10 of the Most Famous Prostitutes in History 0 79

While most people are familiar with prominent historical figures like King Louis XV, Napoleon Bonaparte, and King Charles II, little is known about the mistresses who shared their beds and sometimes mothered their children. These 10 famous prostitutes made prominent names for themselves during their time, and many of them were respected models, entrepreneurs, artists, actresses, and explorers. Their lives were full of mystery, intrigue, and the occasional murder by erotic asphyxiation.

Phryne


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Phryne is one of the few prostitutes whose beauty can be admired in museums of fine art. As a courtesan in Ancient Greece, Phryne was known for her good looks and modeled for famous painter Apelles and sculptor Praxiteles. It has been speculated that Phryne’s modeling and prostitution made her so wealthy she was able to contribute to the rebuilding of the walls of Thebes after Alexander the Great destroyed them in 336 BC Like many prostitutes, Phryne was subject to public ridicule and was put on trial for unclear religious reasons and was reported to have bared her breasts to the jury. Phryne was defended by one of her lovers, the orator Hypereides, and was ultimately set free.

Veronica Franco


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Veronica Franco was a fascinating woman from the Renaissance period in Venice. Aside from being a prostitute, Franco was well educated and published several volumes of poetry. She also created a charity that provided help to courtesans and their children. Franco’s most notable client was Henry III, King of France and in 1565 she was listed as an expert in a popular Venetian guidebook for prostitutes. Towards the end of her life in 1577, Franco was taken before the court on charges of witchcraft but the charges were dropped. Much of her life after her brushes with royalty is unknown, but scholars believe she died relatively poor without social or financial support.

Madame du Barry


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Jeanne Bécu, known to the French court of Louis XV as Madame du Barry, was well known in her time for being the official mistress of Louis XV. Bécu got her start in prostitution in Paris where she acquired many high-ranking aristocrats as clients and eventually made her way to the Palace of Versailles where a depressed and lonely Louis XV discovered her. Bécu was quickly married to a noble and secured a title to grant her access to Louis XV’s court, and entered the mix of factors that destroyed France’s foreign affairs. Bécu was sent to a nunnery after the death of Louis XV and ultimately died at the guillotine during the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris in late 1793.

Sally Salisbury


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Sally Salisbury, whose birth name was Sarah Pridden, was a gutsy and extremely popular prostitute in 18th century London. She began prostituting in her early teens and by the age of 14 she was working in a high-class brothel that attracted lords and aristocrats. Salisbury was known for being beautiful, funny, and, all things considered, pretty feisty. She was involved in a public scandal where she stabbed a brothel patron, John Finch, who was the son of a countess and a lord, over a pair of opera tickets. Salisbury met an unfortunate end when she was imprisoned and shortly after died of complications from syphilis.

Nell Gwyn


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Nell Gwyn is most famous for her role as mistress to King Charles II of England, with whom she had two sons. As a young woman, Gwyn was enchanted by the English theatre and set out to become an actress. Although she was illiterate, she studied her craft at a performance art school where she was rumored to have shacked up with famous male actors Charles Hart and John Lacy. Gwyn worked her way up the ranks, acting in several comedic plays, and eventually became present in high English society where she became acquainted with King Charles. Gwyn was one of 13 mistresses to the King and while she never secured a title for herself, one of her sons was given the title Duke of St. Albans.

Cora Pearl


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Emma Elizabeth Crouch was born in London in the 19th century. Crouch wasn’t an average prostitute who lived on the streets. She attended a boarding school in France where she became well-educated and obtained high society social skills. After a terrible encounter with man who raped and then paid her in London, Crouch became a mistress in a notorious bar and brothel, The Argyll Rooms. While traveling in Paris, Crouch took the name Cora Pearl and began to make a name for herself as a courtesan to wealthy men. Pearl became a huge celebrity in Paris and slept with many famous men such as Napoleon Bonaparte. She was also known for having a flashy style and rocked bold hair colors such as lemon yellow.

