Article by Frans Jonckheere, "L'Eunuque dans l'Égypte pharaonique,"
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences, vol. 7, No. 2 (April-June 1954),
Eunuchs in Pharaonic Egypt
by Frans Jonckheere
In a preliminary report entitled "Quelque données paléoégyptiennes sur la castration" ["Some Ancient Egyptian Data on Castration"]1, we demonstrated that this form of sexual mutilation had been mentioned in a number of Pharaonic texts, providing confirmation that the Egyptians were familiar with the three surgical modes of performing this operation: amputation of the penis alone, removal of the testicular apparatus, and total emasculation. For the sake of truth, we are bound to admit that all the references that we made to support this thesis came either from the religious tradition, from the domain of fable, or from the subject of mutilation of cadavers for military or funerary purposes.
The aim of the present work is to research whether those living along the Nile practised any of the above-mentioned forms of castration in actuality, that is to say in vivo. If so, this will resolve the issue of "eunuchs in Pharaonic Egypt"2, which remains controversial to this day.
Among the documents arguing in favor of the custom of emasculation practised in anima vili, we must cite Horapollon first of all. This person, who lived in Egypt in the 5th century of our era3, is the author of the Hieroglyphica, one of the most curious works in Greco-Egyptian literature, arising out of the Hellenized atmosphere of Egypt at the end of antiquity. In this post-pharaonic work, Horapollon collects a series of hieroglyphic signs -- which by that time had become unintelligible even to educated Egyptians -- and attempts to establish for each of them the relationship between the image and its symbolic meaning. No matter how fantastical these attempts were in some cases, they are nonetheless of interest to Egyptologists, who do not fail to make use of them on occasion. Let us proceed like these specialists. Book 2 § 65 of the Hieroglyphica contains an allusion to emasculation practiced on a living individual4: "[How they portray a male who commits the crime of mutilating himself"]: "If they want to portray a male who commits the crime of mutilating himself, they draw a beaver: because the latter, when chased (by hunters), tears off its own testicles and leaves them behind as prey"5. Which leads us to think of sexual mutilation as a rite of self-castration.
Diodorus of Sicily also alluded, twice, to the existence in Egypt of
castration practised on living beings.
In describing the Theban monument which he called the tomb of Osymandias -- which we know to be the Ramesseum6 -- the contemporary of Augustus confirms that "on the second wall prisoners defeated by the king were represented deprived of their hands and sexual parts, as if to say that they were not shown to be men by their courage, and that they remained inactive in the midst of dangers"7. We can confirm that Diodorus never actually viewed a relief of that kind and that the description that he gives us -- no doubt based on second-hand information -- is based on an inaccurate interpretation of the well-known depiction of the calculation of the number of enemy cadavers by counting the phalluses and the hands8. The composition in the Ramesseum is in ruins today9, but fortunately one can find identical scenes elsewhere, notably at the temple of Ramses III in Medinet-Habu10. Here one can see scribes taking the inventory of the cut hands and sectioned phalluses, piled up in heaps in front of the pharaoh11. That these bloody trophies were in fact remains of cadavers and not amputations performed on living prisoners can be read even in the legends that comment on the reliefs, and even better in the following, more elaborate text of Meneptah, found at Karnak and not accompanied by any depiction12. This inscription states, on line 50, that they are: "... killed persons from whom the phallus and prepuce has been removed ..." Later, line 51, we find: "Killed Libyans from whom the phallus-and-prepuce have been removed ..." We have no choice but to abandon this first reference from Diodorus.
Let us see if his second reference is more worthy of interest. This one cites castration as a corporal punishment provided by Egyptian legislators. His own words13: "The laws concerning women were very severe. Anyone who was convicted of raping a free woman had to have his genitals cut off14; because they considered that this crime included in itself three very great evils: insult, corruption of morals, and confusion of offspring." This is a special case of that policy of repression which, by attacking the part of the body with which the crime was committed, ensured that the guilty party "would carry unto death an indelible mark that must have prevented others from breaking the law, by warning of this punishment"15.
Let us state from the outset that we have never found an express mention of the punishment of castration in the court documents that have come down to us. Nonetheless, it would be premature to reject the assertion of our historian for that reason; because other sanctions cited by him have been discovered in pharaonic documents. Let us note in particular the removal of the nose, of which Diodorus speaks in two places16 and which was in fact a standard punishment17; let us also note the cutting off of the tongue to which, he tells us, "the spy who had revealed secret plans to the enemy"18 was condemned. This punishment was discovered, thanks to Cerny19, in a papyrus of the 19th dynasty. Therefore, why not have confidence in Diodorus who has not deceived us so far in speaking "of the very extraordinary and unique laws"20 of Egypt? Let us therefore affirm the probability that castration was applied as a punishment, in hopes of finding confirmation of the reality of this punishment one of these days thanks to an original document as yet unedited.
It is known that castration can profoundly alter the external morphology
of individuals -- anatomical alterations that differ depending on whether
the operation took place before or after puberty. One can
imagine that, if Egyptians suffered emasculation, the physical transformation
incurred by these surgical subjects did not escape the critical eye of
artists. Did Egyptian art supply us with any figurative documents marking
the essential traits of these two types of castrati?
