The word “harem” is an Arabic word, which actually means “a taboo.” Explanatory dictionaries say that a harem is a big room in a Muslim house, where only women live. It also means wives of a man, who owns this room. Harems are protected by castrates, and only a husband and his sons can gain access there.
Why is it implied that a harem is supposed to be in a Muslim house? This notion existed before the era of Islam.
There were tens of little rooms in the eastern part of the palace of the Persian King Xerxes for the women of the king’s harem. Each room was meant for three or four women. But the biggest harem belonged to the “king of kings” Khosrow I Anushirvan from the Sasanid Dynasty. He had 1200 women in his harem! The nature of a classic harem was formed during the era of the Sasanid dynasty, which was reigning in the Middle East from the third till the seventh centuries A.D.
The theory of harem springs from Quran. The Holy Book of Islam says that a wife is a field, and men can go to that field the way that they like and want. At first the Muslim religion stipulated that a man could have not more than only four wives. However, the Muslim prophet Muhammad had nine wives, and his harem was growing while he was aging.
Muslim philosopher Al-Ghazali explained the reason why polygamy was better than monogamy or rejection of marriage: “Why does it happen that Jesus was not married, but our prophet Mohammad had a lot of wives, although both of them devoted their lives to God? The answer to this question is as follows: the best thing to do is to unite those two things, if the chosen person is strong and powerful enough for that. Our prophet had this power and united his divine devotion and marriage.”
A Muslim man is promised to have a harem even when he goes to paradise. Quran says that his wives in heaven will be deprived of any physical or spiritual disadvantages, girls will be perfect. Muslim rulers have always had harems not only of Arab women, but also of concubines of other nations and races. Harems have almost disappeared now in those countries, when they used to prosper for ages due to the prohibition of polygamy (in Turkey, for example, in 1926).
Speaking about harems, we cannot but say something about castrates – the people that played significant roles in palace intrigues and even in politics. Chief castrate was considered to be one of the top positions in a state. Unfortunately, a man was supposed to bid farewell to the most important part of his body in order to take that position. Some medical sources say that a man, who is castrated in his mean age, preserves his reproductive ability for quite a long period of time, he can even have orgasm.
Castrates of the Roman empire had to wear a special device on their penises, which excluded any possibility for them to have sex. The same procedure was done with male singers, for it was considered that sex worsened the voice. This device looked like a condom made of iron or a ring that was put through foreskin and sealed. These things can be seen on several statues.