- A casanova in today's usage is an unprincipled ladies' man, a libertine, a rake, dedicated to the gratification of his lust. Such a person was Giovanni Jacopo Casanova de Siengalt (1725-1798), born into a theatrical family. As a young man he played the violin in a Venetian restaurant, but then matriculated at a seminary, from which he was expelled for making licentious remarks and for immoral conduct. After a few more efforts to adjust to gainful employment, he became a traveler from capital to capital, displaying a charm that made women easy prey. Casanova meant no harm; he was a pleasant, likable person. All he wanted to do was make love to women. He bragged about his prowess and claimed to have bedded thousands of willing women.Mis engaging personality and incisive wit gave him access to such distinguished giants as Voltaire, Catherine the Great of Russia, and Prussia's Frederick the Great. He became secretary and librarian to Count von Waldstein of Bohemia, a position that gave him the opportunity to write his Memoirs (in twelve volumes). The memoirs were racy and described his amorous adventures and intrigues.With the exception of Don Juan, Casanova was the unrivaled "Lover of Women," on whom he thrived. He employed bizarre tricks to lure them, such as the "oyster game," in which he and his woman friend would eat oysters from each other's mouths. As long as he could, he thrived on seduction, but death took away his pleasures at age seventythree. in Greek legend, Cassandra, the daughter of Hecuba and Priam, the king of Troy, was given the power to prophesy by Apollo; but the god, being sexually greedy, was keenly disappointed by Cassandra's refusal to let him partake of her favors. And so he brought it to pass that, although she could retain the gift of prophecy, no one would ever believe her. Thus her warnings about Troy's plight were ignored; and even though she foretold the fall of Troy, her prophecies were disregarded. Before uttering her prophecies, Cassandra went into an ecstatic trance; her family believed her to be mad. When Paris, Cassandra's brother, first came to Troy, she realized his identity, although he had been exposed on Mount Ida as an infant and was unknown to his parents. She foretold the harm that Paris would do by going to Sparta (where he abducted Helen), and she also knew the dangers concealed within the Wooden Horse. But her warnings went entirely unheeded by the Trojans. And so the story ends; Troy was captured and burned. In today's usage, a Cassandra is still regarded as a person whose prophecies go unheeded, but also is considered one who prophesies disaster.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.