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Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)

Julius Caesar

Don Juanism

Why Casanova was Italian and Don Juan was Spanish? And this craze about Rudolph Valentino and this helluva Latin lover thing? Italians do it better?

Not so sure though someone says there’s something sensual (and annoying?) in them and in our Latin cousins, something felt as sinful and almost amoral but, for this same reason, irresistible.

[Did a star like Madonna build her career partially upon this and other ambiguities? I'll think about it]

ψ

In other posts (see a list at the bottom) we had supposed connections between Latin folks’ behaviours and pre-Christian sexual mores.

In our last post we have imagined a connection between Italian cynicism and possible survivals of Paganism in our country.

It is time today to fathom a bit the phenomenon of Don Juanism.

Irritating Behaviours

Some Italian behaviours are irritating, without a doubt.

When the young males from here go to Oktoberfest in Munich, Bavaria, as soon as everybody is drunk they think they are entitled to seduce ALL the German women around, and of course they are very much frowned upon.

When I was a silly teenager, I confess we used to hunt for female tourists all over the historical centre of Rome. We did this rationally, exactly like hunters do, and of course the majority of the women weren’t so happy about it (well, the minority was our shameless, or shameful, reward.)

This behaviour was sort of common to all Italians (more or less) but now it only gets marked the closer one gets to the South of the peninsula, where good or bad traditions are preserved.

The men from the Italian South tend to be sexually free, while the women are kept under control (or kinda.)

A patriarchal behaviour that is still alive in many Islamic societies (see Ahmed Abd el-Gawwad, a Naguib Mahfouz’s character) and whose roots are prior to the Greco-Romans.

ψ

South Italian men try to seduce women, no matter what, when, how: they think they are all Casanovas.

And the Italian women? They are very provocative too in their own way although here we will concentrate on the men.

[Sept 2013 update: examples of South Italian women's provocative behaviour are provided by some characters depicted by Andrea Camilleri in inspector Montalbano's series of novels and TV series]

Another Side of Julius Caesar

Caesar's bronze statue (modern copy) in Rome, via dei Fori Imperiali

There is something we have to understand. Searching far back in the past might shed light on present behaviours. Let us consider one of the most admired (and loved) Romans of all times, Julius Caesar (see above flowers from tourists at the feet of his majestic bronze statue.)

He had greatness in all he did, such a supreme soul, more rational than Alexander, abstemious, with intense intellect, courage, utmost strength and daring even in old age.

He had a great vision and many historians think today that without Caesar the Greco-Roman world could have perished many centuries earlier with massive consequences, which makes him even more a giant compared to the average man.

[below an updated Feb-2014-related-posts list]

Caesar's daughter Julia, wife to Pompey

Julia, Caesar’s daughter, became Pompey’s wife. Pompey was Caesar’s friend, ally, relative. Caesar nonetheless cuckolded him

And yet there is another side of Julius Caesar we might like less.

He was totally addicted to sexual pleasure (only ambition in him was greater, argues Montaigne) and he endangered his career a few times because of this.

Caesar was very good-looking and narcissistic. He tried to hide his thinning hair (like our prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.) He plucked the hairs of his body and made use of the most exquisite perfumes. He liked his skin to be as perfect as that of a woman.

He changed wife four times. He probably had an affair with the King of Bithynia Nicomedes IV (was Caesar bisexual? read here,) with Cleopatra queen of Egypt, with Eunoe queen of Mauritania. He perhaps slept with many of his soldiers.

He chose himself extremely beautiful male slaves (same-sex love not being such a misdeed in Rome provided men took the dominant, penetrative, role: read here.)

He cuckolded and was made a cuckold. He made love to Tertulla, the wife of Crassus; to Lollia, the wife of Gabinus; to Posthumia, the wife of Servius Sulpicius; even to Murcia, the wife of Pompey, to whom he later gave his beloved daughter Julia as a wife.

