 860-870, and with certainty to between 820 and 997 (the birth of Álmos and the acceptance of Christianity).
In the legend, Emese, the wife of Chief Ögyek (Ügek), was impregnated by a turul bird. The turul appeared to her in a dream and told her that from her womb a great river would begin, and flow out over strange lands. According to dream interpreters, this meant that she would give birth to a son who would lead his people out of their home in Levedia, and that her descendants would be glorious kings. Emese's son was named Álmos; his name derives from the Hungarian word álom, meaning dream, thus "Álmos" can be interpreted as "the Dreamt One".
The legend has several variants, namely regarding whether Emese was impregnated by the turul bird or whether she was already pregnant at the time of her dream, and whether the bird appeared to her literally or in a dream while she was asleep. Some variations of the legend may have been introduced in the 19th century during the reemergence of Hungarian nationalism at that time.
Emese in written sources
Emese is mentioned in two historical works: the Gesta Hungarorum and the Chronicon Pictum. Neither are contemporary sources, as both were written several centuries after her death (the Gesta around 1200 and the Chronicon Pictum in the 14th century). Both works freely intermingle actual historical events with legend and chivalric tales, so it is impossible to know if Emese is mentioned as legend or as an actual historical personage.
In the Gesta Hungarorum ("The Deeds of the Hungarians"), the author Anonymous writes the following;
In the original Latin:
|Latin Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Anno dominice incarnationis, D. CCC. XVII II, vgek, sicut supra diximus, longo post tempore de genere magog regis erat quidam nobilissimus dux scithie, qui duxit sibi uxorem in dentumoger filiam eunedubeliani ducis, nomine emesu. De qua genuit filium, qui agnominatus est almus. Sed ab euentu diuino est nominatus almus, quia matri eius pregnanti per sompnium apparuit diuina uisio in forma asturis, que quasi ueniens eam grauidauit. Et innotuit ei quod de utero eius egrederetur torrens, et de lumbis eius reges gloriosi propagarentur, sed non in sua multiplicarentur terra.
And in English:
- In the year of the Lord 819 Ügek, noble Lord of Scythia descending from the great house of Magog, took in marriage the daughter of Eunedubelia of Dentumoger, Emesu. From her a son was born and given the name Almus. The child was given this divine name for when his mother was pregnant with him there appeared to her a in a dream a bird, and instantly it seemed to her that from her womb a spring began and from her loins spread a great line of kings but they did not propagate in their own lands.
Emese's story is also mentioned in the Chronicon Pictum, in a somewhat shorter version;
In the original Latin:
- Eleud filius Vgeg ex filia Eunodbilia in Scytia genuit filium, qui nominatur Almus ab eventu, quia mater eius in sompno innotuerat avis quasi in forma austuris veniens, dum esset gravida, et quod de utero eius egrederentur torrens ac in terra non sua multiplicaretur. Ideoque factum fuit, quod de lumbis eius gloriosi reges propagarentur. Quia vero sompnium in lingua nostra dicitur alm, et illius ortus per sompnium fuit prenosticatus, ideo ipse vocatus est Almus qui fuit Eleud, qui fuit Vgeg, qui fuit Ed, qui fuit Chaba, qui fuit Ethele […]
And in English:
- Eleud, the son of Ugek by the daughter of Eunodbilia in Scythia had a son, who was named Almus because in a dream of his mother there appeared a bird in the shape of a hawk who impregnated her, and from her womb a fast-flowing stream began to flow, but it was in foreign lands that it grew and propagated. So it happened that from her loins a great line of kings was born.
Notable persons named Emese
- Emese Béla, Hungarian high jumper
- Emese Danks, Hungarian politician, government spokesperson
- Emese Hunyady, Hungarian speed skater
- Emese Kovács, Hungarian swimmer
- Emese Szász, Hungarian Olympic fencer
- Gyula Kristó, editor. Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon. (9-14. század) (Encyclopedia of the Early Hungarian History - 9-14th centuries). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1994. Pp. 39.
- "Feminism, the Murderer of Mothers" by Eva V. Huseby-Darvas, in Women out of place: the gender of agency and the race of nationality. Brackett F. Williams, (editor) New York: Routeledge, 1996. Pp.161-185.