Some pictures from the mss showing black servants
Back to Table of Contents
To next page
From Jahiz's Kitab al-Hayawan (book on animals)
second part: on castration
taken from; Gahiz : Ambrosian fragments
Gender and Difference in the Middle Ages edited by Sharon A Farmer, Carol Braun Pasternack
Miguel Asin Palacios : in Isis 14; El Libro de los Animales
Under: dark-complexioned eunuch in a gold-colored turban, red coat, long sash and black and white trousers releases birds from a cage. The drawing fits the text: The eunuch also jests and plays with birds, and enjoys similar feminine pleasures
Chapter that deals with the Effects that unexpectedly occur to man after Castration and the changes that one undergoes in the qualities one possesses
from before being castrated
They say that, except for man, all other animals that have foul-smelling breath or armpits or noses (very bad smell in the eagle and other animals) will have it diminished. The stench of the foul-smelling breath disappears, if castrated. The man eunuchs, however, acquires by the castration a more intense repugnant stench, in its breath like its armpits, and in addition it extends to all its body through its sweat, up to the point you will find that their bodies have a characteristic stench, not noted in those which are not eunuchs. This is one of the effects of the castration. By all animal that are castrated the bones become thinner, when the bones become thin, its meat becomes softer, it comes off the bones and it becomes soft and delicate, after having been muscular to last. To the man, however, if castrated, the bones grow in length and latitude. It differs, therefore, also in this of the other animals. To the eunuchs an increase of length happens, also in the feet, and a certain twisting in the fingers and bending in the toes. This happens, when they begin to enter the old age There also happens a fast change, an alteration and upheaval in the qualities of the skin, that loses its softness, refinement, polish and smoothness, the purity of its color, its humidity and his brightness, covering itself with wrinkles, becoming withered, wrinkled, dim, atrophying and generally in bad shape. This that happens to them, the eunuchs, is what it also happening to the daughters of the farm hand who cultivate cereals and palm trees. Because you see eunuchs, like before being castrated, it is as if the swords shone in their color, as if it were a mirror of China, just like a burnished metal lamina, like the humid marrow of the palm, like a twig of gilded silver, as if in its cheeks there were roses; but soon, after not long time all this disappears not to return anymore, although they live a life of well-being and abundance, free of preoccupations and working… It is said that eunuchs do not become bald, like woman. And it is that when the male member is mutilated completely, the amputation decides most of the essential qualities of the virility, and the being becomes like the mule, that is neither ass nor horse: its natural being, in effect, stays divided between the being of the male and the female, without having the simple characters of the pure masculine, nor either of the pure feminine, replacing those on the contrary, its being is mixed and composite and gives by result something undecided, that neither belongs to the males nor to the females… The man has several powers, whose importance are well well-known, certain appetites destined to the satisfaction of psychic necessities, that are not possible to suppress nor do they prevail over his own actions, while the soul subsists with its natural properties, with its temperaments and necessities. The appetite of the sexual union is one of the greater ones, of most intense and common. To this appetite the natural inclination belongs, to have children. This is thus one of his more strong inclinations. They look for children to obtain a numerous family who serves them as aid in their necessities… Many look for children, to avoid that the inheritance is going to his remote relatives…. Sometimes they look for them, to perpetuate the name by means of the descendants..... to multiply the number of Muslims , to become rich with the aid of the children, in order to defend himself of his enemies, and finally to conserve the human species and to fulfill therefore the natural aim, that God has put in the man, to love the propagation and own multiplication, as they love the doves and the cats, although with more children increases in the man the preoccupations and the work, the cowardice and avarice…, because man must procure more for a greater amount of children and to support other people's preoccupations to them, the aim of the sexual union, is not more than the satisfaction of the natural appetite ..... Of all the animals that mate sexually, the man is the unique one who frustrates sex when it does not please him to have children; the other animals, of all species, only look for and desire the effusion of semen and the generation, because these are the forces of the natural inclination that God put in them, in order that thus they can fill the necessities of the being. The ass does not look for having children, when it unites with the female; but it does not frustrate the sex like the man does, because the only intention that moves him is to satisfy the sexual appetite and, without that it comes to the mind I generate something. Most of what men win and spend, like most of its work, difficulties and arts that they use so as to keep what they have, is only consumed by the women and the things that are related with them. Although for not more than to shave, to perfume themselves, to get dressed and to dye themselves and the things necessary to these aims, that is to say, the perfumes, the dyes, the mantles and the tunics, the carpets and the glasses, this already would be enough; and although the man did not have but the preoccupation to keep and to watch the women and the fear of the dishonor that can happen because of them or of others with them, already this would be this single very serious task to be taken care of and a terrible annoyance. However, when the member disappears that causes the mans lives to be occupied in so many varieties on pleasing and pain, unavoidably you must recognize that those powers for that reason do not disappear of the organism nor loses the nature human. The only thing that happens to them is that an obstacle is raised for them as a veil that separates them of its object. If just because they continue existing, he is indispensable and exerts some function,…….
Soon the powers to happiness turn in another direction, their energy must overflow in another different direction; especially if they are full of life and if its activity in the heat of fervent tension and to overflow is normal, it is inevitable that it flows, that passage opens itself, through another door. However, after the sexual union, it does not have left another door of relief than the food. Those energies get concentrated then of all that tend to the sexual union and all that to this sexual union is related, and this power comes to be fused with that which tends to the nutrition; and it is clear that, once together both powers are applied as a single and he himself as object, its force is more intense than with a functional man. For that reason eunuchs begins to eat much more than any of their brothers; and the amount that he eats, and digests; is in direct reason of the greater necessity it feels to eat; it has its constitution and the vital heat generated by the feeling, because the sexual appetite is the dirtiest stimulus to eat, and the feeling is one of the most effective causes of the vital heat. For that reason the females eat more frequent than the males. Thus also, the ass eats fewer times than the horse, and the ass to mount less than the load ass and less also than the sheep. The women certainly that they eat less than the men, at customary hours for the food in the houses: it is doubtless, in effect, that the man eats more in one of those meals then eats the woman; but however the woman gets even soon, feeding more times between hours, without order nor concert, and thus, by force of eating constantly, she arrives at a greater total amount eaten. Under this aspect, they look like women or children, because the constitution of the boy is also that: to digest quickly, to feel a canine hunger soon; but to eat little for a short while and a little amount every time. Because eunuchs commonly eat with the woman they eat like her, although they are distinguished from the woman in that they eat much more than they every time. So that there are two causes of increase in appetite for the eunuchs: one, that is similar to the woman, and another one, the concentration of the energies of its two appetites, applied to a single object, I mean, the sexual appetite, turned aside of its own function, and the appetite of the nutrition. A question to a Bedouin Arab: what is the most voracious animal? Answer: the load donkey that nurses his offspring. In this greater voracity of the females, is the most ferocious and aggressive lioness, when it looks for the man to devour him. For that reason also, the females of the zoological hunting species, as the hunting dogs and other kinds of animals, are more eager during the period that they feet their puppies, because the lactating is for them a special cause of appetite and voracity. It also happens to eunuchs, amputating the male member, change of voice, until he who hears him speak, without seeing knows it with evidence that that is an eunuch, although the person who speaks to him and who conveys himself is their brother, their cousin or one of their friends, or men of the same lineage. This happens more to the eunuchs of the Slavs, not to those of Khorasan or to the blacks of India and Zanj. Very few will lack this quality, except if they have one or both testicles. And to distinguish this symptom with all certainty, it is not necessary to sharpen the senses nor to have an exceptional wisdom, but rather, you will find that the thing is public and well-known, even between the people of the lowest extraction and between the women and the children. If a eunuch has been castrated before the hair is born to him, it will not be born to him; and if he is castrated after been born completely, it falls of from all the places in which the hair is born, except the pubic area, because the hair of this part, although reducing its thickness and its abundance, is the one that without failing is still there. This accident does not affect the hair of the head, the eyelids and the eyebrows, that are born with the subject, but only to the hair that is born later in the rest of the body. Some, they try explaining that the hair has greater roots than the hair of the eyebrows....... . …. The women, the eunuchs and the men who did not loose the virility are then equal where it concerns the conservation of that hair. The accident to hair loss affects only to the rest of the hair that is born later, because their roots are new. The zones in which the hair of the head finishes and the zone of the forehead are not equal for eunuchs and woman: in the woman, when the hair arrives near those zones of the skin, in which it disappears and the skin is already smooth to the tact to be naked of hair, the hair progressively becoming the finest and smallest hair, until disappearing completely; in eunuchs, on the contrary, the hairs of all the zones are of the same amount and a same thickness, until arriving at the limit of the zone, in which they disappear suddenly. In the woman also the case of long eyebrows, equipped with fine hairs occurs and silky hair, like the hair that covers the cheeks, and those fine hairs are united without solution of continuity with the hair of the temple. This does not happen to the eunuch, if it is not through a defect in the castration there is no hair, neither fine nor heavy, beyond the site in which their sideburns finish suddenly. Women equipped with a beard are seen sometimes. I have seen them, and more often she has been old...... Also, I have seen them sometimes, that they had beard as a goat and a moustache. First; such women are not hermaphroditic, but perfect females, to not being that..... the hair also appears in other different places. This does not occur with the eunuch. The people of Bagdad tell that one of the daughters of MUHAMMAD IBN RASHID Al-KHANNAQ had a dense beard and once she went in a house where a wedding was celebrated, she went with the women like her in the evening, to see the bride and to be present at the espousal but a woman shouted: God, a man; and, to the shout, the servants and the women fell