Let us examine the issue for the individual castrated before puberty, who is considered the "conventional" eunuch. Let us recall that this type of eunuchism is characterized above all by an exaggerated growth of the lower limbs of the individual, in both their leg and crural segments. These castrati are macroskeles [long-legged people]21. But although this macroskelia is generally accompanied by an overall elongation of the body, it is also observed even if the height of the subject is close to normal. Another trait: the cranio-encephalic mass almost never attains its full development and due to this fact it transforms the respective individual into a microcephal [small-headed person]. In addition, the face appears smooth, since the secondary sexual characteristics do not have the opportunity to develop by reason of the precocity of the intervention suffered. As for the thorax, it generally remains narrow, but the breasts protrude fully, the hips fill out, the limbs become round; and if obesity manages to take root, it is only an incidental phenomenon.
Egyptian art offers us perfect representations of such a eunuch. Let
us take as an example the servant on one of the bas-reliefs of the sarcophagus
of the Lady Kaouit22, who pours a drink for his mistress
while a servant girl arranges the deceased's hair. [See picture below.]
The personnage is astonishing from the outset due to his stature, which
appears to be obviously larger than average. But that is only an optical
illusion, for this man is of exactly the same height as the female servant
engraved on the same tableau. In fact, the extension of his silhouette
is due to an elongation of the lower limbs, in this case masked by the
clothing, but which becomes apparent as soon as one compares the distance
from the navel to the floor in the male versus the female servant. Furthermore,
we note the reduction in volume of the head of the subject, his infantile
thorax -- which however is weighed down by an indubitably feminine breast
-- and the few fat folds rippling the epigastrium. All [of these are] pictorial
elements that agree with our first clinical description and that allow
us to confirm that the servant admitted to the dressing chamber of Lady
Kaouit can be nothing other than a eunuch, formed in this case by pre-pubertal
Lady Kaouit's dressing room
Individuals who have suffered post-pubertal castration are presented under a totally different aspect. The curious figures serving to personify the genies known by the generic name of "Niles"23 are, in our opinion, characteristic examples of them. In fact, in their unusual typical uniform, we note first of all the absence of external genital organs, which can be observed thanks to the dress of these "Niles", consisting of a simple cord with three flying straps. This fact is even more striking because, on other personnages wearing the same type of clothing -- boatmen, fishermen -- the sexual organs are clearly visible. How else to explain this anomaly, except by the intention of the sculptor to signify in an express manner the emasculation of his model? Next the eye is drawn to the alterations in the anatomical silhouette of these Genies, such as the generalized hypertrophy of the adipose panicle [excessive growth of abdominal fat] and a peculiar development of the breasts. The supplementary fat localizations recall those of the female body, and also cause a cascade of fatty folds at the level of the abdominal wall. As for the volume of the mammary glands, it does not correspond to an adipose weight gain of the organs -- sometimes characterized as "oriental" -- but to real gynecomastia [female breasts on a man]; the breasts of the man have become breasts of a woman24. Also testifying to this are representations in which the breasts of the river genies are in full secretory action. Let us consider especially the two tableaux25 in the sanctuary of Osiris at Philae, in which the "Niles" use this unusual technique to make a libation of milk before the god: while in one hand the genie is holding a frog spitting water, in the other hand -- in a gesture which is copied exactly from that which Isis and the nurses make when they nurse an infant -- he touches one of his breasts, from which a jet of fluid flows26.The ensemble of these adipose-mammary modifications makes it so that, even if bearded, the Nile genies have lost their virile accent and have taken on the appearance which is generally characterized as intersexed. Now, these are the very somatic transformations undergone by individuals castrated after puberty. Is it too bold, under these conditions, to consider the "Nile" as the artistic expression of this type of eunuch27?
Do we have other examples of this type of castratus? In the inexhaustible catalogue of Egyptian art, the eye discovers time and time again such masculine silhouettes with superfluous shapes, with generous breasts and folded bellies. It is conventional to say28 that these are simply obese men, who, under the influence of age, become padded with a creeping layer of fat, in the Orient perhaps more than elsewhere. This does not prevent us from tending to see them as possible portraits of eunuchs, especially in some of these figures who show no signs of age29. We are thinking, among others, of that individual on a stele of Leiden30, engraved before a table of offerings in the position of prayer. But here the clothing of the personnage prevents our verifying his emasculation.
When morphologically suspicious subjects are taken from a painted tomb,
there is a criterion that can aid us in basing a diagnosis of castration,
even if the subject is dressed: namely, the color of the skin. We
know, in fact, that it is a convention in Egyptian painting for the flesh
of males to be uniformly painted in red ocre, while yellow ocre is reserved
for women. Now, on the silhouettes in question, the "picture scribe" applied
a yellowish-brown tone. Is it not possible to interpret the deliberate
choice of this color -- intermediate between those belonging to each of
the two sexes -- as a "pigmentary indication" reserved for intersexed individuals?31
This was the opinion of Rosellini32 who appears to
have been the first to put forth this hypothesis. We are all the more inclined
to support it, since the scenes featuring male individuals who are portrayed
pictorially in this way often include a group of females. We are thinking,
particularly in the tomb of Khnum-hotep33, of the
"males" who accompany the group of women transported on the boat: or also,
in the same tomb34, the presumed heads of the weaving
studio, where only female weavers work. Now, do we not commonly say that
in the Orient it is the eunuchs who are preferably entrusted to supervise
women? We see what should be thought about this for ancient Egypt, where
polygamy was permitted35, at least among the prominent,
and harems were a traditional institution.
