A Testament to the Swollen and the Cut

Sophocles, Fragments 620 (from Troilus)

“The queen lopped off my testicles with a knife…”

σκάλμῃ γὰρ ὄρχεις βασιλὶς ἐκτέμνουσ᾿ ἐμούς

Naevius, Testicularia (A Play About Testicles)

“No! The ones we’ve cut off, I’ll chop up and throw away”

Immo quos scicidimus conscindam atque abiciam.

Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.5.62

“There is evidence from other animals too: out of control horses stop biting and bucking when they are neutered but they are no less useful in combat. When bulls are castrated they stop being so haughty and difficult but they aren’t deprived of their strength and ability to work. Similarly, when dogs are neutered they stop running away from their owners, but they are no worse at shepherding and hunting.”

ἐτεκμαίρετο δὲ καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων ὅτι οἵ τε ὑβρισταὶ ἵπποι ἐκτεμνόμενοι τοῦ μὲν δάκνειν καὶ ὑβρίζειν ἀποπαύονται, πολεμικοὶ δὲ οὐδὲν ἧττον γίγνονται, οἵ τε ταῦροι ἐκτεμνόμενοι τοῦ μὲν μέγα φρονεῖν καὶ ἀπειθεῖν ὑφίενται, τοῦ δ᾽ ἰσχύειν καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι οὐ στερίσκονται, καὶ οἱ κύνες δὲ ὡσαύτως τοῦ μὲν ἀπολείπειν τοὺς δεσπότας ἀποπαύονται ἐκτεμνόμενοι, φυλάττειν δὲ καὶ εἰς θήραν οὐδὲν κακίους γίγνονται.

Castration of animals has been practiced for around 8.000 years!

Diog. Laert. 8.34–35.

“Aristotle claims in his work On the Pythagoreans that [Pythagoras] told people to refrain from beans either because they look like testicles or the gates of Hell.”

φησὶ δ’ Ἀριστοτέλης ἐν τῷ Περὶ τῶν Πυθαγορείων παραγγέλλειν αὐτὸν ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν κυάμων ἤτοι ὅτι αἰδοίοις εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι, ἢ ὅτι Ἅιδου πύλαις

Martial, Epigram 9.27

“You’re walking around with shaved balls, Chrestus”

Cum depilatos, Chreste, coleos portes

Celsus, On Medicine 4.7

“If a swelling develops in the testicles when they haven’t been struck, blood should be let from the ankle; the patient should fast; and the swelling should be treated with bean meal cooked in honeyed-wine or rubbed with cumin with boiled honey; or ground cumin with rose oil, or wheat flour with honey wine and cypress roots; or the root of a lily, pounded.

In testiculis vero si qua inflammatio sine ictu orta est, sanguis a talo mittendus est; a cibo abstinendum; inponenda ex faba farina eo ex mulso cocta cum cumino contrito et ex melle cocto; aut contritum cuminum cum cerato ex rosa facto; aut lini semen frictum, contritum et in mulso coctum; aut tritici farina ex mulso cocta cum cupresso; aut lilii radix contrita.

Aristotle, Historia Animalium 7.50.20

“All animals who have testicles can be castrated.”

 ἐκτέμνεται δὲ τῶν ζῴων ὅσα ἔχει ὄρχεις.

Check out Sarah Bond’s short bibliography on eunuchs, marginality, and gender in the pre-modern world

Martial, Epigram 3.24.3-5

“By chance he told some country bumpkin
To chop off the goat’s testicles quickly with a sharp scythe
And get rid of that annoying stink of unclean meat.”

dixerat agresti forte rudique viro
ut cito testiculos †et acuta† falce secaret,
taeter ut immundae carnis abiret odor.

Hippocrates, Epidemics 2.12

“Swollen testicles”

…ὀρχίων οἴδησις…

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 26.81

“Ebulum, when ground up with its tender leaves and drunk with wine, takes care of stones; when applied as a salve, it helps testicles. Erigeron, as well, when mixed with frankincense and sweet wine, relieves swollen testicles.”

ebulum teneris cum foliis tritum ex vino potum calculos pellit, inpositum testes sanat. erigeron quoque cum farina turis et vino dulci testium inflammationes sanat.

Sumerians did it!

Hippocrates, Internal Affections 282

“…and his testicles were ulcerated…”

καὶ οἱ ὄρχιες ἑλκοῦνται

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 28.215

“They say that a goat’s dung is good for you with honey or vinegar, or just butter by itself. Testicular swelling can be treated  with veal suet mixed with soda, or by the calf’s dung reduced in vinegar.”

fimum etiam prodesse cum melle dicunt aut cum aceto et per se butyrum. testium tumor sebo vituli addito nitro cohibetur vel fimo eiusdem ex aceto decocto.