on her with blows, so that she could not be saved, when they discovered here sexual organ they froze, but she was on the verge of dying. Also eunuchs come closer to the woman in the nakedness of the skin, that is to say, in having it less covered with hair. You find, indeed, that the woman has hair on the arms and the legs until the knees and that they are covered, sometimes, with as much hair as pubic hair of the man; and in its armpits and other places happens the same. To eunuchs it does not happen either what happens to the rooster when castrated, that is to say, that the male attire remains but gloomy. Nevertheless, the castration also reduces in eunuchs the force of the organic ligaments, diminishes the intensity of its physical powers and relaxes the fastenings of the nerves, as if the subject came near to the end, by wearing down the organism. Thus it happens that eunuchs must be strong, when seating its foot on the ground; as much, that if you observe the tracks of its foot and the one of its brother who did not lost its virility, you will always find, in its track and its way, something that you will not find in the one of its brother,…..
Something else that happens to the eunuch: if of two slaves of Slavic race, that are brothers of twin father and mother and in addition, the one is castrated and the other not, eunuchs tend to be more arranged for the service, more wise, capable and apt for the different tasks from the manual work, and you will also find them more alive and intelligent in the conversation. All these qualities will be personal from the castrated one. However, his brother will follow him in having the same native stupidity, equal lack of natural talent, equal imbecile as is own of the Slavs, and total incapacity to understand a foreign language. The hand of the man is always clumsy, and he never becomes skilful for the arts, while they do not train the intelligence and the knowledge. The language, also, does not acquire fluentness and self-confidence to explain itself, nor obtains facility in the use of the words, but after the knowledge penetrates it, it guides and it fixes the language it puts corresponding limits and indicates the effective norms for success in the difficult cases and the intelligence governs in all events. First then, what castration produces in the Slav, is to sharpen its intelligence, to sharpen its penetration, to polish its talent and to intensify the rate of its soul. And thus, to one that already is intelligent, this movement comes in easily adding to the intelligence he already has been provided with. As to the women and the children of the Slavs, there is no effective resource to transform their clumsy talents and to make them acquire penetrating wisdom, or rhythmic movements, or the capacity to make fixed and rich works. It is that, you have as a direct result of the ignorance, always the stupidity of movements; like the skill, it is always in direct relation to the knowledge. That what we say in general of the women of the Slavs: they are wretches, while they live in solitude, and they lack all capacity or aptitude to any art, because they need the faculty to include/understand the tasks of the manual arts. Even among those Slavic that are eunuchs, despite having good instruments and in spite of being already equipped, by the castration, of more abundant cognitive aptitudes for the exercise of different works and a more balanced constitution for the manual arts, you will see, nevertheless, no single one of them whose positive ability has ever actually obtained arts that imply certain difficulty and that demand some dose of practical knowing, obtained only by means of deep attention and maintained reflection. It is mentioned, in this respect the ability of DAMA in handling of the cords, art in which he became famous through his skill, not surpassed by anybody. Also they are capable in the art of hunting birds and in capturing wild doves, this counts for the eunuchs that have been castrated in childhood. And also for the same things of any other arts of smaller quantity. Thus, for example, the high quality skill of KHADIJA, servant of MOTHANNA IBN ZOHAYR of Basora, in the art to educate the carrier pigeons ....., like we will explain, if God wants, in the chapter in which we deal with the dove. This is what is said of the Slavic eunuchs. As far as the intelligence of the eunuchs of the Khorasan, our princes praise it much more but they are so few in number, that for that reason we cannot mention news of those that are famous. As far as India, it has not had between his inhabitants eunuchs other than those castrated by MUSA IBN KAAB, of which I have seen one, who assured me to be from among the four that MUSA castrated. In this eunuch I observed that the castration dragged him to feel great liking for the doves and the fights of roosters, thing that he did not feel at first, but that appeared to him after having been amputated of the male member. Reason why to speak to the eunuchs of Zanj, the Nubia and others of the several black races, the castration depraves them of faculties without giving them others, reduces the gifts instead of increasing them, making them decay in respect to its brothers of race who are not eunuchs; the other way around of the Slavs, who by being castrated surpass in gifts their brothers who are not. It is that the Zanj, when he is castrated, decays of spirit, their movements become heavy and their agility and vividness disappears. It brings a certain degeneration to him, because the castration prevails on the faculty to retain urine, which flows, without him being able to control it ..... You will not find eunuchs of that race, that do not have, by the castration, one hernia umbilical. However, these are terrible defects…., in addition of being repulsive at sight. But everything what is disgusting to see produces moral pain to the subject..... Among the eunuchs of this race there are also many that lack teeth. This defect is clearly visible because it falls within the lips; and as the lips of the black hang towards the outside and are hanging down, the lack from teeth is more visible.....
