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.
“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.