This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
To illustrate what has just been said, we can draw useful lessons from the condition of those who, through a fiendish ingenuity or some surgical necessity, have been deprived of those parts which are the font of passion; we mean eunuchs. In ancient times, and to this day in Oriental nations, these unfortunates are frequently found; they are usually slaves who have suffered mutilation at a tender age, and are employed to superintend the harems of the wealthy.
When they are operated upon before the age of puberty, the changes we have mentioned incident to that period do not take place. The voice retains its childish treble, the limbs their soft and rounded outlines, the neck acquires a feminine fulness, and the beard does not appear.
On account of this retention of the voice, the mutilation was not infrequent in Europe during the middle ages, and indeed in Italy quite down to the close of the last century. The so-called castratos were employed to sing in the concerts, and especially in the churches, in whose choirs women were not allowed. There is a bull on record of Pope Clement XIV., especially directed against the practice, and pronouncing the ban of the church on those who encouraged it. This testifies to its wide distribution.
A number of instances are reported where persons had deliberately, either out of fanaticism or laboring under some form of mental delusion, destroyed their own virility. Ecclesiastical historians assert that the distinguished father of the church, Origen, was one example of this. He was led to do so by a too literal application of those enigmatic words reported in the nineteenth chapter of Matthew : " There be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake."
In most of these instances, and probably in all where the mutilation has been suffered when young, a decided effect on the mental and moral character is observed. Eunuchs are proverbial for their cruel, crafty, unsympathizing dispositions; the mental powers are feeble; and the physical strength is inferior. They lack both courage and endurance, and supply their place with cunning and mercilessness. They prov indeed, that in their want of that power which connects them with posterity, they have lost something necessary to the development of the best parts of their nature. This should teach us that it is a wise provision which stimulates our duty to the future by the reward of present pleasure. • By this operation the power of sexual intercourse is not altogether lost, but there is entire sterility. The body is much more inclined to become fat, and for this reason the mutilation is practised on fowls to obtain "capons," and other animals used for food.