JAHIZ then inserts next several historical mentions relating to
cases of eunuchs that were not eunuchs properly, their lack of virility had, either to do with senile impotence, or to accidents, that attained partially or totally the sexual organs, as a
result of this possible castration, there was also seen some signs of the eunuchs, like the effeminacy in voice, the disarticulation and laziness, carelessness of muscles, the loss of the
beard, the voracity etc. - the castration that is mentioned next patients; by the doctors, who for a reason of ailments operate in the sexual organ, amputating only one or both testicles.
As a result it became the belief of the masses, that only the left testicle is the effective organ of the generation, and he (Jahiz) refutes it with typical cases in which the supposed law is
left insolvent, - then follows the castration in several religious study. Of the Byzantine Christians it is said that they castrate children to consecrate them to the service of God, like
guardians of the temples; but they assure that the castration among them consists only of taking away of the testicles, leaving complete the penis, because they solely aspire to frustrate the
conception in the women, without depriving themselves for that reason of the sexual delight, which, according to JAHIZ, is more intense in the Byzantine eunuchs, thus castrated, than in the
complete men. It also affirms that the Greek Byzantine must be the origin of the castration throughout the world. JAHIZ comments on the Christians:
Christians are having false pride, and an example of false pride is the compassionate heart, charitable and tender, more than all the other towns the castration (of the Byzantines) is enough by itself an indication of the hardness of heart of what they inflict to each other. The castration among the wise men it also practiced by devotion like among the Byzantine, but with one difference, voluntarily, that is to say: that the devotee becomes eunuch himself, without imposing it to other people. To this intention JAHIZ extensively takes care in transcribing the confessions of the ascetic man of learning ABU AL-MOBARAQ, who became a centenary, after having castrated voluntarily in order to check the desire of material goods and dishonest pleasures it brought, in good condition of God. Reason why this touches Islam; JAHIZ declares prohibited the castration, practiced for religious reasons, invoking for it the authority of MAHOMA who said: The castration of my town is unauthorized. – A study on the castration of the slaves follows he weighs the cruelty whereupon they were treated, because both the penis and both testicles are cut of, without fear to cause death with such a barbarian operation; and in the case of saving the life and still conserve a testicle or both, but without the penis, they were reduced to the most abject conditions of morale, without being properly male, neither females, nor eunuchs, then, although castrated, to them it leaves such things like the beard, and for that reason nobody admits them in its houses as domestic guardians of the harem and servants; so that nor they enjoy the comforts of the eunuchs and of the life that they have, nor can they either aspire to the sexual pleasures of the men that have virile integrity. - Next, it enumerates several operations to employ for the castration of the beasts, all which consist, without sensible difference, in binding strongly both testicles from the root of the penis, in order that the bloodstream be cut, they little by little wither and dry up and the places that secrete semen die off and finally fall off by themselves. However, the castration of the men is made by means of a long and sharpened knife with which is obtained quick amputation + then burning of the body.
