Eunuchs and ascetic masculinity in Kievan Rus

Mayhew, N. (2018) Eunuchs and ascetic masculinity in Kievan Rus. Medieval History Journal, 21(1), pp. 100-116. (doi: 10.1177/0971945818760119)

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Kievan Rus was converted to Christianity by the Byzantines in the year 988. They inherited from Constantinople a third gender, eunuchs. If eunuchs were often celebrated for their voluntarily celibacy in early medieval Constantinople, in Kievan Rus they came to be conceived of as physiologically deficient males. They were outsiders of patrilineal masculinity by their inability to bear heirs, and thus deemed non-worldly. As a result, they tended to be characterised in polarised terms as either demonic or angelic. When they appeared in hagiographies describing the inhabitants of Kiev’s most renowned monastery, the Kievan Caves Monastery, eunuchs came to be configured stably as exemplary ascetic models. This gave birth to a new mode of masculinity which stood in opposition to native depictions of the virile dynastic man. The legitimacy of princely masculinity was thus cast into doubt in stories about the monks of the Kievan Caves Monastery.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mayhew, Dr Nick
Authors: Mayhew, N.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Journal Name:Medieval History Journal
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN (Online):0973-0753
Published Online:15 May 2018

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