The custom of employing eunuchs—men who have been castrated—as servants in wealthy or royal households dates back millennia. In ancient China and the Middle East, eunuchs acted as guards in harems and as chamberlains to kings. The confidential position enabled them to exert considerable influence over their masters. Use of eunuchs in royal courts peaked during the Byzantine Empire and faded with the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Whose assassin's killer castrated himself to avoid sexual temptation?
Henry David Thoreau
Back in the day
More than 100 years after Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was hanged for the alleged murder, dismemberment, and basement burial of his second wife, the controversial case continues to captivate. The case is compelling not only because it is so gruesome but also because Crippen became an international fugitive, fleeing with his lover aboard a Canada-bound ocean liner, and was the first criminal apprehended with the help of radiotelegraphy. What new evidence has called Crippen's guilt into question?
Born on a day like today
Alfonso X, son and successor of Ferdinand III, sought to become Holy Roman Emperor but eventually renounced his claim due to Spanish antagonism and papal opposition. He crushed revolts by Muslims in 1252 and nobles in 1254, but once his eldest son was killed while fighting the Moors in 1275, civil war for succession broke out between Ferdinand's children and Alfonso's second son, who succeeded him as Sancho IV. Why is Alfonso depicted in the House of Representatives chamber of the US Capitol?