The Pharaonic documents unfortunately do not provide a huge amount of information about the women's quarters. The existence of such quarters is confirmed nonetheless by images and texts. Among these representations, one must cite those at Amarna, which enable us to be present at the entertainments of the women of the harem of Amenophis IV36. Even more significant are the reliefs of the chambers located on the floors of the entrance pavilion of Medinet-Habu, for they allow us to see the king himself, Ramses III, seated among his concubines37. As for texts, they exist in royal abundance, such as the one mentioning that Amenophis III, who married a daughter of the prince of Naharina, received besides his bride "317 of her attendants, chosen from among the most beautiful, as women of the harem"38. This royal harem will also be mentioned in private biographies: thus, a personnage of the Middle Kingdom, named Aha, boasts in his tomb of having been "the director of the royal gynecea", the one "who locks up the concubines", who has "presented the harem (to the king)" and was "present at the dances in the palace"39. Finally, individuals talk about their personal harems. One of them will say: "I had an excellent harem; but when I reached the age of 43, no male child had been born to me40." Finally, the harem milieu appeared more than once in judicial texts. The reason for that is that, in three instances during the course of Egyptian history, first under Pepi (Old Kingdom)41, later under Amenemhat (Middle Kingdom)42, and lastly under Ramses III (New Kingdom)43, plots arose within the walls of the palace, and conspirators were detected among the functionaries and inhabitants of the women's apartments. Which sometimes led to loud trials and severe punishments. Thanks to this documentation, we know the titles and even the names of the conspirators who were either attached to the administration or were placed in charge of the harem. But nothing permits a supposition that any of them -- the director of the harem apartments, the scribe of the harem apartments, the harem porter, the harem lieutenant, etc.44 -- could have been "obligatorily" emasculated. Which did not prevent Manetho, who must have heard talk of these conspiracies, from affirming that "Ammamenes -- that is to say, Amenemhat I -- was assassinated by his own eunuchs"45.These castrati, thus attested by the Greek historian, do not appear anywhere in our Pharaonic data on the organization of the harems. But the muteness of the texts will not necessarily force us to conclude that the eunuch-guardian of the serail did not exist. If we do not know more about it, is it not simply because the apartments of the women constituted a secret domain, virtually isolated from the outside world46?
Therefore, we need other arguments in order to locate the personnage of the castratus in Egyptian life. We shall seek them in vocabulary. And first of all, we shall attempt to find the Egyptian name of the eunuch. By discovering it, we will by the same token confirm the existence of the individual who bears it.
In this regard, it is useful to start by discussing the term which described
the personnage of Putiphar in the Bible. This term, saris, translated
as "eunuch", has caused Putiphar to pass as the very prototype of the castratus,
even commonly in our day. Now, nothing is less proven than the sexual invalidity
of Putiphar, the origin of which, by the way, is accounted for by several
versions47. All of these tales are based on the two
well-known passages of Genesis: "And the Medianites sold him to Putiphar,
eunuch of Pharaoh48" (Genesis 37:36); "Putiphar,
eunuch of Pharaoh ... bought him from the Ishmaelites" (Genesis 39:1).
In truth, the suspicion cast on the virility of Putiphar is based on an
error of interpretation, if not translation, of the word saris.
In fact, saris, an Akkadian word adopted by all of the Semitic languages,
means "he who is at the head". However, at the beginning, saris
also designated the emasculated individual. It was the high positions49
that were sometimes entrusted to such personnages that secondarily gave
the term saris the meaning of "chief". This is the opinion of Heyes50,
and also of Posener51. But other authors, like Levy52,
adopt the opposite of this opinion. For them, the meaning "noble" in the
title was first in date and was later dethroned and lost. Which explains
the fact that the Greek translators of the Bible did not suspect the existence
of such a meaning53, and translated saris
Be that as it may, here is a supplementary proof refuting the notion that Putiphar was castrated, but furnished this time by the Egyptologists themselves. Brugsch54, who is the originator of this find, gets the credit for having recognized in the hieroglyphic word srs the equivalent title to saris in the Bible. But it is Posener55 who thereafter establishes that the word srs -- Egyptian transcription -- has nothing to do with the concept of "eunuch". In fact, studying seven inscriptions56 dating from the domination of Darius in Egypt57, he discovers here a name Atiyahway, regularly called srs or srs.t n prs "Persian srs". He proposes to translate this title by "Chief", because in a rock insciption of his successor Ariyawrata, who remained in his position under Artaxerxes, the title srs was renounced and that of r prs or hrj prs58 "Persian chief" was preferred, which can be nothing other than the Egyptian translation of the former, or a paraphrase.
Since the Egyptian term srs designates the "chief" and not the eunuch, it is appropriate for us to search elsewhere for the word for castratus. We found several of them.
Let us cite first of all shtj [net][praying man] (plural: sht. w [net][chicken][praying man][plural] or [net][reed][reed][chicken][praying man][plural]59), found in a mysterious passage of the Pyramid Texts60. The word is contained in § 1462c, juxtaposed with the term t3j, designating the male par excellence. By contrast with the latter, one can presume that shtj may well designate the castratus. So the phrase is translated as follows: "O that castratus there, O this male here, let whichever of you two who can run, run." This word shtj was found on ostraca bearing execrative texts from the Middle Kingdom. It figures in a passage which, after having mentioned in a general manner "all races" (rmt), "all of humanity" (p'.t), "all the people" (rhj.t), goes through all individuals classed according to sex. The following are listed in succession: t3j.w; males, the sht.w, and lastly women. Since the word shtj.w appears between the "males" and the "females", it is logical by reason of this intermediate position to think of the word "eunuchs", which is the solution proposed by Sethe61.
