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Nowadays, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, and Charlie Sheen embody the idea of the debauched celebrity. However, history is full of famous faces who excelled in the field of outrageousness and today’s attention junkies ain’t got nothin’ on them! Here are the top 5 most eccentric, exciting and downright embarrassing historical celebrities.
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5. Emperor Caligula
Caligula was an insane Roman Emperor with a reputation for self-absorption, fits of anger and killing for amusement. He was accused of incest with his sisters and prostituting them to other men. Once, at a set of games he was presiding over, he ordered the guards to force a large section of the crowd into the arena to be eaten by wild animals. His reason? There were no criminals to be prosecuted – and he was bored. Unsurprisingly, he was assassinated.
4. Loi Chan
A notorious cross-dressing buccaneer, Loi Chan was known as Queen of the Macao Pirates, terrorising the waters around Hong Kong in the 1920’s. She garnered fame and wealth by pillaging ships and kidnappings. If the family of the hostage refused to pay up, she would send them their loved-one’s finger or ear as a warning. She encouraged her fame and allowed a journalist to follow her and write up her exploits. She never spoke directly to the men on her crew and they were also banned from her cabin (because she was a classy biatch). It is unknown exactly how she died, but rumour has it that she attacked a torpedo squadron during the Chinese-Japanese War and was killed in battle. What a way to go!
3. Giacomo Casanova
A man so notorious for his torrid affairs that his name is now the (un)official definition of ‘playboy’. His existence was driven by his sexual desires. Not content with the standard pattern of adultery, he adored drama and had a kink for complicated plots, heroes and villains, and gallantry. His usual liaison involved an innocent woman with a domineering husband, whom he would comfort, eventually seduce, and once he grew bored would insist on his own unworthiness and attach her to a better man. The secret to his success with the ladies? Gratitude and (in a funny sort of way), respect. Delicious.
2. Betty “Tiger Woman” May
The infamous prostitute who trod the boards of the Café Royal in the 1920’s. She met a gentleman who guaranteed her a dancing job in Bordeaux, but attempted to assault her instead. Rather than succumb, Betty fought tooth and nail, eventually sticking a knife in his neck and beating him over the head with a pair of metal tongs. She ran and joined the violent L’Apache Gang in Paris. With them, she learnt some mean knife-fighting skills. This talent for hand-to-hand combat earned her the nickname “Tiger Woman.”
And now, the undisputed top-runner…
1. Lord Byron
Born in 1788, Byron was a romantic poet and is considered the first rock star. After his grand tour of Europe (where he entertained a titillating homosexual affair with an Albanian warlord), he rose to overnight success at the age of 24 with his narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. His fame grew as he churned out more and more popular poems; Don Juan was considered dangerous for young ladies to read because of its explicit content.
However, he was most famous for his ill-disguised affairs with both men and women, including a salacious sexual relationship with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. The depression he suffered because he could not be with her, along with his monumental gambling debts, led him to alcoholism, opium abuse and epileptic fits. Word of the Augusta tryst began to spread and Byron was exiled from England. He travelled Europe for eight years and died of a fever fighting for Greek independence at the age of 36. A true (if debauched) supernova; burn bright, die young.
Image via Usatopstars.com
I could safely say that most of us know why we celebrate Christmas Day and Easter, but what about New Years Eve? Why do so many cultures across the globe farewell the passing year and welcome in a new one with lavish celebrations, fireworks, kisses at midnight and that weird song, “Auld Lang Syne”? I wanted to find out what it’s all about and share what I’ve discovered.
The first New Year’s celebrations
According to history.com, the first celebration to mark the new year began about 4000 years ago in ancient Babylon. It wasn’t celebrated on January 1st, like we do now. Their New Years Day was celebrated in late March with the arrival of the first new moon after the spring equinox (which was based on the movement of the sun).
They developed a religious festival call Akitu (Sumerian for barley) which lasted for 11 days. Behind the festivities was the belief that good powered over evil, which served a political interest when either a new king was crowned or current ruler’s mandate was renewed.
In other cultures, such as Egypt and China, the new year was marked by agricultural or astronomical events. For example, Egypt’s new year was when the Nile flooded, bringing new life to the province.
Celebrating New Year’s Day on January 1st
It wasn’t until 46 B.C. when Julius Caesar pronounced the Julian Calendar, which similar to the Gregorian calendar used today across many cultures, including our own. This was when January 1st initially became New Years Day. They celebrated by giving sacrificial offings to the God Janus (the Roman god of beginnings), exchanged gifts, placed laurel branches in their homes as decorations and had parties. The parties were quite an event where things apparently went a lot further than the humble smooch! Noise was encouraged to ward off evil spirits.
With the rise of Christianity in Medieval Europe, New Years day celebrations were replaced in lieu of Christian events such as Christmas Day. This is how it remained until 1582, when January 1st was reclaimed as New Years Day by Pope Gregory XIII.
