Reference is made to lovers, those fellow humans with the knack of persuading others to fall in love with them or at the very least fall in bed with them. We seem to be endlessly fascinated by these people, even if it's because we love to hate those whom so many love.
A logical place to start is with someone whose very name is a synonym for a great lover.
Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice around 1725. His father was a cobbler, and his mother an inattentive actress. He claimed his first memory was his grandma bringing his sickly 8-year-old body to a healer who did exotic things to his nakedness.
A year later, his Latin teacher posed this question: Why was the Latin noun for male sexual equipment a feminine noun, and the exact opposite for female sexual equipment? Casanova replied, 'Disce quad a domino nomina servus habet," i.e., 'It is because the slave takes his name from his master."
At 17, he lost his virginity to a couple of orphaned sisters. Over the next generation, he paused in his careers as gambler, spy, writer and violinist to seduce some 120 women, including a couple of nuns from the same convent.
Casanova claimed that as often as not, he was the victim rather than the victimizer and that, even more often than that, his affairs were good things and a good time was had by all.
Yet in his old age, a librarian for a rich man, he wrote, "Let him who has set his foot on the birdlime of love try to draw it back and not entangle his wings in it, for love is nothing but madness, according to the universal judgment of the wise."
Another lover whose very name became part of the language was Errol Flynn, a handsome, mustached Australian who became a swashbuckling movie star in the 1930s, starring in hits like Robin Hood and The Charge of the Light Brigade.
His off-screen career was even more eventful, bedding down fellow stars like Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner. After her death, he described how Mexican starlet Lupe Veloz could rotate and counter-rotate her left breast, "a feat so supple and beautiful you couldn't believe your eyes."
He once had a married lover that he took to New Orleans. To assure privacy, he rented a Mississippi River steamboat and cruised up and down for five days.
But his name took on legendary proportions when he was arrested in 1943 and charged with statutory rape for high jinx with a couple of teenagers on his yacht. His lawyers wisely arranged a jury of mostly women, and he was found not guilty, but the catchphrase "In like Flynn" became slang shorthand for sexual success.
Flynn claimed he was never truly happy after that trial, and he drank himself to death at 50. But not before he'd heard his mother tell reporters this of his early years: "Errol was a nasty little boy."
In terms of sheer numbers, it would be hard to top Wilt Chamberlain.
Wilt is the 7-footer who became probably the most spectacular pro basketball player of all time. "Wilt the Stilt" once scored 100 points in one game and averaged 50 per game over a season.
But his numbers off the court were even more impressive.
In his 1991 autobiography, Chamberlain estimated that he'd had what he termed "encounters" with 20,000 different women. At his age, that would have averaged 1.2 women a day for every day since he was 15. And if he'd missed a day for the flu or his father's funeral, well ...
No matter how many women were part of Wilt's love life, he claimed he was never intimidated. "Since most normal males are perpetually in heat and most normal women are not, as a male you must learn to be convincing in your approach," he wrote. "No matter who the lady is, I convince her that it is an experience we both should not miss."
Fair play requires a representative of the fairer sex on any list of lovers, and Catherine the Great is a great place to start. She was a Prussian princess who married Russian Grand Duke Peter in 1745. She later claimed the marriage went unconsummated.
This didn't mean Catherine slept alone. "I was never beautiful, but I pleased. That was my long suit," she once said. Among those she pleased was a courtier named Serge Saltykov, and he was likely the birth father of her first son.
Peter was deposed and murdered, and Catherine became empress. At first she was progressive, friends with Voltaire and Diderot, but the realities of ruling soon turned her reactionary. She wrote to Diderot, "You philosophers are fortunate; you write only on paper, which is smooth, obedient to your commands and does not raise any obstacles to your imagination while I, poor empress, have to write on the ticklish and easily irritated skins of human beings."
Skins she rather savored included Count Stanislas Poniatowski (who she later made king of Poland), Count Grigory Orlov and Count Grigory Potemkin. Plus an uncounted number of nobles, guards and servants that gossips nicknamed "night emperors."