Who Was Vlad the Impaler?

Many people may have by now seen the film produced by Legendary Pictures, Dracula Untold which is loosely based portrayal of the life of Vlad III or Vlad the Impaler as he is otherwise known, the story of his life is combined with Bram Stoker’s book Dracula. This is because many scholars say that Stoker based the book of Vlad Dracula. But who is Vlad III Dracula really?

Vlad was born in SighiÈ™oara, Transylvania in 1431 and he died in what is now known as the city of Bucharest in Romania between 1476-1477. His father was Vlad II Dracul and his mother is unknown although is understood that Vlad’s father was married to Princess Cneajna around the time of Vlad’s birth, though he had many mistresses. Interestingly enough the name Dracul and Dracula didn’t actually come from anywhere sinister, it was bestowed upon Vlad’s father after he was inducted, in the year of Vlad’s birth, into what was known as The Order of the Dragon, a group of knights who swore to defend Christianity against Ottoman Empire (the tribes of Turks) and European heresies. Dracul was derived from the Latin, draco meaning dragon and Dracula meaning son of the dragon. ("Vlad the Impaler" Crime Library)

Vlad himself was the second born of four brothers from his noble family, and his father Vlad II Dracul was the Viovode of Walachia (a place that now makes up Romania). Vlad’s father was ousted out of his position by the Turks and factions from Hungary in 1442; however he regained his position by agreeing to pay tributes to the Sultan, who had control over the Ottomans (Turks). It is also known that Vlad’s father gave him and his younger brother Radu to the Turks to prove his loyalty and obedience. Vlad was a political hostage of the Turks from age 13 and did not appear to enjoy his time with them, though educated in logic, Turkish language, horsemanship and warfare he was resentful and jealous of his younger brother who earned the title Radu the handsome and was friendly with the Sultan and his son whilst he was often punished. It is believed that his time in Turkish hands drove Vlad to become the sadistic and violent man he grew up to be. ("The Campaign Against the Turks" Vlad The Impaler Info)

When Vlad returned to Walachia in 1448 after learning of his father and two other brothers’ assassination, he began his fight to reclaim his father’s title. He was briefly successful in 1448 however the success only lasted 2 months. Then he fought for a further 8 years and finally reclaimed his father’s title in 1456 and became voivode he reigned until 1462. It was during his rule that Vlad committed the violent acts that gained him notoriety. He used various methods of torture to punish criminals for any crime, from lying to killing they could all be punished in the same way. Vlad was known to torture people by skinning, mutilating, boiling alive, exposure to elements, blinding, feeding to wild animals - there was no torture too bloodthirsty. But of course his main method for torture was impaling. He would often set up the impaling instruments in circles in the public. Where the criminals were impaled on stakes, the higher the stake the worse the crime. It would often take hours or days for the victims to die and was a cruel and terrible fate. The bodies were left up for months at a time on some occasions to serve as a warning. ("Vlad III" Britannica)

In 1462 Vlad started a war against the Turks which was a risky move considering the immensity of the Turkish forces, however he was successful in the interim. The Sultan was not pleased by this and sent men to march on Wallachia to punish Vlad and take over. With no allies and an army triple the size of his Vlad was forced to retreat but not before burning his own fields and poisoning his own wells so that the Turkish had no resources. When the Sultan finally reached Wallachia he was confronted by a sight that is known today as The Forest of the Impaled, there were 20,000 mens' impaled carcasses on thousands of stakes, all Turkish captives. It was a scare tactic by Vlad and it worked. The Sultan left, but there was no peace, by the end of the year Vlad was driven from his position and out of Wallachia. He fled to the mountains of Transylvania and sought help from the King Matthias Corvinus, who offered his support and then betrayed and rather imprisoned him for 6-10 years, the exact time he spent imprisoned is unknown as is the reason for the King’s betrayal. ("Vlad III" Britannica)

When he escaped Vlad planned to take back his position once more and sought to take the position from Prince Basarab a Turkish rival. When Vlad’s army arrived in Wallachia the Prince fled and Vlad declared his third reign in 1476, it lasted two months before he was ousted by the Turkish and killed. There is no exact knowledge of how or when Vlad died, many tales are popular such as his brother Radu killed him to prove loyalty to the Sultan, but he was killed between December 1476 and March 1477.

Vlad was decapitated according to records and his head sent to Constantinople now known as Istanbul to prove his death. His body is possibly buried at Comana in Romania, a monastery established by Vlad. It was torn down and rebuilt however, no remains have been found to date.

Many Romanians believe he is a hero for attempting to protect Wallachia from the Turkish, despite his incredibly violent and cruel acts. Whatever the case may be Vlad III Dracula is a fearsome piece of Romanian history and it appears he will stay that way as his legend lives on.





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