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Emese álma.jpg
SpouseÜgyek or Előd
HouseHouse of Dentumoger

Emese (fl. 9th century CE) was the daughter of Prince Önedbelia of Dentumoger, the consort of the Scythian (i.e. from Dentumoger, Scythia) lord Ügyek,[1] and the mother of High Prince Álmos in Hungarian historical mythology; thus, she was the ancestress of the Hungarian royal house of Árpád,[2] 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 an historical person.

Emese was a Hungarian woman who lived in an epoch when the Magyars' cohabitation with the Khazars ceased, and the Pechenegs forced them to resettle in the Carpathian basin, where they established their kingdom. According to tradition, she is the mother of the Magyar royal dynasty, which sprang from one of the seven original Magyar tribes. Hence, she has been credited as "the mother of all ethnic Hungarians".[3][4][5]

Emese in legend[edit]

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,[6] 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.[7]

In the 819th year of Our Lord’s incarnation, Ügyek, who, as we said above, being of the family of King Magog became a long time later the most noble prince of Scythia, took to wife in Dentumoger the daughter of Duke Eunedubelian, called Emese, from whom he sired a son, who was named Álmos. But he is called Álmos from a divine event, because when she was pregnant a divine vision appeared to his mother in a dream in the form of a falcon that, as if coming to her, impregnated her and made known to her that from her womb a torrent would come forth and from her loins glorious kings be generated, but that they would not increase in their land. Because, therefore, a dream is called "álom" in the Hungarian language and his birth was predicted in a dream, so he was called Álmos. Or he is thus called Álmos, that is holy, because holy kings and dukes were born of his line.

— Anonymus: Gesta Hungarorum[8]

Anno dominice incarnationis DCCC XVIIII 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. Quia ergo sompnium in lingua Hungarica dicitur almu et illius ortus per sompnium fuit pronosticatus, ideo ipse uocatus est Almus. Vel ideo uocatus est Almus, id est sanctus, quia ex progenie eius sancti reges et duces erant nascituri.

— Anonymus: Gesta Hungarorum[9]

Emese in written sources[edit]

Emese is mentioned in two historical works: the Gesta Hungarorum and the Chronicon Pictum. Neither source is contemporary with Emese, as each was written 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 anonymous author writes "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."

The Chronicon Pictum contains the text "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."


Emese is also a feminine Hungarian name. Its meaning is mother or breastfeeder. Emese means "little mother" in ancient Hungarian.[10] It derives from "eme", mother, and the agglutinating "[s]e", which stands for "little".[10] Its root is Finno-Ugric,[11] c.f. Finnish emä, from Proto-Finnic *emä, from Proto-Uralic *emä, and Hungarian anya, from Proto-Uralic *ańa. Cognates of emä include Estonian ema, Northern Sami eapmi (“pistil”), and Nganasan немы (ńemy).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lendvai, Paul (2021). The Hungarians A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat. Translated by Ann Major. Princeton University Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780691200279. Princess Emese, consort of a Scythian king, dreamed that a turul according to different versions, a hawk or an eagle impregnated her by divine command
  2. ^ Roman, Eric (2003). Austria-Hungary & the Successor States A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Facts On File. p. 466. ISBN 9780816074693. Emese [...] the ancient mother of the Hungarian royal house of Árpád
  3. ^ Brackette Williams, ed. (2013). Women Out of Place The Gender of Agency and the Race of Nationality. Taylor & Francis. p. Contents - Part II. ISBN 9781135234836. Looking for the roots of Hungarian nation, nineteenth-century romantic-nationalist authors selected the figure of Emese, declaring her the mother of all ethnic Hungarians.
  4. ^ Géza Závodszky, Ottó Szabolcs (1999). Who's Who ezeréves Magyarország ki kicsoda a történelemben? : Aba Amádétól Zsigmond királyig 800 híres ember a magyar történelemből. Anno Kiadó. p. 108. Emese: magyar mondai személy. Anonymusnál Álmos fejedelem édesanyja. Alakjához füzödik a nevezetes monda, mely szerint álmában turul szállt rá, mintegy teherbe ejtve. A név anyácskát jelent[...]{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ Gabriella Mazzon, Ignazio Putzu, ed. (1999). Lingue, letterature, nazioni. Centri e periferie tra Europa e Mediterraneo. FrancoAngeli. p. 352. ISBN 9788856861518. Gli avvenimenti della discendenza dinastica dei magiari vengono collocati nella regione di Levédia (la parte settentrionale di Etelköz) dalla mitologia ungherese, e sono riportati in tutte le cronache medievali. Secendo la leggenda Emese, la donna magiara più morigerata, ebbe una visione in sogno: venne fecondata da un uccello leggendario sceso dal cielo, chiamato turul, e così divenne la progenitrice dei sovrani potenti della dinastia magiara. Avendo avuto questa visione in sogno chiamò suo figlio Álmos, nome che deriva dalla parola ungherese álom, sogno. [The events of the dynastic lineage of the Magyars are placed in the region of Levédia (the northern part of Etelköz) in Hungarian mythology, and are reported in all medieval chronicles. According to the legend, Emese, the most moderate Magyar woman, had a vision in a dream: she was impregnated by a legendary bird that came down from the sky, called turul , and thus became the progenitor of the powerful rulers of the Magyar dynasty. Having had this vision in a dream, she named her son Álmos, a name that derives from the Hungarian word álom, dream.]
  6. ^ Gyula Kristó, editor. Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon. (9-14. század) (Encyclopedia of the Early Hungarian History - 9-14th centuries). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1994. p. 39.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ Anonymus, Notary of King Béla: The Deeds of the Hungarians (chapter 3) https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/18975/1/18975.pdf
  9. ^ Anonymus: Gesta Hungarorum (chapter 3) https://mek.oszk.hu/19800/19808/19808.pdf
  10. ^ a b Brackette Williams, ed. (2013). Women Out of Place The Gender of Agency and the Race of Nationality. Taylor & Francis. p. Contents - Part II. ISBN 9781135234836.
  11. ^ Sheard, K.M. (2011). Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names for Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Heathens, Mages, Shamans & Independent Thinkers of All Sorts who are Curious about Names from Every Place and Every Time. Llewellyn Publications. p. 202. ISBN 9780738723686. Emese: The mother of the Hungarian folk-hero Álmos. It is thought to derive from a Finno-Ugric root meaning "mother"