41

This came up on another question, where in A Song of Ice and Fire (the books Game of Thrones is based on), the Unsullied have all of their genitalia removed, not just the penis.

"In Yunkai and Meereen, eunuchs are often made by removing a boy's testicles, but leaving the penis. Such a creature is infertile, yet often still capable of erection. Only trouble can come of this. We remove the penis as well, leaving nothing. The Unsullied are the purest creatures on the earth." He gave Dany and Arstan another of his broad white smiles. "I have heard that in the Sunset Kingdoms men take solemn vows to keep chaste and father no children, but live only for their duty. Is it not so?"

-- A Storm of Swords, chapter Daenerys II

Removal of the penis makes sense in such a context, both to force obedience and to degrade the soldiers, but if you castrate a man then he loses most/all(?) of his ability to produce testosterone. Testosterone, being desirable for a soldier that relies on strength and fighting prowess, would be foolish to get rid of.

So for a (supposedly) elite army, why would it make sense to do so?

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    Doesn't the Good Master answer your question in the quote you included? The logic is quite clearly spelled out. Or are you asking whether we agree with it? – Andres F. May 24 at 14:44
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    @AndresF. The quote goes from a starting position of castrating but leaving the penis, and concludes it's better to remove it as well. It doesn't cover the situation where you just remove the penis, since that achieves aims such as infertility while preserving testosterone production. – adickinson May 24 at 14:50
  • You're right, I misread your question. – Andres F. May 24 at 17:09
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    Rulers in many cultures have used eunuchs in personal bodyguards, and especially as harem guards, so there have historically been military units made up of eunuchs. – Davislor May 24 at 22:44
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    If the Unsullied are highly disciplined and well trained soldiers, they should do well in battle against less well trained foes, even against enemies who had more testosterone and more muscle. Remember that the ancient Gauls and Germans were much bigger and scarier than the Romans, but for centuries the Romans usually defeated the Gauls and Germans. – M. A. Golding May 25 at 15:37
67

The unsullied are an analog of the Roman Legion.

The most important quality in a legionnaire wasn't his testosterone fueled aggression, it was discipline.

In fact - when holding a shield wall - the last thing you wanted was a hothead beside you breaking formation and bringing the attack to the enemy. You held, the guys behind you pistoned their spears forwards between your shields, you did up close work with your Gladius (short sword).

Fully castrating the unsullied removed a major distraction, their upbringing/training forged them into perfect Legionnaires. They ignore wounds, hold the shield wall, and slowly and carefully wear down their attackers. They were made almost into automata, no humanity, no distractions. They would hold or advance as commanded, regardless of what was thrown at them.

Their lack of testosterone worked in their masters favor.

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    Although I entirely agree with this answer about the superiority of fighting skills and teamwork, I'm extremely skeptical about both the validity of the reasoning behind the Unsullied and the likelihood that any fighting force would actually employ such methods. Castration wasn't necessary for teamwork, as that very Roman Legion shows. And sex is far from the only thing distracting a fighter, yet the masters of the Unsullied insist that they can train them to avoid motivations such as wealth or power or friendship. – Adamant May 24 at 14:48
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    @Adamant: In formulating arguments for why an ancient order of slavers would mutilate boys in specific ways to make them a better army, I find I have sickened myself of the conversation (this is not your fault). I'm done mate. – Binary Worrier May 24 at 15:42
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    @Adamant surely this isn't the first time you've seen people with a strongly held belief with no basis in science? – Paul May 24 at 21:27
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    There are plenty of Roman historical accounts celebrating this or that roman legionary soldier that took the initiative of some military action that turned the odds of the fight in favour of the Romans. The very concept of maniple was based on the idea that legionaries should be allowed to have decision initiative in fight, something the unsullied lack completely. So I don't find the analogy particularly appropriate. – Patrick Trentin May 26 at 18:10
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    It strikes me that a closer analog to the Unsullied would be the Janissaries of the Ottoman empire. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissaries, they were "forced into circumcision and supervised 24 hours a day by eunuchs. They were subjected to severe discipline, being prohibited from growing a beard, taking up a skill other than soldiering, and marrying", which makes them quite different to Roman legionnaires, who although disciplined, were more like free citizens, who did not have such personal restrictions placed upon them. – Michael MacAskill May 26 at 22:53
63
+100

The existing answers already cover the question, I will just add a quote, from the same chapter as yours, where Daenerys had the same concerns and poses the same question to Kraznys mo Nakloz:

Some of the soldiers were tall and some were short. They ranged in age from fourteen to twenty, she judged. Their cheeks were smooth, and their eyes all the same, be they black or brown or blue or grey or amber. They are like one man, Dany thought, until she remembered that they were no men at all. The Unsullied were eunuchs, every one of them. "Why do you cut them?" she asked Kraznys through the slave girl. "Whole men are stronger than eunuchs, I have always heard."