He also had a life-long affair with Servilia, the sister of Cato the younger, his great enemy. Servilia was the mother of Marcus Brutus, one of Caesar’s murderers – and possibly Caesar’s son.

ψ

Ok, ok, ok.

(if these were the ways of the best man in Rome …)

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

[Note. All anecdotes regarding Caesar's sex life are from Suetonius' Caesar]

Related posts:

Sex and the city (of Rome). A Conclusion
“Italians are Cynical, Amoral, Religiously Superficial”
Survivals of the Roman Goddess Fortuna (comments section)

Sex and the city (of Rome) 1
Sex and the city (of Rome) 2

Sex and the city (of Rome) 3
Sex and the city (of Rome) 4

About Caesar and France:

Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow
France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome
Conquest Of Gaul. Debate On Julius Caesar’s Conduct, Motives, Achievements (2)

On Caesar opening a ‘New Frontier’ to the Mediterranean and shaping the future of the ‘West':

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When North-West Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)

About Man of Roma

I am a man from Rome, Italy. I’m 60 and a Roman since many generations. In my blog, manofroma.wordpress.com, I’m writing down my meditations. The idea behind it all is that something 'ancient' is still alive in the true Romans of today, of which few are left.

30 responses »

  1. I am not qualified enough to comment, but as a foreigner and an observer, I am extremely intrigued and amazed to read this! And slightly amused to read of your exploits :)

    Reply
  2. @Nomad

    Thank you Nomad. I wonder what amazes you.
    This ‘Latin lover’ thing is unpleasant – I’m wondering if people will ever believe me – since there is narcissism, some subtle violence towards women and lack of comprehension of their nature (btw, I just received an e-mail attack from a dear friend of mine, a woman, that I will publish, if she agrees).

    I mean, a woman can be attracted to a Latin lover, but then what is left to her in case she falls in love? A Casanova will be never satisfied. In a way, he is not a free man. I wonder if to Caesar these were only negligible recreations.

    When I argue that the ancient pre-Christian West had a healthier view of love and sex I am not conducting a battle for free love like the hippies. I’m just saying these things should be / were regarded as a gift and a joy, not a disgusting sin.

    My exploits? OMG, OMG, such a ridiculous thing I am ashamed of …
    :mrgreen:

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow « Man of Roma

  4. @ I was amazed as I did not know of this trend of thought, I mean specifically in Italians. I know it exists in men from other countries as well. It is certainly very annoying (and may even be) humiliating to women who face such behavior from men. To me it suggests that the man feels he is extremely desirable, and discounts any opportunity that the woman might deserve to form an opinion about him. I don’t know if I explained that well.

    In regards to ‘healthier view of love and sex’, there is a lot that I feel strongly about the things going on in India too nowaday. Suddenly there is this fanaticism about puritanism, and suggestions that this is the “true” Indian culture. I had written before (an unrelated topic, http://mirrorcracked.wordpress.com/2008/10/31/wr-r-u/#comment-4590) that traditions and people are ever-changing, ever-evolving, …some people even want to push things back, by a few decades or centuries, implying that era was the real thing.

    I find it strange that many things are taken as almost perverse or sinful now, were enjoyed in a much more healthier way thousands of years back. And women were better off then in fact.

    Reply
  5. @Nomad

    To me it suggests that the man feels he is extremely desirable, discounts any opportunity that the woman might deserve to form an opinion about him

    You mean, this type of Latin lover acts too quickly in his seduction attempts, counting only on his charm, so that the woman cannot form an opinion about him? Or that he doesn’t care much about what happens inside the mind of the woman? Or probably both?

    As far as I know about the woman-man relationship, the woman can be attracted to a man quickly too (I mean visually), but she needs time to really desire a man, she needs to know him, his mind & qualities etc. better. To a man these things are very important too, of course, but what can trigger immediate action is sometimes just a visual thing about the woman. Of course men who only act like that are superficial, and waste what could be, in due time, a magic experience. I today don’t believe in this type of promiscuity. It leads to unhappiness.

