Vlad Tepes

Vlad Tepes Many people know of Dracula from the movie or novel of Bram Stokers Dracula, and are aware that there is was a true historical Dracula. Bram Stoker penned his immortal classic, Dracula, he based his vampire villain on a Romanian historical figure. Stoker’s model was Vlad III Dracula ( Tepes – The Impaler), a fifteenth century viovode of Wallachia of the princely House of Basarab. Wallachia (Tara Romaneasca) is a provence of Romania bordered to the north by Transylvania and Moldavia, to the East by the Black Sea and to the south by the Danube to Bulgaria. Wallachia first emerged as a political entity during the late thirteenth century from the weltering confusion left behind in the Balkans as the East Roman Empire slowly crumbled. Among the rulers of Wallachia, an important name was Basarab the Great (1310-1352), an ancestor of Dracula.

Despite the splintering of the family into two rival clans, some member of the House of Basarab continued to govern Wallachia from that time until well after the Ottomans reduced the principality to the status of a client state.Dracula was among the voivodes of Wallachia who fought to retain a real measure of independence. .

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In order to understand the life of Vlad Dracula it is first necessary to understand something about the nature of Wallachian society and politics. The throne of Wallachia was hereditary but not by the law of primogeniture; the boyars or great nobles had the right to elect the voivode from among the various eligible members of the royal family. As with most elective monarchies during the Middle Ages the power of the central government tended to be dissipated among the nobility as various members of the ruling family vied for the throne. Wallachian politics also tended to be very bloody assassination was a common means of eliminating rivals and many of the voivodes ended their lives violently and prematurely.( Wilkinson 36) By the late fifteenth century the House of Basarab had split into two rival clans; the descendants of Prince Dan and those of Prince Mircea the Old (Dracula’s grandfather).

These two branches of the royal house were bitter rivals.Both Dracula and his father, Vlad II Dracul, murdered rivals from the Danesti upon reaching the throne. .The second ascendant fact of the fifteenth century Wallachian political life was the influence of powerful neighbors. In 1453 Constantinople and the last vestiges of the Byzantine or East Roman Empire, which had blocked the Islam’s access to Europe for nearly one thousand years, succumbed to the armed might of the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mohammed the Conqueror. Long before the fall of the Imperial City the Ottomans had penetrated deep into the Balkans. Dracula’s grandfather, Mircea the Old, was forced to pay tribute to the sultan early in the fifteenth century.The Hungarian Kingdom to the north and west of Wallachia reached the zenith of its power during the fifteenth century and was a target for the powerful Ottoman Empire.

Wallachia was the first step for the Ottomans on their way to conquer the Christian world, so throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the princes of Wallachia attempted to maintain a precarious independence by constantly shifting allegiances between the powerful neighbors. .Dracula ruled as Prince of Wallachia on three separate occasions.

He first claimed the throne with Turkish support in 1448. On this occasion he ruled for only two months (November-October ) before being driven out by a Danesti claimant supported by Hungary.(Tamas) Dracula dwelt in exile for several years before returning to Wallachia to kill the Danesti prince, Vladislav II, and reclaim the Wallachian throne with Hungarian support.Dracula’s second regnal period stretched from 1456 to 1462. It was during this time that Dracula carried out his most famous military exploits against the Turks and also committed his most gruesome atrocities. .In 1462 Dracula fled to Transylvania to seek the aid of the King of Hungary when a Turkish army overwhelmed Wallachia. Instead of receiving the assistance he expected, Dracula was imprisoned by the Hungarian king.

He remained a prisoner of Matthius Corvinus of Hungary (he himself of Romanian origin) for several years.For most of the period of Dracula’s incarceration his brother, Radu the Handsome, ruled Wallachia as a puppet of the Ottoman sultan. When Radu died (1474-1475) the sultan appointed Basarab the Old, a member of the Danesti clan, as prince. .

Eventually, Dracula regained the favor and support of the Hungarian king. In 1476 he once again invaded Wallachia. His small force consisted of a few loyal Wallachians, a contingent of Moldavians sent by his cousin Prince Stephen the Great of Moldavia, and a contingent of Transylvanians under their prince, Stephen Bathory.The allies succeeded in driving Basarab out of the country and placing Dracula on the throne (November 1476). However, after Dracula was once again in control, Stephen Bathory returned to Transylvania taking most of Dracula’s army with him. The Turk’s soon counterattacked with overwhelming force. Dracula was killed fighting the Turks near Bucharest in December of 1476.