Texts of the Middle and New Kingdoms suggest to us for "eunuch" a word hm, which becomes hmtj in the Late Age and in the Greek age. The Berlin Dictionary62 sees this word only as an insulting name, used to characterize the poltroon, the coward. And in fact, it cannot be denied that the words hm and hmtj, which bear an obvious relationship to the word hm.t "woman", match up well with that Egyptian custom of equating cowardly and soft men with women. But Lefébure63 believes that hm or hmtj would also designate the eunuch, whose lack of virility, both moral and physical, makes him approximate a woman. An argument in favor of this suggestion appears to come from the various written forms of the words hm, hmtj: [female pelvis][owl][phallus], [female pelvis][owl][cake][praying man][phallus], [female pelvis][cake][phallus], [female pelvis][owl][cake][dual][phallus], which contain a consistent element: the phallus. We see that this determinative agrees poorly with the word "poltroon", if that is the primary meaning of hm, hmtj. The matters can be explained more easily if one assumes that the phallus determines the concept of "eunuch", where it can be explained as an allusion to the sexual mutilation suffered by the individual. Hm, hmtj could have arrived at the meaning of "poltroon" only secondarily, since the personnage of the eunuch was generally lacking in courage. Lefébure himself brings one more argument in support of the equation of hm, hmtj = castratus. He finds it in certain texts dealing with pederasty, of which we will cite only the most convincing. At Sebennytus, one must not "join with a hm, nor with a male"64. The distinction clearly established in this passage between the "regular" male and the personnage of the hm effectively leads us to consider the hm as a eunuch, to whom antiquity readily attributed the vice against nature.
The eunuch could also be covered by a third term, the word tkr [cudgel][bowl
with ring][lion][phallus]65. A demotic text66
from the reign of Darius I appears to attest to this; it designates a personnage
Harkhêbi, in the service of Khelkons, a friend of the Pharaoh. Griffith
transcribes the passage: p tkr n hl-hns and translates "the eunuch
(?) of Khelkons". The "point of interrogation" allows a doubt to subsist,
due to the fact that the determinative of the expression can be taken for
the sign of "fire" as well as for that of the "phallus"67.
So much for the identification of the personnage. Let us see, now, whether a special technical term exists to designate the surgical act, properly speaking. Three expressions have drawn our attention.
We know that the verb hms [female pelvis][side][bolt][knife], [female pelvis][side][chair back][knife], [female pelvis][bolt][knife]68 signifies generally: to remove by cutting69. But when one finds hms combined with the word hm, designating the eunuch, it is obvious that we are justified in giving this act the more specialized sense of "to castrate." Thus when it is said, speaking of the king who punished Seth by emasculation: "The one who hms the castratus"70 -- castratus being conceived here as a future participle: the one about to be castrated -- one has the right to translate: "The one who castrates the castratus." Likewise, when it is exclaimed in the course of combat: "We hms the castratus with our lances"71, or literally: "We cut the castratus with our lances", in this phrase the expression "we cut" is necessarily equivalent to "we castrate."
Along with hms "to cut", which by extension therefore includes the meaning of "to castrate", we know of another verb written [seal and cord][knife], using the sign of the seal followed by the knife, and which follows the same development. We found it at Denderah and at Edfou. In the festival calendar of the temple at Edfou72, we read: "On the first day of Épiphi, Seth is [seal and cord][knife] that day; his penis and testicles are placed..."; in the temple of Denderah, it states: "the unfortunate one (Seth) is [seal and cord][knife] by the knife73". These are two indisputable allusions to castration, rendered by [seal and cord][knife]. The precise reading of this complex has provided the only cause for debate. Alliot74 who sees in the image of the seal, which is normally read sd3, a graphical whim for sd, renders [seal and cord][knife] as "to break into pieces". But since the context specifies that the broken pieces are comprised of the penis and testicles, is it excessive to give to sd the value of "to emasculate" when used under such circumstances? The same reasoning applies in a case where we adopt the opinion of Brugsch75, who deems that [seal and cord][knife] must be read s'd, "to cut"76. Linked with the idea of a sexual mutilation, s'd, "to cut", can mean nothing other than "to castrate".
Hms, sd and s'd, which only by extension mean "to castrate",
cannot be taken as professional terminology. Yet it is not appropriate,
for all that, to conclude from the outset that there is no technical word
defining the surgical act of emasculation. In fact, we know that castration
has a designation of its own: it is the verb s'b. If we follow the
Berlin Dictionary, it is only applicable to animals77.
