Eunuchs are those men that have been castrated, which means that their sexual organs have been removed.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, then you probably know Lord Varys, Theon and the hottest Eunuch in GOT history, Grey Worm.
Eunuchs have played a very important role in a number of cultures across the world since the ancient times. They were usually castrated when still young so as to smoothen their paths into securing governments or religious positions in places such as China, Egypt, Byzantium, India and the Ottoman Empire.
Other men were castrated as adults like punishment for the crimes they may have committed which were sexual in nature. In addition, others were castrated as a result of passionate religious beliefs or even fear of sexual temptation. The following are some of the most noteworthy eunuchs from history.
1. Wei Zhongxian
Eunuchs were very common in the imperial China for hundreds of years, until the end of the Ching dynasty in the year 1911. They frequently came from extremely poor families and they used to be castrated while still young so as to work in the Emperor’s palace. The Imperial eunuchs regularly wielded tremendous power simply because they ran the government bureaucracy as well as they were the only men allowed within the wall of imperial palace.
The family of Wei Zongxian’s didn’t intend for him to be a eunuch. In fact, he was born poor, then grew up in the conditions normal for kids in the village, got married and eventually fathered a daughter. However, Wei was still a gambler who could find himself in debt and was always threatened by the people he owed money. He then decided to have himself castrated at the age of 21 so that he could join the service of the emperor.
For about thirty years, he was clever enough to stroke the precise egos and make outstanding connections within the palace. Perhaps the best career move that he made was to really befriend Mistress Ke, the future emperor Tiangi’s wet-nurse. In addition, he was the director of the secret police and therefore anyone who could oppose him was purged. However, his situation changed so fast once the emperor unexpectedly died at the age of 21 years. He eventually committed suicide and his body was mutilated. Wei’s remains were displayed in his village like a warning to others.
2. Cai Lun
The imperial system of the Chinese was generally run by lots of eunuchs. Eunuchs were favoured by the emperors for a number of reasons. Without any hope of beginning their own dynasty, eunuchs could be trusted not to attempt to displace the emperor. In fact, eunuchs could be taken from their families when young and therefore owed loyalty to their masters.
Lun was one of the outstanding eunuchs under the Emperor He. The Chinese bureaucracy by then needed massive amounts of paperwork. Nevertheless, paper wasn’t widely used at that period so the paperwork was usually done on the pieces of expensive silvers of bamboo or silk. This is the time Lun saw the benefits of paper and came up with a system for its widespread production.
His name was very much associated with paper such that he is frequently credited with the invention of paper, even though he merely made it popular. As a matter of fact, he found lots of fame and fortune for his backing of the paper. Unluckily, when the emperor passed away, his successor wanted to be totally free from the old and powerful eunuchs. Eventually, Lun committed suicide before he was imprisoned.
Emperor Nero had a wife known as Sabina. When she was pregnant with his child, Nero strongly kicked her in the stomach till she died. Afterwards repenting his murderous outburst, he did the only thing he could have done by simply bringing his “wife” back. Nero found a pretty boy known as Sporus who he thought that he resembled his dead wife, thus having him castrated. Nero then married Sporus, whom he now called Sabina.
Once Nero was killed, Sporus was persuaded by the commander of the guards’ regiment. When the commander was killed, he then started a relationship with Otho, who was the emperor for just three months. Once Otho was killed, Sporus had little luck with the Emperor Vitellius. In fact, Vitellius wanted to cavalcade the much notorious Sporus before the workers for their amusement. Reluctant to take part in this particular entertainment, Sporus decided to commit suicide. A number of historians believed that he was still below twenty years of age when he died.
4. Alessandro Moreschi
The castrati were usually prized singers who used to maintain a very high pitched voice into the adulthood via the somewhat thrilling practice of the castration. Because women were not allowed to sing in various settings, the Vatican for instance, to achieve much higher notes, castrati were needed. A lot of boys were actually castrated by their parents hoping that their sons would eventually become well known singers, only to discover that their voices were very poor.
This practice died out since women became much more able to appear in public. Alessandro Moreschi was the last of the castrati. He had his voice recorded, which is the only recording of a castrato that is available today.
He is among the early church fathers. When his father was killed for his Christian beliefs, Origen travelled to receive further learning in theology and philosophy. He looks to have taken Matthew 19:12 extremely serious, which states that for there are several eunuchs who were born from their mothers’ wombs, and there are some who were made eunuchs of men, and also there are some eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the heaven’s kingdom. He who is able to receive it, then let him get it.
When he took this as a precise command, Origen castrated himself. In fact, this particular story of self-castration of Origen has been told ever since antiquity but a number of modern historians doubt its truth.