Tag Archives: ancient rome

A Short Bibliography For The Study Of Eunuchs, Marginality & Gender in The Pre-Modern World

A number of people asked me to expand on my Forbes column from last week, which addressed the long history of eunuchs around the world and in Game of Thrones. This is a short reading list focused on scholarship in English for those wishing to begin to read about the subject. I am neither an expert on eunuchs nor a global historian of modern history. As you will see below, my expertise is firmly in Greco-Roman and early Byzantine history–so please forgive my ignorance of modern eunuchism. If you wish to add to the bibliography (and feel free to do this), please simply submit a comment with a new citation. It will be added and you will be credited for your contribution. Many of these resources are admittedly not open-access materials (my apologies), but I wanted to note just a few of the major works that can be either checked out from the library or accessed through academic publication databases.

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The monk Sabas instructs the emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates. Bibliothèque National de France MS Coislin 79, f. 2bis-r (ca. 1078-1081).

Ancient Greco-Roman and Near Eastern Eunuchs: 

Burke, Sean D. 2009. “Reading the Ethiopian Eunuch as a Eunuch: Queering the Book of Acts.” Dissertation. Graduate Theological Union.

_____2013.Queering the Ethiopian Eunuch: Strategies of Ambiguity in Acts. Augsburg Fortress Publishers.

Guyot, Peter (Hildesheim), “Eunuchs”, in: Brill’s New Pauly, Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and , Helmuth Schneider. Consulted online on 22 August 2017

Devecka, Martin. “The Traffic in Glands.” The Journal of Roman Studies 103 (2013): 88-95.

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd (trans.) 2010. Ctesias’ History of Persia : tales of the Orient Routledge.

Long, Jacqueline. 1996. Claudian’s In Eutropium, or, How, when, and why to slander a eunuch. University of North Carolina [Contributed by Jeroen Wijnendaele] 

Matthews, Lydia. “XANTHUS OF LYDIA AND THE INVENTION OF FEMALE EUNUCHS.” The Classical Quarterly 65, no. 2 (2015): 489–99.

Reusch,Kathryn. 2013. “That which was missing”: the archaeology of castration.” DPhil. University of Oxford. [Contributed by Adele Curness]

Tougher, Shaun and Ra’anan Abusch (ed.) 2002. Eunuchs in Antiquity and Beyond. Duckworth. 

Uroš, Matić. “Gender in Ancient Egypt: Norms, Ambiguities, and Sensualities.” Near Eastern Archaeology 79, no. 3 (2016): 174-83.

Late Antique and Byzantine Eunuchs: 

Greatrex, Geoffrey, and Jonathan Bardill. “Antiochus the “Praepositus”: A Persian Eunuch at the Court of Theodosius II.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 50 (1996): 171-97.

Kuefler, Mathew. 2001. The Manly Eunuch: Masculinity, gender ambiguity, and Christian ideology in late antiquityUniversity of Chicago [Contributed by Robin Whelan]

Neil, Bronwen, and Lynda Garland. 2016. Questions of gender in Byzantine society. London: Routledge.

Ringrose, Kathryn M. 2007. The Perfect Servant: Eunuchs and the Social Construction of Gender in Byzantium. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Tougher, Shaun. 2010. The Eunuch in Byzantine History and Society. Routledge.

De Wet, Christopher Len. 2015. Preaching Bondage: John Chrysostom and the Discourse of Slavery in Early Christianity. UC. 256-67.

Islamic Eunuchs

Ayalon, David. 1999. Eunuchs, caliphs and sultans : a study in power relationshipsHebrew University. [Contributed by Kameliya Atanasova] 

Marmon, Shaun Elizabeth. 1995. Eunuchs and sacred boundaries in Islamic society. Oxford. [Contributed by Kameliya Atanasova] 

Ottoman Use of African Eunuchs

Junne, George H. 2016. The black eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire: networks of power in the court of the sultan

Ehud, R. 1984. “The Imperial Eunuchs of Istanbul: From Africa to the Heart of Islam,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 20, No. 3: 379-390.

Chinese Eunuchs: 

Tsai, Shih-shan Henry. 1996. The Eunuchs in the Ming dynasty. New York: State University of New York.

Indian and Pakistani Eunuchs: 

Jaffrey, Zia. 1996. The Invisibles : a tale of the eunuchs of India.

Khan, Shahnaz. 2016. “What is in a Name? Khwaja Sara, Hijra and Eunuchs in Pakistan,” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 23.2. 218-242.

Multimedia:

“Eunuch,” In Our Time. BBC Radio 4, February 26, 2015. 

Forthcoming: 

Höfert, Almut et al. 2018. Celibate and Childless Men in Power: Ruling Eunuchs and Bishops in the Pre-Modern World. Routledge. [Contributed by Peter Kruschwitz]

These resources are just a start point for addressing the key issues of eunuchs, gender, and marginality. I invite you to keep the citations and conversation going in the comments section or on Twitter.

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Students and instructors standing around ancient relief sculpture of a pair of eunuchs in the Oriental Institute’s Assyrian room (1943, Life Magazine). 