But is this opinion incontestable when we have already observed that s'b
may not be so far removed from the verb sbj, meaning "to circumsize"78,
which for its part can only be applicable to men. May not fate one day
place under our eyes a text which will attest that the specialized verb
= to castrate can be applied just as well to the human being as to the
One last word concerning the operating techique of castration. In this area, we are -- alas! -- reduced to conjecture. The technique consisting of crushing the testicles of the infant by hand79 does not appear to have been used along the banks of the Nile, where the actual removal of the genitalia appears to have been preferred. But the surgical method used for this purpose remains uncertain. Some, like Speleers80, have thought that castration could be done by strangulation, using a shoelace. The author bases this belief on a passage from the Pyramid Texts81, in which the verb "to cut" is followed by an unusual determinative; in place of a knife, one finds the sign [string] of the cord, which, according to him, may suggest a mutilation by the slip-knot procedure. Others, like Oefele82, support a method that consisted of the resection of the sexual organs using the teeth -- a practice still used by women, it seems, for castrating small domestic animals. His argumentation is based on a passage from the Ebers Papyrus83, in which the verb [sword][jar][man touching mouth] nd -- which he translates as "to grind" -- a verb which is followed by the generic of the man bringing his hand to his mouth, in which Oefele would see a supplementary reason for thinking of a castration done with the teeth. It is admitted nowadays that nd, followed by the determinative that so impressed the author, must be rendered as "to deliberate"84 and not as "to grind", which, for its part, is written -- in medical prescriptions especially -- [sword][jar][arm] with the determinative of the fortified arm. There remains amputation by knife, which seems to confirm the nature of the object serving as the determinative in the words hms, s'd, and s'b, which we earlier recognized as words expressing the surgical act. Did they use an ordinary knife for this purpose, or did they use a specially made "lancet"? Without pretending to resolve this question, we call attention to the hieroglyphic sign [chisel] -- read wd', but not identified as an object85 -- which could be an image of the castration tool. In fact, the sign [chisel] determines the verb wd' -- written [chicken][snake][arm] -- which means, among other things "to detach, separate" in the sense of "to remove by cutting"86. We find elsewhere, in the Greek era, a noun wd'.t [chisel][knife][illegible], which can be rendered as "knife". Although the object [chisel] is thus featured in the the verb "to cut", on the one hand, and in the word "knife", on the other hand, it impressed us as a tool for genital resection thanks to two other indications. First the word wd'w.t [chisel][arm][chicken][cake][body part] -- determined by the generic for parts of the body -- which is rendered as "the cut member", but used, to be sure, preferably in the dual87; and finally the sign [chisel] in isolation, which is commonly used in religious texts of the Middle Kingdom to designate the god Seth88. This pseudonym is conventionally translated as "the one brought before the tribunal"89, since the verb wd' likewise has the sense of judging. But since Seth was castrated by Horus, it appears to us that the sign [chisel] could allude just as well to the suffered mutilation, and could therefore be rendered as "the one from whom a part of the body has been separated", "the one who has been deprived of an organ", "the castratus". In this case, the hieroglyph [chisel] could be considered as a kind of planing chisel -- with a T-shaped hollowed-out cutting edge on the tip -- which, if handled like a guillotine, appears well adapted surgically, thanks to this cut-out shape, for the technical requirements of the various castrations which we recalled at the start of this paper.
The existence of the eunuch in Egypt has been placed in doubt for a long time. Even quite recently, De Meulenaere90 wrote: "From the Egyptian standpoint, the mention of eunuchs is astonishing, because such a category of individuals appears to have never existed along the banks of the Nile." And to base himself on the authority of Wiedemann91, Erman92, and Kees93. [sic]
Will the indications that we have just assembled suffice to rattle such firmly established opinions?
Dr. Frans Jonckheere.
1 Report presented to the seventh Congrès International d'Histoire des Sciences, Jerusalem, August 1953. See: Actes, pp. 377-383.
2 Our research on the eunuchs whose impotentia virilis may be designated as "surgical" led us to take note of a series of documents relating to the impotentia virilis of individuals who have otherwise preserved the anatomical integrity of their genitalia. We will publish these data in the near future.
3 In fact, Fr. Sbordone, Hori Apollinis Hieroglyphica, Naples, 1940, suggests the identification of Horapollon with the philosopher and theologian of that name who lived in the time of Emperor Zeno (479-491).
4 We provide the translation according to B. van de Walle and J. Vergote, Traduction des Hieroglyphica d'Horapollon (IIe Partie), Chronique d'Egypte, No. 36, July 1943 (see pp. 222 and 223).
5 We note that Pliny, Natural History, Book 32, takes the opposite view of Horapollon: "Sextius, a very precise author in medical matters, affirms that these animals -- beavers -- when they are taken, do not cut off their testicles."
6 The name of Osymandias is only a corruption of Ouser-Maat-Ra, one of the names of Ramses II. See G. Goossens, Le tombeau d'Osymandias, Chronique d'Egypte, No. 34, July 1942, pp. 177-184.
7 Diodorus, Bibl. Hist., Book I, Chap. 48 (translated by Hoefer).
8 Phallus removal was inflicted on the corpses of the Hittites and the Libyans, who were uncircumsized, and therefore impure; the amputation of the hand was reserved for foreign peoples who were circumsized, like the Egyptians.
9 It was engraved on one of the walls of the second court of the sanctuary, between the second pylon and the hypostyle hall.
10 J.H. Breasted, Medinet-Habu, vol. II, Earlier Historical Records of Ramses III. See in particular the relief of the 1st court, east side, surface behind the first pylon, to the left of the entrance. We note that at the temple of Ramses II, in Abydos and at Abu-Simbel, only the "counting of the hands" is featured.
11 Cf. I Samuel 18:25-27 where there is a report of the counting, before the king, of the prepuces of 200 Philistines killed by David.
12 See: W. Hölscher, Libyer und Aegypter, Aegypt. Forschung., No. 4, (1937), p. 44.
13 Diodorus, Bibl. Hist., Book I, Chapter 78.
14 According to the same author, for adultery committed
without violence the man would receive only 1,000 blows with a rod.
15 Diodorus, Bibl. Hist., Book I, Chapter 78.
16 Diodorus, Bibl. Hist., Book I, Chapter 60: "He (Actisanes -- who is unknown to us, but who is given as the successor of Amasis in the 26th dynasty --) had the nose cut off of the guilty, sent them to the furthest reaches of the desert, and set them up in a village which, in memory of this mutilation, took the name of Rhinocolure." The second passage is found in Book I, Chapter 78: "For adultery committed without violence... the woman (was condemned) ... to have her nose cut off; the legislator wanted her to be deprived of her attractions, which she would have used only for the purpose of seduction." According to pharaonic texts, the adulteror of the woman seems to have been punished with death; in the 8th maxim of the scribe Ani (F. Chabas, Les maximes du scribe Ani, 1876, p. 186), we read: "A woman whose husband is absent calls you... casting off her hairnet. And this may become a crime worthy of death when the rumor of it spreads, even if she did not actually accomplish her design."
