On the relation between testicles and vocal cords, according to Aristotle

Posted by in: Aristotle

I have almost finished working through Aristotle’s biological works, hunting for inspiration and clues. I have found much to admire: Aristotle was the head of one of the most ambitious scientific research projects ever undertaken, and the sheer mass of detail and theoretical sophistication found in the resulting works is often breathtaking. And then there are passages like this, breathtaking mainly because I’m laughing too hard to breathe properly:

All animals when castrated change over to the female state, and as their sinewy strength is slackened at its source they emit a voice similar to that of females. This slackening may be illustrated in the following way. It is as though you were to stretch a cord and make it taut by hanging some weight on to it, just as women do who weave at the loom; they stetch the warp by hanging stone weights on to it. This is the way in which the testes are attached to the seminal passages, which in their turn are attached to the blood-vessel which has its starting-point at the heart near the part which sets the voince in movement. And so, as the seminal passages undergo a change at the approach of the age when they can secrete semen, this part undergoes a simultaneous change. And as this changes, so too does the voice . . . If the testes are removed, the tautness of the passages is slackened, just as when the weight is removed from the cord or from the warp; and as this slackens, the source (or principle) which sets the voice in movement is correspondingly loosened. This then is the cause on account of which castrated animals change over to the female condition both as regards the voice and the rest of their form: it is because the principle from which the tautness of the body is derived is slackened. (Generation of Animals, V.vii, Loeb translation)