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History of Roman Eunuchs revealed

16 May 2022

Ancient historian writes first book devoted to Roman eunuchs

Professor of Late Roman and Byzantine History Shaun Tougher has researched and written the world’s first book examining the history of Roman eunuchs, from emperors’ favourites to generals and consuls.

In The Roman Castrati: Eunuchs in the Roman Empire Tougher explores key texts and investigates specific individuals in the history of Rome’s empire, where eunuchs tend to be associated with eastern courts, most popularly considered members of harems.

In fact, eunuchs feature throughout the nine centuries of Roman Empire, beginning in the earliest surviving Latin text: Terence’s The Eunuch.

Roman Castrati deftly spotlights all manner of men. Through seven chapters, we meet court officials, slaves, free men and religious figures, spanning the entire empire, from the third century BC to the sixth century AD.

With gender an inescapable theme, this vivid book is as much about the eunuch in the Roman imagination as it is the reality of the eunuch in the Roman empire.

The book spotlights famous names alongside influential figures whose names are lost to history. Here we meet the Galli of early Rome, the self-castrating devotees of the Great Mother goddess, the early Christian convert recorded in the Act of the Apostles known as ‘the Ethiopian eunuch’, as well as Sporus and Earinus, favourites of emperors Nero and Domitian, Narses the eunuch general who restored Italy to Roman rule by defeating the Ostrogoth, and superstar intersex philosopher Favorinus of Arles.

Professor of Late Roman and Byzantine History Shaun Tougher is author of The eunuch in Byzantine history and society and Eunuchs in antiquity and beyond among a range of titles. His research interests include the history of the later Roman and Byzantine empires, Byzantium's Macedonian dynasty, Julian the Apostate, the dynasty of Constantine the Great and the family in Byzantium.

The Roman Castrati Eunuchs in the Roman Empire is part of the Bloomsbury Academic series, out in paperback from 19 May.

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