17 Let us be content with an example drawn from Papyrus 10.2221 of the British Museum, called the Abbott Papyrus: "He swore by the punishment of the nose" (literally: "He swore to have his nose cut off." Cf. T.E. Peet, The Great Tomb-Robberies of the Twentieth Egyptian Dynasty, Oxford, 1931, p. 40 (V, 6-7).
18 Diodorus, Bibl. Hist., Book I, Chapter 78.
19 J. Cerny, Le parchemin du Louvre no. A F 1577, Mélanges Maspero, vol. I, 1934, pp. 233-239. It is an oath which, if not preserved, would lead to the amputation of the perjuror's tongue. The declaring party states in effect: "If I speak (again) on the subject of this (work) day of Beki which I have given to Harpaywen, I shall have my tongue cut off. Thus he spoke before a very large number of witnesses."
20 Diodorus, Bibl. Hist., Book I, Chapter 94. Let us note that he even omitted to cite the removal of the ears, of which Herodotus speaks however. In II, 62, he tells us in fact that Patarbemis, who had failed in his mission to bring Amasis back to Apriès, was "shamefully mutilated"; for the king "ordered his ears and nose to be cut off." In fact, the penalty of the ears was often associated in Egypt with the cutting off of the nose (see the references above). The cutting off of the ears was sometimes a punishment on its own, to judge from the existence of the nickname "cut-ears" designating an "de-baptized" guilty party (regarding this curious measure, see G. Posener, Les criminels débaptisés et les morts sans nom, Revue d'Egyptol., vol. 5, 1946, pp. 51-56).
21 This growth of the members is particularly visible on a eunuch skeleton of the Negro race and of Egyptian origin, preserved at the Musée de Lyon and described by L. Lortet, Arch. d'Anthrop. crim., Lyon, 1896.
22 Sarcophagus from the 11th dynasty preserved at the Cairo Museum. See G. Bénédite, Objets de toilette, Cat. Gen. Ant. Eg. Mus. Caire, 1911, plate 1.
23 They are found, among other places, sculpted
in bas-relief at the sides of the stone throne of the kings since the Middle
Kingdom. They are presented in pairs, positioned face to face; sometimes
they symbolically unite the two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt (notably
next to the seat of a statue in Tanis representing Sesostris I in the Berlin
Museum); sometimes they perform the symbolic fertilization of the heraldic
plants of Upper and Lower Egypt (as on the seat of a statue of Licht, likewise
representing Sesostris I, in the Cairo Museum). The figures are found in
J. Capart, Les arts graphiques, Brussels, 1942, plates 475 and 476.
Besides the river itself, the "Nils" can also represent other symbolic
entities, such as Grain, Water, Food, etc. See: L. Borchardt, Das Grabdenkmal
des Königs Sahurê [The memorial of King Sahurê], Leipzig,
1910-1913, vol. 2, plate 29. On certain representations, they play the
role of "lampadophores" [torch-bearers]. See: S. Schott, Das Löschen
von Fackeln in Milch [Extinguishing Torches in Milk], Zeitschrift für
Aeg. Spr., vol. 73, 1937, pp. 1-25. (See plates III and IV, the Niles
24 This feminization of the nilotic silhouettes was sometimes pushed to the extreme by the artist who, in certain representations, substituted true figures of women for them.
25 See in the temple of Isis, the sanctuary of Osiris (vestibule: east wall, Relief No. 2 on the south, as well as west wall, southern part).
26 H. Junker, Das Götterdekret über das Abaton [The Divine Decree Regarding the Abaton], Vienna, 1913. See Figs. 21 and 22, p. 61.
27 F. Von Oefele, Studien über die altägyptische Parasitologie [Studies on Ancient Egyptian Parasitology], vol. II, 1902, considers the "nilotic type" to be the visual representation of persons afflicted with the parasite Schistosoma haematobium. In F. Jonckheere, Une maladie egyptienne, l'Hematurie parasitaire, Médécine égyptienne, No. 1, 1944, p. 41 and following, we argued against this conception, which postulated physio-pathological data that have been invalidated by the work of specialists in bilharziasis.
28 A. Wiedemann, Das Alte Ägypten [Ancient Egypt], Heidelberg, 1920 (see note 1, p. 143).
29 It is true that Egyptian art depicts the usual ravages of age -- at the level of the face -- only in exceptional cases. See: W. Spiegelberg, Die Darstellung des Alters im älteren ägyptischen Kunst vor dem Mittleren Reich [The Depiction of Old Age in Ancient Egyptian Art Prior to the Middle Kingdom], Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache, vol. 64, 1918, pp. 67-71. And more recently: E. Riefstahl, An Egyptian Portrait of an Old Man, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. X, No. 2, April 1951, pp. 65-73.
30 P.A.A. Boeser, Beschrijving van de egyptische verzameling in het Rijksmuseum van oudheden te Leiden. (De Monumenten van den tijd tusschen het oude en het middelrijk en van het middelrijk. Eerste afdeeling, Steles) [Description of the Egyptian collection in the Rijksmuseum for Antiquities in Leiden. (The monuments from the period between the Old and Middle Kingdoms and from the Middle Kingdom. First part, Steles), The Hague, 1909. See the stele of Mhat, pl. VI, Fig. 7.
