The Perfect Servant: Eunuchs and the Social Construction of Gender in Byzantium / Edition 1

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Overview

The Perfect Servant reevaluates the place of eunuchs in Byzantium. Kathryn Ringrose uses the modern concept of gender as a social construct to identify eunuchs as a distinct gender and to illustrate how gender was defined in the Byzantine world. At the same time she explores the changing role of the eunuch in Byzantium from 600 to 1100.

Accepted for generations as a legitimate and functional part of Byzantine civilization, eunuchs were prominent in both the imperial court and the church. They were distinctive in physical appearance, dress, and manner and were considered uniquely suited for important roles in Byzantine life. Transcending conventional notions of male and female, eunuchs lived outside of normal patterns of procreation and inheritance and were assigned a unique capacity for mediating across social and spiritual boundaries. This allowed them to perform tasks from which prominent men and women were constrained, making them, in essence, perfect servants.

Written with precision and meticulously researched, The Perfect Servant will immediately take its place as a major study on Byzantium and the history of gender.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226720159
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Ringrose is a lecturer in history at the University of California, San Diego.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Spelling Conventions for Greek Names
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Eunuchs of Byzantium: Context and Definition 1
Pt. I Gender as Social Construct
Ch. 1 The Language of Gender 33
Ch. 2 Byzantine Medical Lore and the Gendering of Eunuchs 51
Ch. 3 Gender Construction as Acculturation 67
Ch. 4 Making Sense of Tradition: Regendering Legendary Narratives 87
Pt. II Becoming Protagonists
Ch. 5 Passing the Test of Sanctity: Eunuchs and the Ecclesiastical World of Byzantium 111
Ch. 6 Trangressing Gender Boundaries: Eunuchs in Authority 128
Ch. 7 Transcending the Material World: Eunuchs and Angels 142
Ch. 8 Eunuchs at the Palace: Gendered Space and Confirmation of the Imperial Numen 163
Ch. 9 Social Reproduction and Integration 184
Conclusion: Present and Past Perceptions of Gender 194
App.: Spelling Equivalents, Traditional and Reformed 213
Frequently Used Abbreviations 215
Notes 217
Bibliography 257
Index 287
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