Other Syllabi And Bibliographies Addressing Marginality And Inclusion: 

For many years now, I have taught a course on marginal & outcast peoples in the ancient and modern world [HONR 1670_Outcast Syllabus] that stemmed from my book on the construction of occupational disrepute in Roman antiquity. I am delighted to see my colleagues in medieval and early modern studies taking the topic to new (and exceptional) levels. This following the events at the Leeds Medieval Congress this summer (2017) and the rise in white nationalist marches, attacks, and demonstrations this year. Of particular note is Jonathan Hsy’s Twitter thread on #Inclusive Syllabus, which is explained below. I would also direct you to Dorothy Kim’s blog, “In the Middle,” and the “Medieval People of Color” tumblr. You can even contribute to the crowd-sourced bibliography on race and medieval studies begun by professors Jonathan Hsy and Julie Orlemanski. 

To The Black Sea And Back: The Late Antique Dura-Europos ‘Shield’ Map

 

Dura-Europos as visualized on the Pelagios Project’s Peripleo map.

Dura-Europos is an ancient site on the Euphrates river in modern-day Syria. The objects excavated at the site by Yale University (later famously led by Mikhail Rostovtzeff), and the French Academy of Inscriptions and Letters during the 1920s and 1930s provide some of the most vivid wall paintings, mosaics, and material culture from the ancient world that we have today. One of the most stunning finds is a parchment shield cover that dates to around 260 CE, which has a map of the Black Sea on it. There is debate over whether it was on the inside of a shield used by a soldier or was a dedicatory object; however, the map provides a rare glimpse into how geography was visualized.

doura-europosmap_orig

Surviving parchment fragment of the Black Sea ‘Shield Map’ from Dura Europos dated to before 260 CE. It depicts staging posts along the Black Sea (Bibliotheque Nationale Gr. Suppl. 1354, no. 5). Images via Cumont (see citation below) with added scale and color enhancement. 

Hand drawing of the map via Wikimedia (D. Herdemerten Hannibal21, CC BY-SA 3.0).

The parchment contains a number of place names in Greek, but is interestingly mixed with the distances in Roman miles. Here is the transcription as provided by Papyri.info:

[Π]αν[υσὸς ποτ(αμὸς) μί(λια)   ̣  ̣]
Ὀδεσ[σὸς μί(λια)   ̣  ̣]
Βυβόνα [μί(λια)   ̣  ̣]
Κάλ[λ]ατις μί(λια)   ̣  ̣
5Τομέα μί(λια) λγ
Ἴ[σ]τρος ποτ(αμὸς) μί(λια) μ
Δάνουβις ποτ(αμὸς) [μί(λια)   ̣  ̣]
Τύρα μί(λια) πδ
Βορ[υ]σ[θέν]ης [μί(λια)   ̣  ̣]
10Χερ[σ]όν[ησος -ca.?- ]
Τραπε[ζοῦς -ca.?- ]
Ἀρτα[ξάτα μί(λια)   ̣  ̣]

The map is oriented west-southwest and thus is a reminder that most maps did not consistently orient north until the early modern period. The stations on the shield maps are listed in Greek with vivid white, while the ships are manned by small sailors. It is a two-dimensional visualization of a Euxine route that shows the mix of languages and peoples in the late antique Eastern Mediterranean. In particular, it visualizes the Roman relationship with places in modern Armenia. An interesting mention of Ἀρτα[ξάτα] (Artaxata=Artashat) hints at the Roman connection to this busy commercial center. 

Although the map was likely on a round shield, the only surviving scutum from antiquity is from Dura-Europos. It too dates to the 3rd c. CE. It is now at the Yale Art Gallery. Image is in the Public Domain.

As historian Dragoş Hălmagi puts it, “The surviving sequence runs clockwise along the shores of Black Sea, from Odessos in Thrace to the Cimmerian Bosporus, and indicates a symmetric original design, consisting of a circular coast surrounding the Black Sea and perhaps parts of the Mediterranean, as well.” About a century earlier, the historian and governor Arrian had written a work in the form of a letter to the emperor Hadrian (131/2 CE) called Περίπλους τοῦ Εὐξείνου Πόντου (The Periplus of the Euxine Sea) while in Cappadocia. Arrian demonstrates the beginnings of the late antique fascination with the geography of this area that would continue into the third and fourth centuries CE when the rise of the Sassanids would be a point of major contention.   

The circumnavigation of the Black Sea as recounted by Arrian, Periplus Maris Euxini, in a firsthand report (1–11) and a secondhand description (12–25). Adapted by Erenow from A. Liddle, ed. and trans., Arrian, Periplus Ponti Euxini (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2003), 136–39, maps 1–2.

As we know from the Antonine Itinerary and many other itinerary inscriptions, the listing of locations and the miles between was quite common for itineraria, but this is our earliest surviving example of a route map from antiquity. Today this rather small piece of parchment lives in Paris, in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (ms. Suppl. gr. 1354 V, nr. 5), but seeing as I had never viewed a color version of it before, I thought it might be nice to get a glimpse at that technicolor world of the Romans I am always talking so much about. 

Attempted restoration of the entirety of the shield as drawn in Figure 1 in Arnaud (1989).

Bibliography:

Monsieur Pascal Arnaud, ‘Une deuxième lecture du “bouclier” de Doura-Europos,’ Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 133e année, N. 2, (1989): 373- 389.

Franz Cumont, ‘Fragment de bouclier portant une liste d’étapes,’ Année 6.1 (1925 ): 1-15. 

Leif Isaksen, “The application of network analysis to ancient transport geography: A case study of Roman Baetica,” Digital Medievalist. 4. DOI:http://doi.org/10.16995/dm.20.

Dragoş Hălmagi, “Notes on the Dura Europos map,”  CICSA Journal, New Series 1 (2015): 41-51.