31 It even occurs sometimes that the shade differs very little from that reserved for females -- which appears even more significant. See: I. Rosellini, Monumenti dell'Egitto e della Nubia, Monumenti civili. For example: Plate 68, No. 2 (bottom left, silhouette of the "porter").
32 I. Rosellini, I Monumenti dell'Egitto e della Nubia, Parte Secunda, Monumenti civili. vol. III, p. 132: "And that they painted the flesh in a yellowish brown color, practically mixed from the two different colors dark-red and yellow with which they usually distinguished men from women." And further on: "It occurred to me that such images were meant to portray Eunuchs."
33 P.E. Newberry, Beni Hassan, vol. I, tomb No. 3. See plate XXIX, 3rd register, left.
34 P.E. Newberry, loc. cit. See 2nd register,
35 Diodorus himself, Bibl. Hist., I, 80 still attests to this: "Among the Egyptians the priests only marry one wife, but the other citizens can choose as many of them as they like."
36 In the tomb of Ay; see N. de G. Davies, The Rock Tombs of El Amarna, vol. V, London, 1908, pl. XXVIII.
37 U. Hölscher, The Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, Part II, Chicago, 1951. See plate 23.
38 Commemorative inscription on a scarab. See J.H. Breasted, Anc. Rec., II, p. 347, § 866.
39 P.E. Newberry, El Bersheh, vol. II, tomb No. 8. Text plate 21; translation p. 41.
40 E. Prisse, Monuments Égyptiens, Paris, 1847, pl. XXVI. This is the stele of the high priest Pa-sheri-en-Ptah, of the Ptolemaic period (see line 12).
41 Compare the inscription of Ouni. See M. Stracmans, La carriere du governeur de la Haute Egypte Ouni, VIe dynastie, Mélanges Capart, pp. 509-544 (= Annuaire Inst. Philol. Hist. Orient., vol. III, Brussels, 1935).
42 A. Volten, Zwei altägyptische politische Schriften. Die Lehre für König Merikarê und die Lehre des Königs Amenemhet, Analecta Aegypt., vol. IV, Copenhagen, 1945.
43 A. de Buck, The Judicial Papyrus of Turin, Journ. Egypt. Archeol., vol. 23, 1937, pp. 152-164.
44 For these titles, consult A. de Buck, op. cit., where one finds them linked with the names of the individuals who bore them. Thus in the first list of the accused, one notices (p. 154) under No. 4: Penok who is "overseer of the royal harem in the suite"; under no. 5: Pendua who is "clerk of the royal harem in the suite"; under No. 6 "Ptewenteanum who is "Inspector of the harem in the suite". In column V, there is cited under No. 1 the porters "wives of men of the gate of the harem". And in the third list of the accused, one sees, under No. 9, one named Amenkhaou called "Deputy of the harem in the suite".
45 Manetho, The Loeb Classical Library, 1948, p. 67.
46 We know that the women who were cloistered here nonetheless received visits from their families (cited after Th. Deveria, Le papyrus judiciaire de Turin, 1897, p. 40). But generally speaking access to the apartments of women must have been strictly controled, because otherwise those who wanted to fraudulently cross the threshold of the serail would not have had to resort to sorcerous means. (The latter are cited in the Lee Papyrus No. 1, lines 2 and 5; as well as in the Lee Papyrus No. 2 and the Rollin Papyrus.) These documents are given in annexes by Th. Deveria, op. cit.
47 A. Wiedemann, Varia, XXVII; Sphinx, vol.
XVIII, 1914-1915, p. 204, recalls two of them. According to Vincent de
Beauvais (13th century), after Putiphar had bought Joseph for purposes
reproached by morality, God, in order to punish him, rendered him impotent,
as if he had been a eunuch. So therefore, the eunuchism of Putiphar was
more of a functional impotentia virilis than an anatomical deficit.
On the other hand, a passage taken from the "Mistére du vieil Testament"
["Mystery of the Old Testament"] (16th century) tells that after his wife's
offense, Putiphar resolved never to touch her again. But to aid the eventual
weakness of his flesh, he had had himself emasculated. This transformed
him into a voluntary castratus.
48 The precise identity of the pharaoh at the time of the journey of Joseph to Egypt is not known. But it is generaslly admitted that this event took place under the Hyksos. The name Hyksos was given by Manetho to Asiatics, who invaded Egypt after the Middle Kingdom and after the extinction of the 14th dynasty, and who occupied it for a century and a half (approximately from 1730 to 1580).
49 Strabo, Geography, reports several examples of eunuchs occupying elevated official posts. In Book 14, Chapter 1, § 23, we learn that the priests of the temple of Ephesus were "eunuchs who were given the name of Megabyzes... in order to have only subjects worthy of fulfilling a priestly office of that kind. In Book 13, Chapter 1, § 57, there is a mention of the tyrant Hermias, who is characterized as a eunuch. In Book 13, Chapter 4, § 1, he cites Philetaeros of Tiane, who, while still a child, was accidentally reduced to the state of a eunuch, and who, under Lysimachus, became the guardian of the fortress of Pergame and of its treasury. Let us also cite under Justinian (6th century) the case of the eunuch Narses, diplomat and captain (compare E. Jeanselme, L'eunuque Narses, diplomate averti et grand capitaine, Bull. Soc. Franc. Hist. Med. vol. 28, Nos. 3-4, 1934, p. 113. E. Benveniste, La légende de Kombalos, Mélanges Dussaud, vol. 1, Paris, 1939, p. 249, recalls the legend according to which, as Lucian tells it, Kombalos, who was supposed to watch over Stratonike, the wife of Seleukos I, (about 170 before J.C.) voluntarily emasculated himself in order to be above all suspicion.
