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Head of a Beardless Royal Attendant – Eunuch

Head of a Beardless Royal Attendant - Eunuch

Head of a Beardless Royal Attendant – Eunuch

This relief fragment shows the head of a beardless male royal attendant, possibly a Eunuch. The attendant is depicted with a hairstyle typical for an Assyrian courtier and with a large earring.

Similar earrings with three projecting studs have been discovered in the royal tombs at Nimrud, where they are made of gold and set with colorful stones.

Eunuchs played a significant role in the Assyrian court and administration and were depicted in the reliefs that decorated the palace.

This fragment comes from a large scene showing a group of beardless courtiers carrying vessels and furniture for a ceremony. As the king’s servants, they were well dressed, indicating their high status within the Assyrian court.

The reliefs discovered at the main palace at Khorsabad were ancient Dur-Sharrukin was located and was part of a collection of palaces and temples as well as the city constructed at the time of Assyrian king Sargon II (r. 721–705 B.C.). 

Building works at Dur-Sharrukin continued throughout Sargon’s reign. The reliefs at this time were extensive in scale and used high relief projecting into the background surface.

They are more rounded and modeled than the reliefs of Sargon’s predecessors or successors.

Eunuch

The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 21st century B.C. Eunuchs were usually used as slaves who had been castrated.

They were considered reliable servants for a royal court where regular access to the ruler could be used to yield influence. 

Eunuchs generally did not have loyalties to the military, the aristocracy, or a family and were thus seen as more trustworthy and less interested in establishing a private ‘dynasty.’

Sargon II

Sargon II (reigned 722–705 BC) was an Assyrian king who conquered the Kingdom of Israel and importantly conquered Babylon, thus reuniting Assyria with its southern rival, Babylonia.

In 705 BC, Sargon was killed while leading a military campaign, and his body was never recovered.

Conquest of Israel

Under Sargon II, the Assyrians defeat of the Kingdom of Israel, capturing Samaria after a siege of three years and exiling the inhabitants.

This incident became the basis of the legends of the Ten Lost Tribes. The spelling of Sargon’s name is based on the Biblical form of the name mentioned in Isaiah.

Fort Sargon

Soon after taking the throne, the Assyrian king Sargon II started constructing as a new capital city, Dur-Sharrukin, literally “Fort Sargon.”

The city measured about a square mile in area. It was enclosed within a high wall of unbaked brick and seven gates. The palace was richly decorated with relief-carved stone slabs.

Prisoners of war and deportees partly settled the town under the control of Assyrian officials, who had to make sure they were paying enough respect to the gods and the king.

Head of a Beardless Royal Attendant – Eunuch

  • Title:                Head of a Beardless Royal Attendant – Eunuch
  • Date:               721–705 B.C.
  • Found:            Mesopotamia, Khorsabad (ancient Dur-Sharrukin)
  • Materials:        Gypsum alabaster
  • Culture:           Assyrian
  • Dimensions:    21 1/2 x 19 in. (54.6 x 48.3 cm)
  • Museum:         Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Powerful Figures in History Were Actually Eunuchs

Tour of Mesopotamian Art

The Eunuch

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“Eunuchs do not take the gout, nor become bald.”
– Hippocrates

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Photo Credit: 1) JOM

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