Article

eunuchs, religious

Richard Gordon

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics


Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.2551

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  • History of Gender and Sexuality
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  • Middle Eastern History

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In the Classical period, religious eunuchs are a feature of several Anatolian cults of female deities, extending across to Scythia (Hdt. 4. 67: not shamans) and to the southern foothills of the Taurus mountains, but independent of Babylonian and Phoenician (Euseb. Vit. Const. 3. 55. 2 f.) practices (see anatolian deities). As a whole the institution created a class of pure servants of a god (Matt. 19: 12). Its significance derives from a double contrast, with the involuntary castration of children for court use and the normal obligation to marry. The adult self-castrate expressed in his body both world-rejection and -superiority.Two forms may be distinguished. (1) A senior, or even high, priest in a temple, e.g. the eunuchs of *Hecate at Lagina in *Caria (Sokolowski, LSAM no. 69. 19, etc.); the Megabyz(x)us of *Artemis at *Ephesus (Strabo 14. 1. 23; Vett. Val., 2. 21. 47); the *Attis and Battaces, the high priests of Cybele at *Pessinus.

Article.  361 words. 

Subjects: History of Gender and Sexuality ; Religion in the Ancient World ; Middle Eastern History

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