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, but some people say there is something sensual (and annoying?) in them and in our Latin cousins, something that is felt as sinful and almost amoral but, for this same reason, irresistible (did a star like Madonna build her career partially on this ambiguity? I have to think about it.)
In other posts (see a list at the bottom) we had supposed some connection between Latin people’s 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.
Today we will try to understand a bit the phenomenon of Don Juanism.
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 get to the South of the peninsula, where traditions – good or bad – 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. South Italian men try to seduce women, no matter what or how: they think they are all Casanovas.
And what about the Italian women? They are very provocative too in their own way although we will here 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
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 the flowers from tourists on 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.
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 (Caesar was possibly bisexual,) with Cleopatra queen of Egypt, with Eunoe queen of Mauritania. He slept with many of his soldiers (possible but not sure.) He chose himself extremely beautiful male slaves (in secret, same-sex love being not such a misdeed in Rome though less accepted than it was in Greece.)
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 Suplitius; even to Mutia, the wife of Pompey, to whom he later gave his 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.
Ok, ok, ok.
(if these were the ways of the best man in Rome …)
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)