Catherine Walters


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Catherine Walters was a beautiful fashion icon and English courtesan who seemed to have all of London at her feet in the 19th century. Walters had it all; she was pretty, popular, educated, and had several extremely wealthy benefactors. She wore her clothing skintight and people would gather in Hyde Park to see her ride horses. Some of her clients included King Edward VII and Napolean III, and unlike many prostitutes of her time, her life didn’t end in complete ruin. She retired at 80 and had both money and a favorable legacy.

Lulu White


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Tales about New Orleans Storyville red-light district in the early 1900s would be incomplete without a mention of the prostitute, brothel madame, and entrepreneur Lulu White. White ran a brothel, the Octoroon Parlour, that housed nearly 40 women. The brothel was a hub for jazz lovers and gentlemen looking to explore the five parlors and 15 bedrooms reserved for special guests. White was forced to close her establishment in 1917 when she became subject to gender discrimination by the city of New Orleans. White holds a place in contemporary culture as she was mentioned in a song performed by Louis Armstrong, “Mahogany Hall Stomp,” and was the honorary namesake to Boston’s jazz club Lulu White’s.

Calamity Jane


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Most people know Martha Jane Canary Burke, a.k.a. Calamity Jane, as a frontierswoman and cowgirl who fought the Native Americans alongside Wild Bill Hickok, but she was also a prostitute at the Fort Laramie Three-Mile Hog Ranch in eastern Wyoming. Despite her rough-and-tumble reputation, Jane was pretty with dark hair and eyes. Ultimately Jane chose a different career path and began dressing as a man because it allowed her to move freely and get jobs that no woman would have been given. She worked on cattle drives, became an explorer, and starred as a storyteller in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Sada Abe


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Sada Abe was a low-level geisha when she contracted syphilis and had no choice but to begin prostituting in Osaka’s famous Tobita brothel district. During her travels to Tokyo, she crossed paths with a kinky lover, Kichizo Ishida. In May of 1936, Abe was catapulted into the public eye when she was arrested for murdering Ishida by erotic asphyxiation. Abe was clearly mentally disturbed and had problems controlling her jealousy. After Ishida died, Abe cut off his genitalia, put it in her kimono, and carved her name into his arm. This event caused widespread panic across Japan, and Ishida’s testicles were put on public display for a short time after World War II.

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13 Secrets Of The Sistine Chapel 0 12

Vatican City’s Sistine Chapel is one of the most sacred tourist destinations in the world.

As it celebrates its 502nd opening anniversary this November, let’s take a peak behind the scenes at the secrets, side notes, and sexy conspiracies of the famous Sistine Chapel.

Stolen Blueprints


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The Sistine Chapel wasn’t an architectural feat of the 15th century. It stole its dimensions and layout from the Biblical descriptions of the Temple of Solomon in the Old Testament.

Except for one thing: it doesn’t have a processional front door. There’s no way in from outside and no way out. You have to enter it through the papal palace. So don’t ever be trapped in there during a fire.

It’s Prettier On The Inside


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It’s also super boring from the outside. There’s no fancy facade work or embellishment at all. Which is kinda weird considering its where they’ve elected and crowned most of the popes from 1492 upwards.

But the chapel’s commissioner Pope Sixtus IV seems to have wanted it that way. And he’s the one who ordered it built, held the first mass in it on August 15, 1483, and who its named after (the Latin Sixtus becomes Sisto in Italian, hence ‘Sistine’), so whatever he said goes. But it would be his nephew Pope Julius II who would go on to make its insides famous.

Famous Without Michelangelo


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The Sistine Chapel has become synonymous with the artwork Michelangelo installed on its ceilings. But even if he’d never added his two cents worth of paint, the Sistine Chapel would be artistically famous.

The overshadowed artwork on the wall like this fresco was painted by Sandro Botticelli, of naked Venus rising from the sea on a seashell fame.

