Giacomo Girolamo Casanova

Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice on April 5th, 1725. He was soldier, spy, diplomat, writer, and adventurer, chiefly remembered from his autobiography, which has established his reputation as the most famous erotic hero. Casanova's memoirs are a fascinating but unreliable account of his adventures with 122 women - according to his own counts - but they also provide an intimate portrait of the manners and life in the 18th century.

Born into a family of Venitian actors, Giacomo Casanova studied for the priesthood as a young man, at a Seminary in Padua. Expelled for his licentious activities, he returned to Venice by way of a secretariship in Rome to a Cardinal - from which he was promptly fired amid scandal.

Back in his home town, Casanova supported himself by conning the local nobility with a mixture of magic tricks, fake alchemy and vague occult mysticism. Rather too successful at this, he was convicted of witchcraft by the Inquisition in 1755 and imprisoned in the Doge’s palace. His manuscripts, books, works on magic, and Arentino’s book on sexual positions were seized. Casanova was denounced as a magician and sentenced for five years in lead chambers under the roof of the Doge’s Palace.

He managed to escape and flee to France where his skill in self-publicity really began to shine. A sensationalised account of his story appeared as a pamplet which lead to a sudden popularity. Styling himself ‘Jacques Casanova, the Chevalier de Seingalt’ he made a small fortune establishing a lottery.

This established a pattern for Casanova of travelling to a new country, re-mythologising himself and his history, making and then losing fortunes. In his time, he encountered such luminaries as the Pope Clement XIII (1760), Voltaire (1760), Rousseau and Mozart (1787). His legacy was ensured by the publication of his “Histoire de Ma Vie” - a document better regarded for its portrait of the social history of the Enlightenment period in continental Europe than for its strict biographical accuracy.

Once more impoverished, Casanova ended his days as the librarian to the Count of Waldstein in the castle of Dux, Bohemia (now Duchcov, Czech Republic). Casanova died on June 4, 1798. Among his last lady friend were Cecile von Roggendorf, a twenty-two-year-old canoness, and Elise von der Recke, who sent him soup and wine.

Nowadays, Casanova is better remembered as a symbol of prodigious sexual conquest then a historical figure. Despite his hetrosexual reputation, however, Giacomo Casanova the man, was gleefully bi-sexual all his life.