Cutting off the Goolies

Date: Tue 06 Jun 1995 - 15:40:50 EEST

G'day all,

On the general discussion of eunuchs:

I believe it was either the splendidly debauched Byzantines or their staggeringly depraved successors the Ottomans who recognized 33 distinct grades of eunuch, depending on how much was cut off, and when. This ranges from #1 - one with the lot (in which case a reed tube was inserted directly into the bladder so the unfortunate recipient could pee) - through to #33, the enigmatic "false" eunuch, so popular with the ladies.

Why Luidprandt of Cremona, a western bishop who travelled as an envoy to Constantinople the early 10th century, presented four *carzimasia* as gifts to Emperor (and by all accounts, wholesome family-man) Constantine Porphyrogenitus, is a mystery that perplexes John Julius Norwich in the recent translation of Luidprandt's entertaining writings (Everyman). Carzimasia were Spanish slaves that underwent a type #1 castration in their youth, and were trained as professional homosexual prostitutes. Luidprandt notes that they were staggeringly expensive, and "more precious to the emperor" than any of the other gifts the bishop presented. My the church had liberal attitudes in those times!

A plot-line: Chinese eunuchs serving in the Imperial Court were required to carry their severed organs at all times, preserved like fruit in little pots or jars and certificated. If a eunuch lost his jar, he was in strife as his status could not be officially authenticated (dropping your pants wasn't good proof enough for the bureaucracy). Perhaps a visiting Kralori diplomat somehow loses his jar and desperately needs it returned before he heads back east? (Think of that Japo-western starring Toshiro Mifune and Charles Bronson (!) where it was the sword that got pinched and modify the plot accordingly).

Finally, I recently saw a French movie called 'Farinelli' about one of the most famous castrati singers of the late 18th century. Castrati were truly the rock stars of the age, and Farinelli and his brother indulged in lots of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll (Farinelli must've been a eunuch somewhere up near #33, as it was said that he "ploughed the field while afterward his (completely-equipped) brother sowed the seed"). A pretty good movie, though a man singing in a very high soprano/counter tenor is not to my taste.



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