Not So Sloppy Seconds


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Funnily enough, Michelangelo often found himself in the position painting alongside other masters works of art. He painted the same room as Leonardo Da Vinci in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio a few years later. Though it’s unlikely Michelangelo was ever in the same room as Da Vinci or in the Sistine Chapel at the same time as Botticelli. He’d already finished his murals decades before.

That left only the ceiling for Michelangelo to tackle—even though it was already painted solid blue and inset with gold stars by Umbrian artist Piermatteo d’Amelia.

This is an etching of what it would have looked like before Michelangelo touched the ceiling.

But He’s A Sculptor


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Michelangelo didn’t want to work on the Sistine Chapel. He was super keen and focused on his current sculpture piece for Pope Julius II’s future tomb. He considered himself a sculptor not a painter. And he didn’t want to be taken off the project to go paint things.

But Pope Julius II cleverly misplaced the rest of the funding for the sculpture and Michelangelo was forced to accept the new commission and pick up a paintbrush. Don’t worry, he got to go finish the sculpture several years later.

Misperceptions Of Posture

There’s a movie about Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel that has overdramatized his refusal to paint and the methods Pope Julius II went to to get him painting.

But the Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison movie “The Agony and the Ecstasy” didn’t confuse audiences on that point as much as they’ve left a lingering legacy of confusion regarding something else: how Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. The set producers went with the idea that Michelangelo and his assistants were lying down as they painted on scaffolding nearly touching the ceiling itself. That’s become our pop culture conception of the activity, but it just wasn’t so. Yes, the scaffolding was cool. But it left them all standing and reaching up overhead to paint.

Poetic Agony


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Michelangelo hated it. He hated having to learn all about painting so quickly, he hated having to paint with his arms up to the ceiling day in and day out, and he even initially hated the proposed painting subjects.

When Pope Julius II first commissioned the work, he wanted the ceiling to only feature the Apostles. Michelangelo told him to shove it and expanded on the subject matter himself. Michelangelo also wrote an epic rage poem about how much he hated working on it to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia.

Extra Nuts For The Nudes


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To make up for changing the subject matter on his patron, Michelangelo hid an homage to Pope Julius’ family in his artwork.

Many of the naked young men (codeword: ignudi) in the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling have bunches of acorns around them. These were added in reference to Julius II’s family name, Rovere, which means the oak.

Adding Insult To Injury


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And that wasn’t the only bit of extra symbolism Michelangelo snuck into the ceiling.

His Garden of Eden is off kilter and doesn’t include the infamous apple tree of sin. Oh there’s a tree alright. But its a fig tree—which is traditional in Jewish lore, but not in Christian. In fact, most of the chosen subjects are purely Old Testament and encoded with Jewish symbolism, leading some art historians to question whether the whole ceiling was meant to ask whether the Christian church had forgotten its roots in Judaism and its original message, an insult to the popes.

Portraying God


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The biggest discrepancy in the insult theory is Michelangelo’s portrayal of God. Christianity is the only Abrahamic faith that lets people give God a face. So if he was going gung-ho on Jewish symbolism he wouldn’t have painted the Almighty sitting in the middle of the ceiling.

In fact, before Michelangelo’s depiction of God, he was usually depicted a hand or a light burst in western art—not something in physical human form. Michelangelo changed the game on everyone by painting God as a person. And it’s his older, white bearded male deity that has become the archetypal representation for the Christian God ever since.

Going Back For More


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Michelangelo finished the ceiling frescoes in 1512 after four solid years of painting. He painted God last, saying that he wanted to make sure his fresco technique was up to par before tackling the central subject matter. It was only after the scaffolding was removed that anyone was ever able to see the whole bit of artwork at once, including Michelangelo. At least half of the ceiling had been covered at all times during work by the beams and towers of the scaffolds.

But Michelangelo wasn’t done with the Sistine Chapel just yet. He returned to it twenty-two years later in 1536 to spend five years painting “The Last Judgement” on the wall above the altar.

