Eunuch
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Basic Information

A eunuch is a male human1 who has undergone castration - either by removal of the testes or by full penecotomy. Males who have been sterilised by other means - such as radiation poisoning or tubal ligation - do not normally qualify.

Eunuchs were traditionally created for a variety of reasons - sometimes as slaves who would be "safe" to attend upon high status women (as in the Islamic tradition), sometimes to create a caste who would have no legacy to worry about (as in the Chinese tradition) or to preserve a pre-adolesecent high register singing voice (as in the medieval Italian manner). Various religions also mandated castration for some roles - the Galli who served as priests of Cybele were eunuchs, as have been many shamen, wizards and similar creatures down the years.

Castration has also served as a punishment - especially for adulterers and other sex offenders, but also for forgers and (in societies with a strong hereditary principle) both rebels and deposed rulers.

Whilst a eunuch might gain status from "his" role as a bureacrat, priest or artist, he is also likely to suffer significant social barriers - especially if his is a society in which castration is typically used as a punishment. More generally, wherever a society is based on heredity the eunuch should expect to be an outsider - for example no eunuch could be a Roman citizen, neither could he be a member of the Nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. That said, even a slave could have substanial influence - the Cheif Eunuch of the Sublime Porte (very roughly the Majordomo of the Ottoman Sultan's harem and, at least technically, a slave owned by the Sultan) was said to be one of the instigators of the 1565 Siege of Malta after a Hospitaller commerce raider captured a merchant ship carrying a valuable cargo that belonged to him. Eunuchs also tended to have a significant influence on the politics of Ptolomeic Egypt.

Despite Germian Greer's maunderings, there is, in reality, no such thing as a female eunuch - by the time it was possible to perform an equivalent procedure on a woman with a reasonable chance of her surviving the whole thing had gone out of fashion. Also, no-one seems to have found a worthwhile application for them.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A high camp eunuch often makes for good comic relief in a setting where such a character is feasible.
  • Conversely, they can also make good candidates for The Chessmaster - traditionally because with no family to worry about they can devote themselves to scheming.
  • The barring of eunuchs from certain roles may have metaphysical reasons - perhaps they are unable to work certain sorts of magic or some spirits or deities refuse to deal with them. Conversely they may be better at some forms of magic for being genderless.
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