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The Emo family, its name and origins

The original name of the Emo family was probably Aimo, Aymo or de Aimo; when the family reached Venice, the name underwent various changes and eventually became the better-known Emo. Nevertheless the name Aimo continued to be used within the family: for example, in 1723, some copies of the printed portraits of Giovanni Emo, the Procurator of San Marco, bore the name Aimo while others the name Emo. This shows that the two names were of equal standing, and demonstrates the will of the family to use the archaic form.

As far as the origin of the family is concerned, this cannot be traced with absolute precision because the information in the chronicles is conflicting. Some claim that the Emos came from Greece, others that they came from Vicenza. At the beginning of the XVII century, the scholar Alessandro Terzi, in his Riverente dimostrazione dell’osservanza dovuta ai meriti dell’illustrissimo Giorgio Emo podestà di Vicenza abbozzata in una oratione, maintained that the Emos were descendants of king Hemo of Thrace, a view also shared by Casimiro Freschot (1640?-1720) who in La nobiltà veneta, considered the family as coming from Greece. They would have emigrated first to Dalmatia and then to Venice: trae questa casa la sua origine dalla Grecia, antica madre delle scienze, e fermatasi in Veggia (=Veglia), isola della Dalmazia, d’indi si rese a Venetia dall’anno 997.

This opinion was also shared by Alessandro Girolamo Cappellari Vivaro (1664-1748), famous genealogist from La Serenissima and author of The Venetian Capitol a monumental list in four volumes of the Venetian patrician families, which is to date kept in manuscript form at the Marciana Library. In one of the extracts of this repertoire which was published posthumously, the Origin of the Emo Family and Chronological series of the most remarkable characters who illustrate it, he states: the Emo family derives its origin from Emo, king of the Thracians. The Emos came to Venice in 997 from mount Emo which separates Thrace from Thessaly.

Giacomo Marzari on the other hand, in his Historia di Vicenza, places the Emos among the ancient families from Vicenza which were already extinct by the end of 1500 also adding how these were ‘hora nobili veneti’. Around half a century later, Battista Pagliarino, likewise in the Chronicles of Vicenza, maintained that the Emos from Venice were in fact descendants of the family from Vicenza by the same name: Aymi, ancient family, already a powerful rich family in our city (Vicenza) were here in 1300. (….); many believe that the de Aymo family in Venice originate from the one in Vicenza. The Greek origin seems to be suggested by the fact that the name Aimo is of Greek origin (the Greek word aima means blood), but especially by the fashion that began in the 16th century among the Venetian patrician families of having their lineage descend from Greek or Roman gentes who lived in the Veneto mainland. Often such reconstructions were based on ancient epigraphic evidence but sometimes also on false documents especially created for this purpose.

Between the end of the XV century and the beginning of the XVI the Emos themselves became part of this mechanism. The members of the family in fact claimed they came from Eraclea, a town which together with Equilo (Jesolo) and Altino represented the place the ruling class came from at the time Venice was founded, a class they claimed to descend from as well as all the other Venetian patrician families. The chronicles of the time, however attributed different origins to the Emos, as we have previously seen, either from the Venetian mainland or from Greece. During the 16th century these two versions coexisted, but in the following century, the thesis of the Greek origin became predominant. However, the echo of a Venetian origin of the family continued to exist even in the following centuries so much so that an early twentieth century author, Sebastiano Rumor, still attributed a local provenance to the Emos, basing his view on the fact that, a family Aimus had been epigraphically documented in Padua since the times of Augustus.