New Year’s resolutions
The first of the traditions which were celebrated, date back to the instigators of New Years Day; the Babylonians. Their resolutions were in the form of promises to the Gods, like paying back their debts and returning borrowed farm equipment. To them, this was important stuff. Ultimately they wanted to get in the good books with the Gods for the upcoming year.
Consuming certain foods
In many countries foods plays an important role in celebrations, but not so much in our own culture. In Spain and Spanish speaking cultures, they consume a dozen grapes just prior to midnight to secure good fortune for upcoming months.
Legumes like lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States also symbolize good fortune because of their coin like appearance. Pork features prominently in places like Cuba and some European countries. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, feature in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and other places. The Swedes and Norwegians hide an almond inside rice pudding and whoever finds it should expect a fortunate upcoming year.
The Chinese are the traditional creators of fireworks and therefore most celebrations included them. Their loud noise is said to ward away evil spirits. These days we celebrate with fireworks because they are enjoyed by so many people and cities put on marvelous displays for the masses.
Auld Lang Syne
Auld Lang Syne was a poem written by Scotsman, Robert Burns in 1788 and sung to the tune of a traditional folk song. In many English speaking countries, it’s sung at midnight on New Years Eve to farewell the old year and welcome in the new one. Many people know the tune, but by midnight the words often get a bit muddled!
Kissing at midnight
Giving and receiving a kiss at the strike of midnight New Years Eve began out of superstition. The ancient Romans were believed to have been the first to pucker up to ward off loneliness for the upcoming year. It’s also rumored that things went a wee bit further than kissing and there were possibly a few orgies going on in the prominent homes. Now, they really wanted to make sure they weren’t lonely!
The English and Germans elaborated on the superstition, believing that the quality of the kiss would indicate the quality of happiness experienced for the remainder of the year. This may be why the New Years Eve kiss is believed to be a special kiss, particularly for couples.
The Time Square ball drop
1904 was the first New Year to be welcomed in at Time Square. By 1907, Adolph Ochs, owner of The New York Times, commissioned Artkraft Strauss to design and construct an electrically lit ball which would drop at the stroke of midnight. He wanted something other than fireworks to wow the growing crowds.
Since then the ball has dropped each year, except 1942 and 1943 due to WW2 blackout restrictions. It has been reconstructed over the years and millions of people, world wide look forward to the famous Times Square New Years Eve ball drop.
Image via http://up.arthuriusmaximus.com.br
Scotland is a richly historical and unique destination, often overlooked by culture-seeking tourists who flock to Rome and Paris. Whether you’re after adventure, or city-living, Scotland has both. It’s capital, Edinburgh is an artistic hub and historical site, and is among the most uniquely beautiful cities in the world. But if it is the outdoors you crave, your wanderlust will be satisfied by a trip to the mystical Scottish highlands. If you’re unconvinced, consider my top reasons for visiting Scotland.
Who doesn’t love an opportunity to be transported into the lives of royalty? Scotland is full of such opportunities, with castles littering the country side and cityscapes. The nation’s most famous castle sits atop the city of Edinburgh and is home to the Crown Jewels of Scotland. Perhaps the second most popular – and perhaps the most picturesque – is Eilean Donan,which is poised in the middle of a loch (lake), only connected to the mainland by footbridge. It was recently restored and frequently appears in films and television shows. Fun fact: much of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed in Scotland, with castles Stalker and Doune featured in the film.
Eilean Donan castle
You’ve all seen Braveheart, right? (Mind you, any Scot will tell you this tale of William Wallace is far from accurate) This film is just a glimpse at the complicated relationship between Scotland and England, and the nation’s great history of invasion, battle and conquest. Long before England took over, the Scots fought off the mighty Roman and Viking armies, the invaders unable to conquer the rugged and uninhabitable highland territory. However, if you’re short on time, you don’t even need to leave the nation’s capital for a dose of the past – Edinburgh’s old and new towns are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Ever wondered if there really is a Loch Ness monster? Well, there is only one way to find out…
Castle ruins overlooking Loch Ness
The Scottish highlands – referring to the nation’s mountainous north-western region – are a dark, sometimes miserable, but strangely alluring place. Much of the nation’s traditional customs come from the distinctive highland culture, native to the clans that remain strong in the region. Which brings me to…
Scotland isn’t really a place one would consider rich in culture. Yet, Scots are highly protective and proud of their local treasures and traditions. Think: Scotch (better known to us as Whisky), bagpipes, kilts, haggis, Gaelic – all of these contribute to Scotland’s great sense of nationalism.
Speaking of culture, J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter from a little cafe in Edinburgh. Do a free walking tour in one of the most beautiful, medieval cities in the world and see where Rowling wrote the book, the cemetery and school from which she drew inspiration, and even some of the film’s shooting locations.
Scotland is considered the home of golf as the modern game was developed in the country. The Royal and Ancient Club of St Andrews is the first golf club and is seen as a ruling body of the sport. Unlike others who perceive golf as elitist, St Andrews is actually a public golf course, run by the council and available to all.