Derived from the Greek eunouchos and Latin eunuchus, Eunuch litterally translates as "keeper of bedchamber", a not so subtle reference to the Eunuchs historic and stereotypical role.

Even considering today's medical science, the process for making a Eunuch remains largely unchanged; the male is strapped spread-eagled to a table, a cord is tightly knotted around his genitals and the organs - penis as well as testicles - are removed using a sharp razor.

The wound was then cauterized by applying a red-hot poker. Next the Eunuch was buried up to his neck in hot sand, and deprived of water for three days to prevent urination which might infect the wound.

On the fourth day he was forced to drink an enormous amount of water until the pressure in his bladder forced a hole through his scar tissue. It was through this hole that he would urinate for the remainder of his life.

If he was lucky to survive this process - mortality rates in excess of 90% were documented - then he was ready for his new life as a docile slave.

Note that amenities such as anesthesia and antiseptic were only utilized in recent times, and have had a minor role in the long history of Eunuchs. And Eunuch's have been part of many cultures.

They were called hihra by Indians and xanith by the Omanis. In Tahiti there were known as mahu, and the French referred to Native North American Eunuchs as berdache.

But it was the Chinese who are credited with the original idea of Eunuchs. Palace guards, almost always an elite division of the military, were charged with watching over the Emperors women. But as the size of harems grew - keep in mind that in such times, owning women was a status symbol - there was increasing concern that the guards might not be content with simply watching.

So the Eunuch was invented, and many otherwise indigent Chinese men actually sought emasculation that they might land such a elite job.

The first documented Eunuchs are noted in the writings of Xenophon?s. He recorded the campaign of Cyrus II (590 BC - 529 BC), King of Persia, when he conquered Babylon in 539 BC.

Wrote Xenophon, "?As eunuchs were not susceptible of any family affections he thought that they would esteem most highly those who were in the best position to make them rich and to stand by them if ever they were wronged and to place them in offices of honor.

"...Bulls, when castrated, lose somewhat of their high spirit and unruliness. But they are not deprived of their strength or capacity for work...Similarly men, when robbed of this desire, become gentler, but no less careful of that which is entrusted to them?"

As previously noted, Chinese men actively sought to become Eunuchs.

Traditionally a family would arrange for one of their sons to become a Eunuch as a way to escape poverty. And competition to become a Eunuch was very intense. In 1644, towards the end of the Ming Dynasty over twenty thousand men vied for a mere three thousand positions.

An interesting tidbit is that the Eunuch kept his severed organs, known as pao (literally "treasure") sealed in a jar. In order to advance in rank as a palace guard he would have to present this jar to his superior for inspection. Also, it was critical to be buried with one's pao jar so the body would be whole in the afterlife.

Eunuchs were pervasive and highly regarded in Chinese society, holding a wide range of positions from engineering, decorating, farming, cleaning, music, and the aforementioned palace guards.

But with the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty in 1911, harems were outlawed. Clearly there was no longer a primary need for Eunuchs, and they gradually started to disappear.

American journalist Vincent Starret visited Peking in the early 1930's and extensively photographed and interviewed thirty palace Eunuchs, ranging from sixty to almost ninety years of age.

He described the Eunuchs as "deviod of facial and body hair, fat lipped and heavily jowled, with shrill voices and soft, feminine hair".

And what about Eunuchs today?

Apart from a small population of fetishists, surprisingly most Eunuchs today are weightlifters.

They have a penectomy and orchiectomy (surgical removal of penis and testicles), since the apparatus only gets in the way during training, and is susceptible to damage.

Bottom line gals - stick with the geeks.

Some of the most heavily muscled guys at the gym may in fact be as flat as a Ken doll down there.

I've heard that only the billiard balls, not the firehose, are removed. A eunuch was not necessarily incapable of raising a tower, but could not father children, and in olden days the first was generally thought useless without the second.

Eu"nuch (?), n. [L. eunuchus, Gr. , prop., keeping or guarding the couch; couch, bed, + to have, hold, keep.]

A male of the human species castrated; commonly, one of a class of such persons, in Oriental countries, having charge of the women's apartments. Some of them, in former times, gained high official rank.

 

© Webster 1913.


Eu"nuch (?), Eu"nuch*ate, v. t. [L. eunuchare.]

To make a eunuch of; to castrate. as a man.

Creech. Sir. T. Browne.

 

© Webster 1913.

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