    In regards to ‘healthier view of love and sex’, there is a lot that I feel strongly about the things going on in India too nowaday. Suddenly there is this fanaticism about puritanism …I find it strange that many things are taken as almost perverse or sinful now, were enjoyed in a much more healthier way thousands of years back.

    What I am fearing is this growth of fundamentalism everywhere. It is contagious. During the Renaissance, when Catholic Rome was getting back to some freedom of mores the protestants popped up (Luther, Calvin etc.) and split Christianity. They were much stricter the Protestants often, and Rome had to counter-react and all became suffocating again: Inquisition, witch hunts, wars of religion, horrible killings for centuries in Europe.

    At present I am fearing the Muslim fanatics (most of the Muslims are moderate though). The Muslim revolution started in Iran but today, especially from 9/11 onwards, it is again triggering fundamentalism to spread. Is fanaticism again contagious? For example I’ve read Muslim and Christian fanatics are becoming allied in creationism … and from many Indian bloggers I learn Hindu fanaticism is growing too. I fear this disease spreading, yes, I’ll repeat that.

    As for the concept of ‘sin’, it is something regarding the Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism), I think. Does it exists in the Hindu religion as well? If it doesn’t, and people in India talk about it, it could be derived from Islam (all the invasions you have had in the past) and from Christianity (the Victorians). Hard topics, though interesting.

    My best regards

    [update 2011: now I know the notion of sin and purification from it exists (and existed) both in India and in ancient Greco-Roman mystery religions but not in Homeric religion]

    Reply
  6. :) I meant the latter,
    “that he doesn’t care much about what happens inside the mind of the woman”

    In a quickfix approach one is missing out on the possible depth (and vastness) of love, the contentment of affection and togetherness, the strength one draws from trust, the endurance that comes from mutual understanding and the fun of growing old together :)

    Reply
  7. @Nomad

    Yes, Nomad. I fully agree on all. And I also fully agree on the beauty and fun of growing old together with a partner, which has been something unexpected to me, in some way. :-)

    Reply
  8. lichanos commented on another post of this blog:

    When I was a student visiting Italy, I observed many, what you call “silly teenagers,” who were “hunting” female tourists. I always wondered what makes them act so? Thanks for explaining…
    Ciao!

    Well, what’s incredible (and somewhat moronic) is that not only teenagers here are that silly.

    Reply
  9. *looks suspiciously* Remind me to never discuss my sex life [if I ever have one!] with you. :P

    Reply
  10. @Ashish

    Ah ah ah … as I commented at your blog just now, let the pseudo sages blabber a bit. They don’t bite after all :-)

    Reply
  11. @Man Of Roma

    If one thing I learnt from your blog then it is:

    To be as powerful and great leader like Caesar, you got to have multiple affairs. That’s what they mean by “Follow thy leader” :P
    I believe Ceasar led by example!!! :) ;) :P

    Reply
    • You seem to be pulling my leg this time, Falcon, you irreverent rascal! :-)

      How can you have learnt this from my blog… In any case, to your discontent (and Ashish’s), posts on Sex and the city (of Rome) will be less and less in my blog :-)

      PS
      I am writing this assuming you meant ‘lovers’ by affairs. Or maybe I got it all wrong, your Indian mind being complicated.

      Reply
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  18. Shocking, I know, but I love Ruth Orkin’s photograph American Girl in Italy.

    The story behind the photograph is fabulous: the girl in the photo was a friend of Ruth’s and the photo is one in a series that they snapped that day. In other words, it was kinda staged, or, rather, Ruth and the girl in the photo were sort of playing along, or at least hoping for the outcome we see. That’s the fun subtext to a picture that seems to say one thing, but really slyly says something rather different. Not clear who is the subject of whom.

    Or, that’s the way I look at it.