The Literal Cover Up


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And other artists weren’t finished with his work either. The 1564 Council of Trent under the ultra-prudish Pope Pius IV deemed all the nudes on the ceiling and the walls to be in poor taste, and paid to have them covered up.

They hired poor artist Daniele da Volterra to come in and add fig leaves, draped clothing, plants and animals, and whatever else he could use to cover up everyone’s private parts with extra underclothes. Unfortunately, his desecration of some of the world’s most well renowned art has earned him the nickname Il Braghettone by posterity. It basically means Mr. Big Pants.

Papal Traffic


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Unless they’re busy with the conclave or crowning of a new Pope, the Sistine Chapel is open to tourists. A lot of tourists.

The Telegraph estimates that 25,000 people visit the Sistine Chapel every day, which adds up to about five million people a year. Given that entry is kinda expensive (and rising steadily), that means that the Sistine Chapel alone pulls in an annual income of 80 million Euros(+) per year for Vatican City. Not bad for a tiny autonomous nation.

13 Reasons Why Caligula Was The Most Insane And Depraved Roman Emperor Ever 0 13

Historians have long struggled to explain notorious Roman Emperor Caligula’s behavior. During his short reign, Caligula did everything from engage in public incest to order an innocent 12-year-old to be raped and murdered—making him one of the most hated people in Roman history.

He Wasn’t Considered Very Good Looking


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Caligula—whose real name was Gaius—was born into a Roman dynasty. His father, respected general Germanicus, used to bring him along to battles, and dressed him up in a miniature version of Roman battle gear. The troops were enamored with the little general, and gave him the nickname “Caligula,” which meant, “little boots.” Eventually, Caligula grew up, but he wasn’t considered particularly handsome. He was tall, gangly, pale, and had a bald head but a super hairy body. When he first took the throne, Roman citizens mocked him and claimed he looked like a goat. Eventually, Caligula got fed up with the mockery and made it a crime for anyone to mention goats in his presence.

He Was Super Paranoid And Had His Family Members Killed


Ancient Origins

While Caligula’s crazy behavior started when he outlawed the act of mocking his appearance, he soon became extremely suspicious of almost everyone in Rome. A few months after Caligula was appointed Emperor, he became seriously ill. Caligula, who believed someone had tried to kill him with poison, never truly recovered from the illness. Although his health was restored in a bodily sense, he was mentally never the same. After the incident, he became extremely paranoid and obviously a little insane. In some of his first acts of paranoia, he accused his loved ones of treason and ordered to have them murdered or exiled.

After He Got Sick, Everyone Thought He Was Crazy


Ancient Origins

Initially, most of Rome was happy to have Caligula as a ruler. He won over his people when he granted members of the military large bonuses, got rid of unfair taxes, and freed anyone who had been sent to prison unlawfully. However, after he fell ill, he started behaving really erratically. While some dubbed him insane, modern historians believe there is evidence that suggests he was suffering from epilepsy and lived in constant fear of seizures. He was known to stand outside and speak to the moon, and the effects of a full moon were once linked to epileptic episodes. He was also fond of just staring off into the distance and was constantly irritable, which are both signs of hyperthyroidism.

He Murdered People Left And Right


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If Caligula had spent his time as Emperor staring off into space and lashing out at his family, his legacy probably wouldn’t have been so bad. But, as luck has it, his extreme paranoia, emotional instability, and limitless power all came together to mold him into one bloodthirsty killer. After just a few months as Emperor, he started ordering seemingly anyone who crossed him to be murdered. His behavior became outlandish, and before long almost all of Rome hated him.

He Enjoyed Torturing People


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For some reason, hanging or chopping people’s heads off doesn’t seem out of character for an Emperor—and probably wouldn’t even be considered that evil in the scheme of things. But Caligula wasn’t just murder crazy—he was torture crazy. He derived loads of pleasure out of torturing people, and even turned torture sessions into public events. He once had a man tied down and beaten with chains for three months, bringing him out of a dungeon and onto the street where people would gather when they smelled the man’s gangrenous brain.

