Some weeks ago a friend gave me the  German edition of NORWICH’s (Ger., Eng.) three volumes about Byzantium (Eng.). I read the second volume The Apogee with interest and joy. I realized that history’s point of view, as I was taught it in the last classes of the Gymnasium and later at the university’s seminars, was a bit one-sided, mostly from a Western (that is: Roman), and Northern (that is: from the Reich’s or German king’s) perspective.
NORWICH reaches in the course of the narration a very interesting man of the tenth century, LIUTPRAND of Cremona (Ger., Eng.). Like his father LIUTPRAND became a diplomat and led two diplomatic voyages to the court of Byzanz: The first 949 serving for BERENGAR II. (Ger., Eng.), a minor holder of power in Italy; the second, and well-known (Ger. radio program), 968, in the service of the Western emperor OTTO I. (Ger., Eng.) visiting NIKEPHOROS II. PHOKAS (Ger., Eng.), a total disaster described in his book Relatio de legatione Constantinopolitana.
Ironically his first visit, when he represented a minor “National king” of Italy, when all he had to present was a letter riddled with lies looking a bit shabby besides the precious gifts the diplomats of Cordoba were presenting to the apostolic highness, was something like a success. LIUTPRAND had bought presents for the emperor on his own costs – mean BERENGAR later would deny to cover the expense – and to save face he presented armor, shields and other things made from gold and silver in the name of his master.
And finally

“four carzimasian slaves, who seemed to be of more value to the emperor than the other things mentioned. Carzimasians is the name given by the Greeks to young eunuchs, who had a full operation and even the rod removed. The merchants of Verdun try to get them for the incredible possible profit and use to export them to Spain.”

Please excuse the bad English: I translate a text NORWICH brought from Latin to English, an editor from English to German, and me finally back into English again. I should have a look into the original*, but I could not find the passage, and actually I can not go to the library. I knew that  there has been a European slave trade, but I thought it had ended with emperor KARL. I was surprised to learn that it was officially abolished in England f.e. only at the beginning of the 12th century. The German wikipedia article about the history of slavery states that “Prag and Verdun housed locations where slavic boys were castrated and made eunuchs for the  Islamic market”. Well, the emperor of Byzanz is anything else but a true follower of the prophet, so this is a not acceptable description. Castration (Ger., Eng.) normally refers to the innocuousness of the testicles, however reached – a full penectomy (Ger., Eng.) must be something rare, and when LIUTPRAND presented four “carzimasii” at a time he surely left an impact on the emperor.
Strangely enough I could find no reference to the word “carzimasii” in any lexicon I consulted, online or printed. Maybe there’s a reference in the edition NORWICH used.

* Liutprand von Cremona: Liudprandi Opera, Darmstadt 1971 (Freiherr vom Stein-Gedächtnisausgabe, VIII); darin Liudprandi Antapodosis und Liudprandi legatio; auch MGH Scrpt.rer.Germ. 41; Antapodosis, 6-8, 491.

15 thoughts on “Carzimasier

  1. It’ definitely more than 15 % off, XL.

    I agree, Amanda, I think the normal procedure was also risky, and it should be enough. Eunuchs, warden of the bed, were in high positions in the Byzantine Reich, in China and through the Osman rule, many of them were very able economic and political leaders. No need to chop off all the dangly bits.
    I wonder about the historical sources left from this trade: I mean, if it is nearly correct what the German wiki-text says, over a long periode of time, very specialized operations, gainig a high profit, were done in Prague and Verdun.
    Who run the clip joint? How’s the line of trade (Vertriebsweg)? What about taxes? And why exporting them to Spain? For the North African market alone – I doubt. Sadly my French is lousy, the mentioned article cites French literature here, numbers 6 and 7.

  2. Good questions. Perhaps because Spain had very good connections with the Arabs?

    There is also a mention of them in Women, men, and eunuchs: gender in Byzantium by Liz James (check Google books) and Millennium by Tom Holland.

  3. I love the concept of Fernleihe. I used it for the first time last week for an obscenely rare book that could only be found in Hannover. Instant addiction. :)

  4. Digitalization is meant to kill Fernleihe, for the old books at least. If you follow the “original” link to Lancaster and click on this site on the link to BSB you will come to the 10th century edition of Liutprands stories. Okay, nobody would sent these around in a postal package, but, depending on google’s scan orgies, books of the Early Modern Aera, 19th and early 20th century will not be “verliehen”, the user gets the web adress instead. And often has to use a computer on the campus. The google scannery is seen with mixed feelings by librarians and others. It’s definitely not to compare with a library catalogue. I do not like military metaphors, but it is only the arsenal, where hardware is stored.
    Would it be very inadequate to ask for the title of the obscenly rare book?
    If you use the UB standard Fernleihe is the BSB – or how the gateway is called now. You know the KVK? Yes, you do, silly question … The more details you can bring about the title you look for, the better. A happy librarian is a good librarian.

  5. I didn’t know about the KVK, I got it another way, thanks to an academic who was familiar with the ropes. My local library only had to open an account at and I was able to pick up the book from them a few days later. Kost: 9€.

    The title of the book is not so important unless you want to learn how to strip a man’s beard in such a way that it never grows again. ;)

    And yes, that’s true, the more details the happier the librarian. :)

  6. For the 9 Euro you received a copy you are allowed to keep, yes? Or was it a single fee to get an account? I am not familiar with subito.
    Regarding my beard I stay with temporary solutions, thank you! :)

  7. No copy, it’s the original and I can keep it for a month. Auch was. I think the 9€ must be paid every time I use the Fernleihe. You can open an account with them or your local library can open one and order the book for you.


  8. So it’s a good thing when I sit in my Jagdhaus in the woods and have no more UB Ausweis, sent it to this box please. Interesting to see what is possible today!
    If you have the possibility, get a card from your next university library, they are public libraries. Würzburg public library is cheaper too, but you have the risk that the book is not to use at home – die verleihende Bibliothek entscheidet, ob es außerhalb benutzt werden darf, also ohne Aufsicht.

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