"Are you then so profligate and abandoned a libertine"
Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798)
Public DomainGiacomo Casanova (1725-1798) - Credit: Anton Raphael Mengs

A libertine is a person who views conventional morals as unnecessary or undesirable, and feels free to act outside what society considers ‘acceptable behaviour’ in pursuit of physical and sensory pleasures.  Libertinism was practised by some notable members of French and British society in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, Giacomo Casanova, Lord Byron, and the Marquis de Sade. 

The word ‘libertine’ is derived from the Roman mythological figure, Liber (meaning free), who represented husbandry and crops.  The term was coined by John Calvin, as a critical term for his opponents.  These opponents argued against Calvin's efforts to have church discipline enforced uniformly against all members Geneva’s society, in the mid-1550s.