South African Medical Journal

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Congenital eunuchism and favorinus

F P Retief, J F G Cilliers


Ancient Hebrew literature as well as the New Testament differentiate between castrated eunuchs and congenital eunuchs. Congenital eunuchism is very rare today, and assuming that this was also the case in classical times, we investigated possible reasons why congenital eunuchs feature prominently. We discuss the probability that the concept `congenital eunuchism' might in ancient times have included effeminate men who, according to cultural views on `maleness' and androgyny, were almost equated with eunuchs. The causes of congenital hypogonadism are reviewed in order to attempt clarification of the condition of Favorinus, a congenital eunuch in the second century AD. We suggest that although he might have been a true hermaphrodite, as suggested by some s, it is more likely that he had one of the following conditions: functional prepubertal castrate syndrome, testicular gonadotrophin insensitivity, selective gonadotrophin deficiency or Reifenstein's syndrome.

(South African Medical Journal: 2003 93(1): 73-76)

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