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Eunuch
Arabic: 'al-khasiyy



Chief eunuch of the Ottoman sultan's harem.
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Chief eunuch of the Ottoman sultan's harem.

Eunuch on post in front of the Ottoman sultan's harem.
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Eunuch on post in front of the Ottoman sultan's harem.

Two eunuch guards, with Ottoman harem concubines.
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Two eunuch guards, with Ottoman harem concubines.

17th century depiction of an Ottoman eunuch harem guard.
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17th century depiction of an Ottoman eunuch harem guard.

Castrated human male. In the Middle East the eunuch was castrated for practical reasons, and served in positions where only castrated men were allowed.
The eunuchs were either guards and servants in harems or chamberlains to kings. These were the original positions for the eunuchs, but many succeeded in climbing in social status, and could reach positions like bodyguards, confidential advisers, ministers, even generals and admirals. Many of the advisers under the Ottoman Empire were eunuchs.
The reasons to castrate men entering such positions, are rather obvious: For the eunuchs working in the harems, there was a need for men who could not make the women pregnant. Another reason was that many thought that the eunuch's personality was more favourable for important positions. And also the fact that eunuchs never could have any children made them less threatening for rulers and important people: the eunuchs had no sons who could challenge their own sons' future positions.
There were 3 levels of castration: 1) Removal of both testicles and penis, leaving the man with only a hole for urination. 2) Removal of only testicles before the boy reached puberty, leaving the mature male totally non-sexual. 3) Removal of testicles after puberty, leaving the man with capacity to achieve an erection without ejaculation.
Men or boys who were castrated could either accept castration voluntarily, in order to enter certain attractive positions, or they were men being punished for certain errors or crimes. Additionally, they might be boys sold by their parents, and hence slaves, and therefore under the total will of the owner.
In ancient Egypt, a court officer was called eunuch whether or not he had castration. Most were castrated, hence the use of the term.




By Tore Kjeilen