Your RDA of Irony

The Byzantine Solution

Democracy may be the ideal state, but a castrarchy may be the most practical. A government of shriveled, emotionless drones has proven itself throughout history: the Byzantine Empire, Imperial China and the Federal Reserve Board.

We may think of our culture as the heir of Athens and Rome, but we are behaving like the reincarnation of Constantinople. How so?

The Byzantine Empire was the preeminent power of its age: a rich, sophisticated and contentious society. The Byzantines had an impressive capacity for absurdity and scandal. One faction of nobles would gleefully betray the Empire if it could make another faction look worse. Byzantine politics were vicious and convoluted. Its people would eagerly riot — be it over a horse race or a metaphysical question.

Since we have the same failings, we might consider the Byzantines’ solution: a government of eunuchs.

While the Emperor and his relatives plotted against each other, while the populace enjoyed their luxuries and vices, the eunuchs managed the Empire. In the Byzantine society, the eunuch was the equivalent of an MBA. The operations and machinations of the Empire required a corps of cold-blooded bureaucrats; and eunuchs were highly esteemed for their detachment. Their ascetic state evidently made them more rational and conscientious than the glanded gentry.

The slave markets of Constantinople could not meet the bureaucracy’s demand for eunuchs, but poor families were willing to have their sons streamlined for the fast track. Eunuchs were entrusted with the most powerful positions in the Empire. The Grand Chamberlain, the Emperor’s prime minister, was an office held exclusively by eunuchs. Indeed, the Byzantine Empire might be considered a castrarchy. The Emperor reigned, but his eunuchs ruled.

How effective was the Byzantine castrarchy? From the 6th century through the 11th century, Byzantium was the greatest power in Christendom. The Empire’s prosperity and culture presented an enviable contrast to the chaos and subsistence of western Europe. While barbarians raised their huts in the ashes of Rome, merchants and artists elevated Constantinople to the greatest city in the world. In the sixth century, Constantinople had both a university and a zoned brothel district, either of which would have been an achievement in any other society of the time.

Could the Byzantines have enjoyed such triumphs and luxuries in spite of their government? The eunuchs served the Empire as legislators, administrators, and diplomats. Some of them even overcame their stereotype and became generals. These diligent bureaucrats provided a stable foundation for a tumultuous society. In fact, Byzantium began its decline only when the Emperor began delegating government duties to his relatives instead of the eunuchs.

A castrarchy worked for Constantinople, and it would be just as successful in Washington. Embarrassment has become the American pastime, and we deserve a remedy to the unrelenting scandals and the raucous factions in our government.

Why not surgery? An outpatient procedure could accomplish far more than a congressional hearing: a guarantee of virtue. The procedure should be a prerequisite for public office. Since candidates always talk about their self-sacrifice, this would give them a chance to prove it.

Although the requirement might seem drastic, most of our incumbent candidates would make the adjustment. If forced to choose between his ego and his libido, the true politician would rather keep his office.

Indeed, they should welcome the opportunity to regain the public trust. Vying candidates could compete over who had the procedure first, and who had less anesthesia. This corporeal downsizing would also allow each political party to demonstrate its own health care plan.

For efficiency and integrity, eunuchs are nearly as good as computers. Of course, a castrarchy could not completely reform our politicians, but it would sedate them. They would have less energy to steal and less voice to lie. Our politicians would be more virtuous and dignified only for lack of hormones, but the public would be grateful for the improvement.

  1. Rene says:


  2. Cindy Starks says:

    Eugene~ Once again u have outdone yourself on this excellent, and
    timely subject. I’m thinking Anthony Weiner-distasteful though it
    is. I love so many of your clever uses of words – like «glanded
    class» and such. Anyway, although u have an exceptional
    grasp of history, I keep thinking you’re knocking the Italian and
    Catholic cultures even subconsciously. Could this b twue?

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Cara Cindy,

      First, I love the Italian culture: history, gelato, opera, pizza, art. What more could I want? If you can afford me as your gigolo, I am willing to be Marcello Mastroianni in “La Dolce Vita”. (The typecasting is obvious.)

      As for the Church…um, great interior decorating. I’d mention those flying buttresses but you’d probably slap me. But seriously, the Church is essential in studying the history of Western Civilization. It is also important in Byzantine history, with a role evolving from annoying upstart to threatening rival.

      But the Church specifically prohibited eunuchs from any clerical position except in choirs. So there were no short cuts to celibacy.


  3. Ed bedermanthanks says:

    Short cuts to celibacy….OMG

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