The aims to castrate the animals are several: the beasts and especially the wool cattle, if castrated when it is young, produces a more tender meat, crass, gross and of better flavor. However, the animals, without castrating, become weaker and skinny, because the excessive sexual copulation always produces these effects. To the rooster castration is done to fatten it and to obtain that their meat is greasy and more tender. The Arabs castrated the males of the camels, before they come to age avoiding the worse of the race to serve to the procreation, leaving only without castrating the young more apt as parents. Analogue selection is done with the horses. Another effect produced by the castration in man is the facility to cry, a quality that is habitual in the children and, later, in the women, who, just like the old and the decrepit ones, spill tears with facility and abundance. Also the eunuch, like the women and children, has a liking to the frivolous occupations, like the games with the birds and so. Another effect of the castration is the excessive voracity when eating and the greed and meanness in keeping food for himself, same as children do…. Another effect is the speed whereupon they are irritated and with which they are appeased next, that is also the peculiar condition of the children and the women. Another effect is the taste for slander and the fondness for gossip, and the lack of fidelity in keeping a secret, just as happens to the women and the children. Another one is the liking, that also is own to the women, of a clean place and to fill it with furniture, to sweep and to water the house, to shake and to extend the carpets, and in general, the patience for all the tasks of the domestic service. Also the eunuch acquires great interest in mounting a horse and energy to maintain long time a gallop, until surpassing in this the Turkish riders and the best horsemen of the Kharijites. When his master gives his horse to an eunuch to keep it while he enters the mosque or goes to the oration or the house of baths to wash himself or to visit a friend who is ill, if he does leave the eunuch, he will mount the horse of its master and make it run, going and coming, until the master returns. Also the eunuch has great liking for the bow and arrow, it is like an effect of its love to the war against the Byzantines. Eunuchs also prefer to be enslaved by the princes, even if they do not give them more wage than a simple allowance above serving people of inferior social class, although these give princely treatment to him. What is astonishing is that despite their transferal from the realm of male characteristics to that of females, they are not susceptible to effeminacy (takhnith). I have seen more then one Bedouin who was mukhannath (effeminates), so loose-limbed and effeminate that he dripped; I have seen madmen who were mukhannathun; I have seen this occur among pure Zanj, and I have heard someone claim to have met a Kurd who was mukhannath; but I have never seen a eunuch who was a mukhannath, or heard of such a thing. I don’t know why this should be; at first glance it would appear that it should be universal among them. And what is yet more astonishing about them is this connection is how common passive homosexuality (hulaq) is among them, despite the rarity of effeminacy, as well as the fact of their transferal from the realm of male characteristics to that of females...
Jahiz informs us that the eunuchs own sexual preferences can vary as much as those of ordinary men, and include liwat (active homosexual) and hulaq (passive homosexual) as well as heterosexual desire …. Many become old and reach lengths of years of life and many expert and discreet observers affirm that, after kindly studying the duration of the life in several categories of people, that the long-livedness of eunuchs is greater in numbers then the long-livedness of any other category of men, equipped with virility, and that, comparing the lives of the eunuchs with those of its brothers and cousins who are non-castrated, they also observed that the longevity in those was low in general, and in these by chance there was only one or other that reached long life. And they add that, for this longevity of the eunuchs, they do not find another cause, than the deprivation of sex and the smaller seminal effusion, with the consequence smaller wearing down of the energies. They say, in addition: we did not find, between the domestic animals, that is to say, horses, camels, asses, oxen, sheep, dogs, hens, pigeon, roosters and birds, one that has longer life than the mule; also, we found that the birds are those that have shorter life. And this is because the excessive use of sex by the birds, where as mules makes very little use of it. Until they use these observations there is no explanation to the longevity of the mule, superior to the one of its parents. Test against this saying of the common people: nobody lives more than his parents although the common people, when saying this, talk only about the man and not the other animals. The accident that happens most frequency to eunuchs is the one to urinate in bed and outside it, especially when they fall asleep filled with alcohol, because the liking to drink with excess is also a vice that they acquire, after being castrated, just like the excessive voracity. Eunuchs, in spite of the amputation of the virile member, contracts nuptials and takes slave concubines and feels an intense passion for the women, just like the women by him. It is that, although the castration, there remains still what pleases more to the women. In dreams and in the sex is emitted a certain liquid, in small amounts, not so dense and of altered scent….effusion of this liquid does not prevent him to repeat the sex, indeed because its meager amount it does not make weak, enfeeble, drain him, as it does to the non-castrated man where the effusion of the seminal liquor is more dense, more abundant, of more penetrating scent and purer nature ........ Because of the intense love that the eunuchs have for women, together with the pain and sadness they feel to see themselves deprived of them, they hate the males with resentment more alive than the bloodiest enemies, until the end, the hatred is incomparably greater than the one that feels the enviously to the envied one, or the pedestrian to the rider, or princes ruined to the enriched poor men, or the ones who have the bitter cousins or the neighbors who are in competition in the same art or office.