    Reply
    • Shocking, I know, but I love Ruth Orkin’s photograph American Girl in Italy.

      [update: Jenny, I saw almost ALL Ruth Orkin's pics she shot in Italy: they are just amazing (and so ... sexy)]

      Shocking? Seductive Jenny… :mrgreen: (it is tempting to imagine it is our common Mediterranen heritage why not)

      At any rate Gosh Jenny that picture is wonderful plus tremendously true not matter if it was staged (Ruth’s friend? ah).

      And said by YOU now, an American girl in an Italian blog … lemme do everyone a favour and shut my mouth up at least once.

      Fortunately (or unfortunately) Italy is not like that anymore. As I said when I wrote this post on Jan 5 2009 such male behaviours are still displayed in the South a bit (my ‘mentor’ in ehm girl hunting was my *eldest brother* who was half Tuscan half from a South place not far from Naples).

      Well, the South, where most Italian Americans came from, is poorer than the rest but it really should be given loads of money from Unesco for the sheer reason it preserves our Italian culture(s) so linked to a far away past- I’ll never get tired to repeat such notion in this darn blog.

      Women out there are still females in a great sense, and men males – ie seductive, no filters, no hypocrisy (pre-Christian allow Jenny: Jews are different I imagine: it was the Chruch fathers, the Church fathers …).
      And even our PM Berlusconi, a North Italian man, allegedly supposedly purportedly ;-) went there trolling trolling trolling like mad. He really did. It is a given.

      And (I strongly disliking our PM, this be forever clear) I frankly don’t give a damn if South people are outdated, anti-feministic and the rest. I adore them and I could even buy a little thing in Sicily or Apulia to spend more time with Antiquity (sex being just a very small part of a much bigger fascinating thing).

      Amen

      Reply
      • Oh, let’s do it, Roma! (Get that UNESCO funding for the South, I mean.)

        I’m diggin’ this idea.

        It’ll be just like our Colonial Williamsburg, except instead of wearing bonnets and demonstrating basket weaving, the local women will be paid to wear skirts that are too tight. And men will be subsidized for hooting and hollering at them on the streets.

        I already have an ad campaign in mind. We’ll use Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo” — Americans will eat it up.
        ;)

        Reply
      • I forgot to say:

        Amen

        Reply
      • Jenny, you mean a planned community like the one you mention?

        WOW WOW!

        You be my guide in this great project. You know the American mind better.

        You instruct the local women by showing them first since after all any ‘art’ is taught by example.

        It will all end up in mesmerizing *saturnalia* each month, or each week why not life is so short.
        :oops:

        Reply
  19. So you mean this Jenny: YEES!
    ;-)

    Just a gigolo
    everywhere I go
    people know the part
    I’m playing

    Paid for every dance
    selling each romance
    every night some heart
    betraying

    There will come a day
    youth will pass away
    then what will they say
    about me

    When the end comes I know
    they’ll say just a gigolo
    as life goes on
    without me

    ‘Cause I aint got nobody
    nobody nobody cares for me
    I’m so sad and lonely
    sad and lonely sad and lonely
    Won’t some sweet mama
    come and take a chance with me
    cause I aint so bad

    Get along with me babe,
    been singin love songs
    All of the time
    Even only be, honey only, only be
    Bop bozadee bozadee bop zitty bop

    I ain’t got nobody ‘cept love songs in love
    Hummala bebhuhla zeebuhla boobuhla
    hummala bebhuhla zeebuhla bop

    I ain’t got nobody, nobody,
    nobody cares for me
    Nobody , nobody
    I’m so sad and lonely,
    sad and lonely,
    sad and lonely,
    Won’t some sweet mama come
    and take a chance with me
    cause I aint so bad

    Get along with me babe,
    been singin love songs
    All of the time
    Even only be, honey only, only be

    Reply
  20. Pingback: Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When West / North Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1) | Man of Roma

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