50 H.J. Heyes, Bibel und Aegypten, Münster, 1904.
51 G. Posener, Le première domination perse en Égypte, Cairo, 1936, p. 118.
52 I. Levy, Platon et le faux Smerdis, Mélanges G. Radel = Revue Et. anc., vol. 42, Bordeaux, 1940, pp. 234-241.
53 It is the same mistake that Plato makes with Cambyses, whom he calls a eunuch in Laws III, 695b.
54 H. Brugsch, Geschichte Aegyptens, p. 757.
55 G. Posener, op. cit., p. 178.
56 Inscriptions No. 24 to No. 30.
57 This first Persian domination in Egypt is counted as the 27th dynasty (525-404 before J.C.).
58 G. Posener, op. cit. See inscription No. 33 (p. 126) and No. 34 (p. 129).
59 Berlin Dictionary, IV, 264.
60 K. Sethe, Die altägyptischen Pyramidentexte, vol. II, Leipzig, 1910, p. 299.
61 K. Sethe, Die Ächtung feindlicher Fürsten,
Völker und Dinge auf altägyptischen Tongefäßscherben
des mittleren Reiches. Abhandl. Preuss. Akad. Wiss., 1926, p. 65,
62 Berlin Dictionary, III, p. 80.
63 E. Lefébure, Le menat et le nom de l'eunuque, Biblioth. Égypt., vol. 35 (Oeuvres diverses de E. Lefébure, vol. II), Paris, 1912, pp. 175-195.
64 J. de Rouge, Edfou, II, 146 (cited from E. Lefébure, op. cit., p. 193).
65 F. Ll. Griffith, Glossary of Demotic, p. 406, in: Catalogue of the Demotic Papyri in the Rylands Library at Manchester, vol. III. We recall that the demotic was a cursive writing in use from 650 before J.C. to the 4th century after J.C.
66 Papyrus IX, 16-17, in F. Ll. Griffith, op. cit., p. 100.
67 Let us note that in J. Capart, Un roman vécu il y a vingt-cinq siècles, Brussels, 1941, the corresponding word is deliberately rendered by eunuch (see p. 65, line 1 on that page and line 1 of Chapter IV).
68 Berlin Dictionary, III, 96.
69 One finds in the Berlin Dictionary: "abschneiden" [to cut off].
70 H. Brugsch, Dictionnaire, p. 957.
71 H. Brugsch, Dictionnaire, Supplement, p. 820.
72 M. Alliot, Le culte d'Horus à Edfou au temps des Ptolémées, Cairo, 1949. (See Chapter II: "Calender of Festivals" of the temples of Edfou and of Denderah. Transcription, p. 217; translation, p. 233.)
73 E. Meyer, Geschichte des alten Aegypten, Berlin, 1887, p. 182.
74 M. Alliot, op. cit.
75 H. Brugsch, Drei Festkalender des Tempels von Apollinopolis Magna in Ober Aegypten, Leipzig, 1877, translated in fact by "wounding".
76 This is the term given in the Berlin Dictionary, IV, 422.
77 Berlin Dictionary, IV, 43: "(Stiere) verschneiden, kastrieren [to castrate (cattle)]."
78 Berlin Dictionary, IV, 81: "as caption for a
circumcision scene." There is every reason to believe that the Dictionary
is referring to the tomb of Ankh-ma-Hor where there is a circumcision scene.
See: J. Capart, Une rue de tombeaux à Saqqarah, Brussels,
1907 (pl. 66). Here one reads sbt followed by a unique determinative.
79 The terms in which Paul d'Egine, Chirurgie, edited by R. Briau, Paris, 1855, describes this procedure for us are as follows: "The children, still at an early age, are placed on a basin of hot water; next, when the parts are relaxed, in the same bath they press the testicles with the fingers until they have been destroyed and, being dissolved, cannot be felt anymore with the fingers."
80 L. Speleers, Traduction, Index et Vocabulaire des Textes des Pyramides égyptiennes, Brussels, no date, p. 175, note 4.
81 Namely, § 1463e. See: K. Sethe, Die altaegyptischen Pyramidentexte, vol. II, Leipzig, 1910.
82 F. von Oefele, Geschichte der vorhippokratischen Medicin, p. 52.
83 Ebers Papyrus, II, 4: "Remember that Horus and Seth were led into the great houses of Heliopolis while they ground the testicles of Seth" (version of Oefele).
84 Berlin Dictionary, II, 370 = to deliberate. Berlin Dictionary, II, 369 = to grind.
85 A.H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, London, 1950. See the sign Aa 21 labeled "a carpenter's tool" (p. 542).
86 Berlin Dictionary, I, 404 "to separate, detach" (separate the head, etc.).
87 Berlin Dictionary, I, 407.
88 See P. Lacau, Textes religieux (No. 21 bis).
89 Berlin Dictionary, I, 407 "der über den Gericht gehalten wird".
90 H. de Meulenaere, Herodotos over de 26ste Dynastie, Bibliotheque du Muséon, vol. 27, Louvain, 1951 (see p. 129).
91 A. Wiedemann, Das alte Aegypten, Heidelberg, 1920 (see p. 143).
92 A. Erman, Aegypten, Tübingen, 1923 (see p. 87, note 10).
93 H. Kees, Aegypten, Munich, 1933 (see p. 77, note 4).