Bronze ritual Roman era castration clamps found in the river Thames and now at the Museum of London.
Bronze ritual Roman era castration clamps found in the river Thames and now at the Museum of London. SARAH E. BOND

image from Bond’s article on eunuchs, castration, and Game of thrones

Aristotle, Historia Animaliam 1.15

“Below the penis there are two testicles. There is skin around them called a scrotum. The testicles are not the same as flesh nor are they far from it. Later, will will speak more precisely about what their nature is and generally about all these kinds of parts.”

τοῦ δ᾿ αἰδοίου ὑποκάτω ὄρχεις δύο. τὸ δὲ πέριξ δέρμα, ὃ καλεῖται ὄσχεος. οἱ δ᾿ ὄρχεις οὔτε ταὐτὸ σαρκὶ οὔτε πόρρω σαρκός· ὃν τρόπον δ᾿ ἔχουσιν, ὕστερον δι᾿ ἀκριβείας λεχθήσεται καθόλου περὶ πάντων τῶν τοιούτων μορίων.

Varro, On Agriculture 2.15

“They become calmer once their testicles are removed because they no longer have seed.”

 Demptis enim testiculis fiunt quietiores, ideo quod semine carent

Plutarch, Natural Phenomena 917D

“Or is Aristotle’s claim true too, that Homer calls khlounês the boar who only has one testicle? For he claims that the testicles of most of the boars get crushed when they scratch themselves on trees.”

Ἢ καὶ τὸ λεγόμενον ὑπ᾿ Ἀριστοτέλους ἀληθές ἐστιν, ὅτι “χλούνην” Ὅμηρος ὠνόμασε σῦν τὸν μόνορχιν; τῶν γὰρ πλείστων φησὶ προσκνωμένων τοῖς στελέχεσι θρύπτεσθαι τοὺς ὄρχεις.

Phaedrus, Fabulae 30.1–2

“When a beaver can no longer evade the dogs
It is said he snips off his own testicles with a bite
Because he knows that’s why they’re chasing him.”

Canes effugere cum iam non possit fiber
abripere morsu fertur testiculos sibi,
quia propter illos sentiat sese peti.

173 Etym. Gen. lambda 34

“Long-balls”: this means having big testicles. Aristokrates was mocked thus.”

λαπιδόρχας· ὁ μεγάλους ὄρχεις ἔχων. Ἀριστοκράτης δὲ οὕτω διεβάλλετο.

Plautus, Curculio 623

“I hope Jupiter destroys you, soldier! Live without your testicles!”

Iuppiter te, miles, perdat, intestatus uiuito

Aristotle, Problems 879a-b

4.23 “Why does rigidity and increase happen to the penis? Is it for two reasons? First, is it because that weight develops on the bottom of the testicles, raising it—for the testicles are like a fulcrum? And is it because the veins become full of breath [pneuma]? Or does the mass become bigger because of an increase in moisture or some change in position or from the development of moisture itself? Extremely large things are raised less when the weight of the fulcrum is far away.”

Διὰ τί ἡ σύντασις γίνεται τοῦ αἰδοίου καὶ ἡ αὔξησις; ἢ διὰ δύο, διά τε τὸ βάρος ἐπιγίνεσθαι ἐν τῷ ὄπισθεν τῶν ὄρχεων αἴρεσθαι (ὑπομόχλιον γὰρ οἱ ὄρχεις γίνονται) καὶ διὰ τὸ πνεύματος πληροῦσθαι τοὺς πόρους; ἢ τοῦ ὑγροῦ αὐξανομένου καὶ μεθισταμένου ἢ ἐξ ὑγροῦ γινομένου ὁ ὄγκος | μείζων γίνεται; τὰ λίαν δὲ μεγάλα ἧττον αἴρεται διὰ τὸ πορρωτέρω τὸ βάρος τοῦ ὑπομοχλίου γίνεσθαι.

Catullus, Carmen 63. 1-5

“Attis traveled over the deep seas and reached Phrygian forest
To touch the grove with a swift foot and then
Enter the goddess’ unknown places.
Then, driven mad in a fierce rage, lost in himself
he cut off his groin’s weights with a flint’s edge.”

Super alta vectus Attis celeri rate maria
Phrygium ut nemus citato cupide pede tetigit
adiitque opaca silvis redimita loca deae,
stimulatus ibi furenti rabie, vagus animi,
devolsit ili acuto sibi pondera silice

Castration of Saturn, MS Douce 195 Guillaume de Lorris & Jean de Meung, Roman de la Rose. France, 15th century (end). Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 195, fol. 76v

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