Caligula Was Obsessed With Body Mutilation


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In addition to publicly beating people, Caligula liked to mutilate people’s bodies. Apparently, his favorite torture device was the saw. He had a special saw blade that was modeled after the human spine and could cut someone along the spinal cord from the top of the chest to the crotch in one swoop. The worst thing about the blade was that it caused blood to rush to the victim’s brain, making it impossible for them to pass out. That, of course, meant they actually had to endure every moment of the torture.

He Had A Killer Appetite For Testicles


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As if a gross serial killer saw blade wasn’t bad enough, Caligula also like to chew on the testicles of his victims. He would have someone tie down a victim, and then he would slowly nibble on the testicles while they were restrained upside down. Obviously, Caligula had an insatiable appetite for torture. One of his favorite public events, the Circus Maximus, involved throwing criminals into big pits where they were devoured by starved wild animals. He particularly loved when the hungry lions would go after victims. Once, when the criminals ran out before the lions were brought on, he had random people pulled from the stands to participate in the deadly event.

He Thought He Was A Living God


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Eventually, Caligula fell off the deep end when he started publicly exclaiming he was a living God, and ordered his Roman Empire to treat him accordingly. One of his first acts as a living God was ordering the construction of a bridge between the palace and the Temple of Jupiter (the most significant temple in Rome) so that he could regularly hobnob with other deities. Additionally, Caligula started dressing up like Gods, demigods, and goddesses—including Hercules, Mercury, Venus, and Apollo. As if the costumes and outrageous orders weren’t enough, he also referred to himself as “God” in the third person and had the faces removed from god statues in Roman temples and replaced with his face.

He Tried To Appoint His Horse As A Priest


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Amongst all of the bloodthirsty murders, Caligula tried to have his horse Incitatus (Galloper) appointed as a priest and consul. Caligula took the instatement so seriously he actually had a huge pure marble stable built for the horse and filled it with the most lavish furnishings. Of course, the horse never sat on the luxurious chairs or couches, and instead preferred to hang around the servants who fed him oats mixed with gold flakes.

He Had A Whole Family Publicly Executed


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Perhaps one of the most evil acts Caligula ever committed came when he had an entire family publicly executed. The debacle began when a Roman citizen had the guts to insult the hated leader to his face. Caligula responded by ordering guards to tie the man down and beat him with chains. At the same time, he sent other guards to gather the man’s family, and one by one he had the children publicly executed from oldest to youngest.

Caligula Took His Public Executions Too Far


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The crowd was so disgusted with the spectacle they started to revolt, and Caligula responded by focusing on the last remaining member of the family, a 12-year-old girl. The girl was a sorry sight—she had just watched her entire family get murdered, and was sitting sobbing in the street. According to Roman law, Caligula couldn’t execute her because she was still a virgin. As a way around that, Caligula coldly ordered the executioner to rape and then strangle her.

He Was Rumored To Have Had Public Sex With His Sisters


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While his murder and torture rampages are pretty well documented, few people actually made official records about his acts of incest. In fact, only one historian, Suetonius (who was known to be pretty gossipy) published claims that Caligula had sex with his sisters in the open at banquets while guests walked around them. Other chroniclers, who lived the same time as Caligula, never mentioned his sisterly trysts.

Some Thought He Was Possessed By A Demon


Ancient Origins

While some ancient historians claimed he was into incest, others, who were persuaded by the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths, believed he was straight up possessed by a demon. Eventually, Caligula’s bad reputation got him killed a year before his 30th birthday. And, fittingly, he was stabbed to death in public right after he left his favorite event, the Circus Maximus. In the end, Caligula was so hated by the Roman people that they left his body to rot in the street and his remains were eaten by dogs.

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