My Greek name is Aphrodite; Romans call me Venus. I was born out of the white , laced sea foam, on the Isle of Ciprus. My parents (Jupiter and Diana) loved me very much and they gave me, in the first place beauty and voluptuousness, in order to make me happy. Maybe that is why I fell in love with Adonis. I loved him so much that we were considered and worshiped as one single person in Fenicia, Astarteea, a hermaphrodite god whose statues had both genitals.
I loved to see people happy: that is why I chose that only beautiful priestesses should serve me in the temples that they had built for me. My priestesses and sometimes I myself gladly gave themselves to them in exchange to their gifts for me brought into the sacred forests. Once I fell in love with a simple but handsome shepherd, Anchise, from Mount Ida , and I had a son with him, Eneea. My story is of course very long but I only want to tell one more thing: I was the one who decided that Helen should love Paris and after the Troy was burnt I made Eneea to go to Italy.
I was born in Sicily almost 2500 years ago and when I grew up a little a was sold to the famous painter Apelles, the one who paints grapes so real that sparrows stop flying and try to eat them. And this was nothing beside the fact that they even have enough of them.
Being a beautiful slave Apelles used me as a model and educated me, education being very important for a courtesan. Thus I managed to buy my freedom back shortly after that. But I had a … principle. I only gave pleasure to the one I liked. Demostene, the great speaker, for example, had to give up eventually, though he used all his eloquence, I must admit it. But I had a soft heart for Diogenes, my sweet cynic. And one night I even slept in his barrel surrounded by lanterns…
This doesn’t mean that I hadn’t experienced failures as well. Xenocrates, one of Socrates’ disciples, resisted me although I tried to rouse him all night long, all possible ways I knew how. When I was getting off in the morning, so upset that I asked gods to make me justice, Xenocrates looked at me indifferently and said, “Don’t you know, Lais, that such jokes leave us, intellectuals, cold?”
Though I only wrote poems my life is a … novel. I loved Pan and Daphne’s games. My temperament burst like a volcano ever since I was a child. That explains my early marriage to Kerkolos, a virile man who looked like he was going to get me. But it was only an opinion because I exhausted him quickly and I became a widow. Trying to extenuate myself, mentally, I gathered around me a group of young girls and I started teaching them about my new philosophy of life that started from the idea that ” every sex should concentrate and materialize within itself…” Rumors said that it wasn’t an “Academy” but a “prostitution school”. An extremely wrong opinion because I was always so reach that I never had to sell myself. My students were not prostitutes but libertines. I taught them not to let themselves dominated by earthly, but by the “exciting transcendental”. And it happened exactly when I was in love with Phaon the boatman who despised me. That did not stop him from taking advantage of my students’ art. And what about me? I was writing him poems about “the pain of the pleasure”, “of the shuddering flesh in the moment of the supreme lust”. It is maybe the reason that made me think about suicide, about throwing myself into Helenspont. What will remain after me? Shouts, spasms, convulsions in the moment of the supreme lust, all of them being described in my 9 volumes of poems and on my tombstone in Lesbos.
LUCRECE OF BORGIA
My family is from Spain and they had one ambition: to dominate Italy. For this we wouldn’t stop from using all possible means: poison, dagger, corruption, incest, adultery… And I, thought as educated and extremely intelligent, had added to this list my beauty. Some said it was evil because I managed to corrupt my father and my brothers because of it. Yet I had 3 husbands. In order to conquer and then eliminate them my trusting help used the dagger like nobody else. I was in charge with the poison becoming an exquisite artist. Nothing has stopped me from gathering around me scientists, artists, poets and among them Ariosto and Benebo, the ones that I really loved.
There were courtesans, scientists, painters and writers all over my parlors. The best example for me was the famous courtesan Imperia the one that taught me the subtle art of gallantry. When I saw her “national” funerals, in 1511, though she was old, I understood that love and not poison is the most terrible weapon. The epitaph on her tombstone tells us about her 1000 lovers and it got stuck on my mind, “As a little girl I loved full of hope, as an adult I love with passion and as an old lady I loved with my memory.”
NINON de l’ENCLOS
I don’t know if you believe me but I was the protge of Cardinal do Richelieu when I was 16. I cared for him very much because he left me life annuity of 2000 livres. He also made others look at me and lots of admirers started surrounding me. A real Academy: Conde, Sevigne, Ramouillet, the scientist Huyghens, the musician Lulli, Boilleau, La Fontaine, Moliere .. My unexpected and even not-looked-for success made a lot of people envious at me, among them Anna of Austria, the queen that could never forgive me for being with old Richelieu; that’s why she managed to put me in prison under the charge of corrupting…the youth. But the members of my Academy came to my rescue and there they were, in my little palace, the most attractive reunions, where aristocrats and artists, scientists were all getting on together. In my books everyone can see their names: a) the ones who paid. b) the ones who waited for their turn. c) the ones with no fee. I kept this book until I got 80 but there wasn’t any man who took advantage of my charms for more than 3 months. The only exception was Voltaire. I left him also a sum of money to buy…books.
And now, in the end, I wander how I had so much success. I think I have the answer: I never said “ni non” in love and that is also the source of my name…