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La castration à travers les âges

Emasculation during the ages

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Les premières castrations furent incontestablement celles d’Osiris par son frère Seth et d’Uranus par son fils Cronos. Les Egyptiens pratiquaient la castration comme punitions des adultères. Les Hébreux l’abominaient, ainsi que les premiers chrétiens. En Russie, depuis le 18e siècle les “Skoptzys” pratiquaient cette intervention abolie par le tsar vers la fin du 19e siècle. A l’aube du XXème siècle la castration est encore pratiquée chez les Orientaux pour fournir des eunuques aux harems. Pendant plusieurs siècles, les grandes vedettes de l’opéra, ainsi que du chant ecclésiastique, furent des chanteurs castrés.

Summary

The first castration ever to be recorded, was indisputably the one of Osiris, performed by his own brother, Seth. Among the Greek Gods, Cronos mutilated his father-Uranus and threw the trophy in the sea. Among the Gods of Asia Minor, Attis, lover of Cybele, decided to commit self-emasculation, so as not to betray his divine mistress. Cybele intervened and resuscitated her lover, exalting him to divinity. His worship though, was blemished by a barbarous and bloody practice, that of the voluntary emasculation of the priests of Cybele. The Egyptians limited the sacrifice to the removal of the prepuce. The Hebrews found emasculation abhorrent, as did the early Christians. In Russia, at the beginning of the 18th century, a religious sect calling themselves ‘Skoptzys’ existed, who practised emasculation. This practice was abolished at the end of the 19th century, after the intense reaction of the tsar. At the dawn of the 20th century, emasculation is still practiced in the Orient, where eunuchs are required, as guardians for the harems. Egypt, was still the country where the commerce of eunuchs flourished and it provided eunuchs for the palace of the Sultan Abdulamid and other monarchs and rich muslims. The performers of such horrible mutilations were members of the religious sect of the Copts. During the Middle Ages the barbers realised that following castration, children developed and retained indefinitely a superb soprano voice. They started then looking for children with beautiful voices that they could castrate. For two centuries, between 1600 and 1800, all the great opera singers, together with the musicians of the Catholic Church, were eunuchs. The most celebrated among those was Farinelli (1705–1782). After the Napoleonic wars and the Decree-of 1902 of the Pope Leon XIII this barbaric custom was finally abolished.

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Correspondence to Georges Androutsos.

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Androutsos, G., Marketos, S. La castration à travers les âges. Androl. 3, 61–66 (1993) doi:10.1007/BF03034611

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Mots clés

  • castration
  • opéra
  • église
  • harem

Key words

  • castration
  • punishment
  • opera
  • soprano
  • church
  • harem