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 the list at the bottom) we had supposed some connection between Latin people’s behaviours and pre-Christian sexual mores. In our last post we presumed a connection between Italian cynicism and possible survivals of Paganism in our country.
Today we will try to understand the phenomenon of Don Juanism a bit.
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 but now it only gets marked the closer we get to the South of the peninsula, where traditions – good or bad – are preserved.
The males from the Italian South tend to be sexually free, while the women are kept under control (or kinda.) A patriarchal behaviour 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. Southern 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, but in this post we will concentrate on the men.
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 lack of 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 the skin 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.
Ok, ok, ok.
(if these were the ways of the best man in Rome …)
About Caesar and France: