Eunouchos

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Eugène Delacroix, Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (1834)

Τοιαῦτα δὴ λαλούντων πρὸς ἀλλήλους κραυγὴ τῶν βασιλείων ἐξεφοίτησεν εὐνούχων καὶ γυναικῶν ἅμα· εἴληπτο δὲ ἄρα εὐνοῦχός τις ἐπὶ μιᾷ τῶν τοῦ βασιλέως παλλακῶν ξυγκατακείμενός τε καὶ ὁπόσα οἱ μοιχοὶ πράττων, καὶ ἦγον αὐτὸν οἱ ἀμφὶ τὴν γυναικωνῖτιν ἐπισπῶντες τῆς κόμης, ὃν δὴ ἄγονται τρόπον οἱ βασιλέως δοῦλοι. ἐπεὶ δὲ ὁ πρεσβύτατος τῶν εὐνούχων ἐρῶντα μὲν τῆς γυναικὸς πάλαι ᾐσθῆσθαι ἔφη καὶ προειρηκέναι οἱ, μὴ προσδιαλέγεσθαι αὐτῇ, μηδὲ ἅπτεσθαι δέρης ἢ χειρός, μηδὲ κοσμεῖν ταύτην μόνην τῶν ἔνδον, νῦν δὲ καὶ ξυγκατακείμενον εὑρηκέναι καὶ ἀνδριζόμενον ἐπὶ τὴν γυναῖκα, ὁ μὲν Ἀπολλώνιος ἐς τὸν Δάμιν εἶδεν, ὡς δὴ τοῦ λόγου ἀποδεδειγμένου, ὃς ἐφιλοσοφεῖτο αὐτοῖς περὶ τοῦ καὶ εὐνούχων τὸ ἐρᾶν εἶναι, ὁ δὲ βασιλεὺς πρὸς τοὺς παρόντας “ἀλλ᾽ αἰσχρόν γε” εἶπεν “ὦ ἄνδρες, παρόντος ἡμῖν Ἀπολλωνίου περὶ σωφροσύνης ἡμᾶς, ἀλλὰ μὴ τοῦτον, ἀποφαίνεσθαι· τί οὖν κελεύεις, Ἀπολλώνιε, παθεῖν αὐτόν;”—”τί δὲ ἄλλο ἢ ζῆν;” εἶπε παρὰ τὴν πάντων ἀποκρινάμενος δόξαν. ἀνερυθριάσας οὖν ὁ βασιλεὺς “εἶτα οὐ πολλῶν” ἔφη “θανάτων ἄξιος ὑφέρπων οὕτως τὴν εὐνὴν τὴν ἐμήν;”—”ἀλλ᾽ οὐχ ὑπὲρ ξυγγνώμης” ἔφη “βασιλεῦ, ταῦτα εἶπον, ἀλλ᾽ ὑπὲρ τιμωρίας, ἣ ἀποκναίσει αὐτόν· εἰ γὰρ ζήσεται νοσῶν καὶ ἀδυνάτων ἁπτόμενος καὶ μήτε σῖτα μήτε ποτὰ ἥσει αὐτὸν μήτε θεάματα, ἃ σέ τε καὶ τούς σοι συνόντας εὐφρανεῖ, πηδήσεταί τε ἡ καρδία θαμὰ ἐκθρώσκοντος τοῦ ὕπνου, ὃ δὴ μάλιστα περὶ τοὺς ἐρῶντάς φασι γίγνεσθαι, καὶ, τίς μὲν οὕτω φθόη τήξει αὐτόν, τίς δὲ οὕτω λιμὸς ἐπιθρύψει τὰ σπλάγχνα; εἰ δὲ μὴ τῶν φιλοψύχων εἴη τις, αὐτός, ὦ βασιλεῦ, δεήσεταί σού ποτε καὶ ἀποκτεῖναι αὐτὸν ἢ ἑαυτόν γε ἀποκτενεῖ πολλὰ ὀλοφυρόμενος τὴν παροῦσαν ταύτην ἡμέραν, ἐν ᾗ μὴ εὐθὺς ἀπέθανε.” τοῦτο μὲν δὴ τοιοῦτον τοῦ Ἀπολλωνίου καὶ οὕτω σοφόν τε καὶ ἥμερον, ἐφ᾽ ᾧ ὁ βασιλεὺς ἀνῆκε τὸν θάνατον τῷ εὐνούχῳ.
(Philostratus, Apoll. 1.36)

While they were thus conversing with one another a hubbub was heard to proceed from the palace, of eunuchs and women shrieking all at once. And in fact an eunuch had been caught misbehaving with one of the royal concubines just as if he were an adulterer. The guards of the harem were now dragging him along by the hair in the way they do royal slaves. The senior of the eunuchs accordingly declared that he had long before noticed he had an affection for this particular lady, and had already forbidden him to talk to her or touch her neck or hand, or assist her toilette, though he was free to wait upon all the other members of the harem; yet he had now caught him behaving as if he were the lady’s lover. Apollonius thereupon glanced at Damis, as if to indicate that the argument they had conducted on the point that even eunuchs fall in love, was now demonstrated to be true; but the king remarked to the bystanders: “Nay, but it is disgraceful, gentlemen, that, in the presence of Apollonius, we should be enlarging on the subject of chastity rather than he. What then, O Apollonius, do you urge us to do with him?” “Why, to let him live, of course,” answered Apollonius to the surprise of them all. Whereon the king reddened, and said: “Then you do not think he deserves to die may times for thus trying to usurp my rights?” “Nay, but my answer, O king, was suggested not by any wish to condone his offense, but rather to mete out to him a punishment which will wear him out. For if he lives with this disease of impotence on him, and can never take pleasure in eating or drinking, nor in the spectacles which delight you and your companions, and if his heart will throb as he often leaps up in his sleep, as they say is particularly the case of people in love, – is there any form of consumption so wasting as this, any form of hunger so likely to enfeeble his bowels? Indeed, unless he be one of those who are ready to live at any price, he will entreat you, O king, before long even to slay him, or he will slay himself, deeply deploring that he was not put to death straight away this very day.” Such was the answer rendered on this occasion by Apollonius, one so wise and humane, that the king was moved by it to spare the life of his eunuch. (tr. Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare)

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