Aemilia (gens)

Imperial-era consular fasti listing several Aemilii

The gens Aemilia, originally written Aimilia, was one of the most ancient patrician houses at Rome. The family was said to have originated in the reign of Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome, and its members held the highest offices of the state, from the early decades of the Republic to imperial times. The Aemilii were probably one of the gentes maiores, the most important of the patrician families. Their name was associated with two major roads (the Via Aemilia and the Via Aemilia Scauri), an administrative region of Italy, and the Basilica Aemilia at Rome.[1]


Several stories were told of the foundation of the Aemilii. The most familiar was that their ancestor, Mamercus, was the son of Numa Pompilius, who was also claimed as an ancestor of the gentes Pompilia, Pomponia, Calpurnia, and Pinaria. A variation of this account stated that Mamercus was the son of Pythagoras, who was sometimes said to have taught Numa. However, as Livy observed, this was not possible, as Pythagoras was not born until more than a century after Numa's death, and was still living in the early days of the Republic.[1][2]

This Mamercus is said to have received the name of Aemilius because of the persuasiveness of his language (δι αιμυλιαν λογου), although such a derivation is certainly false etymology. Another possible derivation is from aemulus, "a rival," or from the same root. According to a different legend, the Aemilii were descended from Aemylos, a son of Ascanius, four hundred years before the time of Numa Pompilius. Still another version relates that the gens was descended from Amulius, the wicked uncle of Romulus and Remus, who deposed his brother Numitor to become king of Alba Longa.[1]

Whether any of these accounts is true, the Aemilii were probably of Sabine origin. The praenomen Mamercus is derived from Mamers, a god worshipped by the Sabelli of central and southern Italy, and usually identified with Mars. Although usually included in lists of praenomina regularly used at Rome, and thus considered Latin, the Aemilii and Pinarii were the only patrician families to use the name.[1]


The Aemilii regularly used the praenomina Mamercus, Lucius, Manius, Marcus, and Quintus. The Aemilii Mamercini also used Tiberius and Gaius, while the Aemilii Lepidi, who had a particular fondness for old and unusual names, used Paullus, presumably with reference to the family of the Aemilii Paulli, which had died out nearly a century earlier. The daughters of the Aemilii are known to have used the numerical praenomina Prima, Secunda, and Tertia, although these are frequently treated as cognomina.[1]

Branches and cognomina

The oldest stirps of the Aemilii used Mamercus and its diminutive, Mamercinus as cognomina. This family flourished from the earliest period to the time of the Samnite Wars. Several other major branches, including the Papi, Barbulae, Paulli, and Lepidi, date from this period, and may have been descended from the Mamercini. The Aemilii Paulli vanished with the death of Lucius Aemilius Paullus, the conqueror of Macedonia, in 160 BC. His sons, though grown, were adopted into the families of the Fabii Maximi and the Cornelii Scipiones.[1]

The family of the Aemilii Lepidi came to prominence at the beginning of the third century BC, and from then to imperial times was one of the most distinguished in the state. In the first century BC they revived several old names, including the praenomina Mamercus and Paullus, and the cognomina Paullus and Regillus. The Aemilii Scauri flourished from the beginning of the second century BC to the beginning of the first century AD. The cognomina Buca and Regillus apparently belonged to short-lived families. Other surnames are found in imperial times.[1]


This list includes abbreviated praenomina. For an explanation of this practice, see filiation.

Aemilii Mamerci et Mamercini

Aemilii Papi

Aemilii Barbulae

Aemilii Paulli

Aemilii Lepidi

Obverse of a denarius of Aemilius Lepidus the triumvir

Aemilii Regilli

Aemilii Scauri

Aemilii Bucae

Denarius issued by Aemilius Buca the moneyer, depicting the laureate head of Julius Caesar, and on the reverse Venus holding Victoria and sceptre


Gravestone of freedmen (liberti) with the nomen Aemilius, from Emerita Augusta, Roman Spain[8]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor
  2. Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, i. 18.
  3. Broughton, vol. I, p. 35.
  4. Broughton, vol. I, p. 187.
  5. Karl Julius Sillig, Catalogus Artificium (1827), Appendix, s. v.
  6. Desiré-Raoul Rochette, Lettre à M. Schorn, p. 422, 2nd ed.
  7. Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares xiii. 2, 21, 27.
  8. Année Epigraphique 2003.881.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 


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