"A eunuch who is cut young will never have the brute strength of one of your Westerosi knights, this is true," said Kraznys mo Nakloz when the question was put to him. "A bull is strong as well, but bulls die every day in the fighting pits. A girl of nine killed one not three days past in Jothiel's Pit. The Unsullied have something better than strength, tell her. They have discipline. We fight in the fashion of the Old Empire, yes. They are the lockstep legions of Old Ghis come again, absolutely obedient, absolutely loyal, and utterly without fear." -- A Storm of Swords, chapter Daenerys II

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    I wonder how trustworthy the castrated men are afterwards. Some years ago, due to tumours, my cat had to be castrated. I took it to the vets and collected it the next day. It was very angry and spitting at me on the way home and spent the next six years scratching at me and hissing and generally trying to kill me without mercy.... clearly it blamed me for it's new lifestyle – DannyMcG May 24 at 19:08
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    @DannyMcG the imperial Chinese seemed to believe castration made some courtiers more trustworthy. History shows they were treacherous. – Andres F. May 24 at 22:28
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    @DannyMcG I have seen similar behavior changes in cats and dogs after major surgery. I hate to say it, but it is possible that the animal had an allergic reaction to anesthesia and/or a temporary interruption of oxygen that caused neurological damage. A very sad situation, and one that does not apply well to the question being discussed. – krb May 25 at 17:45
  • @krb Never heard of this. Um, is this a known thing in humans, too? – A. B. May 25 at 21:36
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    Humans generally get a higher level of medical care so hopefully it doesn't happen. But I have seen several animals, especially cats, that had this type of personality change after being sedated for surgery. – krb May 25 at 21:39
17

Soldiers do not need to be strong to fight. Soldiers do not need to be skilled at fighting to fight well. All a soldier needs to be able to do is obey orders without question or hesitation. And most importantly to never break formation or retreat from the fight.

Battles--especially during the middle ages--are fought until one side loses the will to fight. War is not about killing your enemy it is about convincing your enemy to give up and stop resisting. They are about breaking your enemies will to fight, so that they become subservient to you.

The unsullied are an elite army because they are disciplined and do not fear death or pain. They will continue on fighting when other soldiers would have run in terror for their lives.

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    @adickinson: You're assuming a eunuch won't build muscle because the don't produce testerone. They will build muscle, just not as quickly as a man with working testes. The unsullied train and work out, they have plenty of muscle. – Binary Worrier May 24 at 14:44
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    @adickinson Someone with more testosterone and the same amount of training is more likely to have the muscle to carry those. But, in a face-off between two armies, resolve and aggression are the absolute first priority. This has to do with many factors - battle fatigue, the reluctance of solders' to kill other people, the front rows' reluctance to attack (and likely die), etc. Discipline is also by far the most important thing during actual fighting, since it prevents fear and shock from interfering with good judgment. As for heavy stuff, well, it's good, but light stuff can be good too. – Misha R May 24 at 16:46
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    @adickinson Note, though, that the Unsullied are not near as heavily armored as Westerosi knights. – Geobits May 24 at 18:41
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    @EvilSnack Strength was crucial for archers, since the range and power of the shot depended on it. This went doubly for archers of the medieval battlefield, considering that longbows drew about 100 lbs of force. A successful medieval archer had to be very powerfully built. The bows used by horseback archers weren't as strong, but horseback archers needed exceptional lower body strength if they wanted good stability and aim. The idea that archers didn't need a lot of strength comes more from fantasy and D&D than from real life. – Misha R May 24 at 23:47
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    Soldiers do not need to be strong to fight. Soldiers do not need to be skilled at fighting to fight well. All a soldier needs to be able to do is obey orders without question or hesitation I don't know a time in history where that has ever been true, so, citation needed – Gaius May 27 at 13:44
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It is worth mentioning that the Unsullied were never really meant to operate as a whole elite army.

They were known as the best infantry in the world, but mostly sold as slaves perhaps in batches of 10 to 100. Not necessarily just to regents intending to use them in war, but to also to merchants and similar, who wished to use them in times of peace.

Clients who perhaps wished to avoid having soldiers constantly in search for either money, booze or women. And so their discipline outside combat might be just as important as their discipline in combat. Idle, undisciplined soldiers means trouble.

-3

It's just a splashy shock element for TV entertainment.

There is no sane reason why one would want to do this, nor an explanation inhowfar it might be beneficial or even non-detrimental. It's just "Woah, gross. An army of eunuch robots, they gotta be super tough".

Realistically, castrating adolescent boys (and traumatizing them further, as depicted) will not only give you adult men which are not "men" by their externally observable appearance or the insignificant fact that they have no reproductive organs. It will give you an army of seriously disabled, disturbed individuals which are very much unsuitable as soldiers, let alone an intimidating army.

Leaving out some other very practical problems, just look at testosterone (which is really only one small thing in the big picture). Any serious testosterone deficiency, let alone complete absence does desastrous things in adults, and even moreso in adolescents.

Testosterone is not just about growing muscle and being aggressive. Lack of testosterone causes very significant physical and psychological deficiencies, such as short statue, gynecomastia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, a diversity of minor psychological conditions.
And finally, yes, it also causes bad skeletal muscle performance. None of that is what makes an elite soldier or an elite guard, it's pretty much the opposite of what you want. Especially where it comes to the "anxiety" part.

That, and your men will not even look like men because their faces will forever remain the faces of 12-14 year old boys. Put them in black leather and give them nothing but a shield and a spear when even the most uninformed horse-banging Dothraki realizes the occasional usefulness of using a bow in combat. Awesome.

I mean, what's the purpose of such an army? Unless your enemy dies from laughing, there's no way such an army could be victorious.

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    The 3000 of Qohor disagree with the fact that an unsullied is bad against a dothraki. It may be unrealistic and/or have serious consequences (see the other answers), but the fact is, unsullied are elite soldiers in-universe. – Kepotx May 27 at 11:35

protected by Aegon May 27 at 11:15

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