His head was sent to Constantinople where the Sultan had it displayed on a stake to prove that the terrible Impaler was really dead..There has been considerable debate scholars concerning the meaning of the name ‘Dracula’. The name is clearly related to Dracula’s father’s nickname Dracul. In Romanian Dracul literally means ‘the devil’. The ‘ulea’ ending in Romanian indicates the appartenence to a family. Under this interpretation Dracula becomes Vlad III, son of the devil.(Myles 4) The experts who support this interpretation usually claim that Vlad II earned his devilish nickname by his clever and wily political maneuvering.

(Myles 6) The second interpretation of the name is more widely accepted. In 1431 Vlad II was invested with the Order of the Dragon by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg. The Order of the Dragon was a knightly order dedicated to fighting the Turks. Its emblem was a dragon, wings extended, hanging on a cross.From 1431 onward Vlad II wore the emblem of the order. His coinage bore the dragon symbol. The dragon was the symbol of the devil and consequently and alternate meaning of ‘drac’ was dragon. Under this interpretation Vlad II Dracul becomes Vlad II, the Dragon and his son, Vlad III Dracula, becomes Vlad III, the Son of the Dragon.

(Florescu Prince of Many Faces 6) .There is some confusion in the secondary sources concerning Dracula’s exact title. In most of the sources he is referred to as Vlad III.However, many sources refer to him as Vlad IV or Vlad V, but the correct title seems to be Vlad III. The only conclusion is that there is some confusion in the sources between the various voivodes named Vlad and Vladislav. .

(1431-1476) Dracula was born in 1431 in the Transylvanian city of Sighisoara (old latin Castrum Rex). At that time Dracula’s father, Vlad II Dracul, was living in exile in Transylvania. Vlad Dracul was in Transylvania attempting to gather support for his planned effort to seize the Wallachian throne from the Danesti Prince, Alexandru I.The house where dracula was born is still standing in the citadel of Sighisoara. In 1431 it was located in a prosperous neighborhood surrounded by the homes of Saxon and Magyar merchants and the townhouses of the nobility. Little is known about the early years of Dracula’s life. It is known he had an elder brother, Mircea, and a younger brother named Radu. His early education was left in the hands of his mother, a Transylvanian noblewoman, and her family.

His real education began in 1436 after his father succeeded in claiming the Wallachian throne and killing his Danesti rival.His training was typical to that common to the sons of the nobility throughout Europe. His first tutor in his apprenticeship to knighthood was an elderly boyar who had fought under the banner of Enguerrand de Courcy at the battle of Nicolopolis against the Turks. Dracula learned all the skills of war and peace that were deemed necessary for a Christian knight. .The political situation in Wallachia remained unstable after Vlad II Dracul seized the throne in 1436. The power of the Turks was growing rapidly as one by one the small states of the Balkans surrendered to the Ottoman onslaught. At the same time the power of Hungary was reaching its zenith and would peak during the time of John Hunyadi (Iancu de Hunedoara, of Romania origin), the White Knight of Hungary, and his son King Matthius Corvinus (Mathyas Rex, or Matei Corvin, whose statue can be seen in Cluj Napoca).

Any prince of Wallachia had to balance his policies precariously between these two powerful neighbors and sometimes the Russiansthe prince of Wallachia was officially a vassal of the King of Hungary.(Andreescu 56) In addition, Vlad Dracul was a member of the Order of the Dragon and sworn to fight the infidel. At the same time the power of the Ottomans seemed unstoppable. Even in the time of Vlad’s grandfather, Mircea the Old, Wallachia had been forced to pay tribute to the Sultan in spite of some victories against the Turks.

Vlad was forced to renew that tribute and from 1436-1442 attempted to walk a middle coarse between his powerful neighbors. .In 1442 Vlad attempted to remain neutral when the Turks invaded Transylvania.The Turks were defeated and the vengeful Hungarians under John Hunyadi (the lord of the Huniazi castle) forced Dracul and his family to flee Wallachia. Hunyadi placed a Danesti, Basarab II, on the Wallachian throne. In 1443 Vlad II regained the Wallachian throne with Turkish support, on the condition that he sign a new treaty with the sultan that included not only the customary annual tribute but the promise to yearly send contingents of Wallachian boys to join the sultans Janissaries. In 1444, to further assure to the sultan of his good faith, Vlad II sent his two younger sons to Adrianople as hostages.

Dracula remained as a hostage in Adrianople until 1448. .In 1444 the King of Hungary, Ladislas Poshumous, broke the peace and launched the Varna campaign under the command of John Hunyadi in an effort to drive the Turks out of Europe.Hunyadi demanded that Vlad II fulfill his oath as a member of the Order of the Dragon and a vassal of Hungary and join the crusade against the Turks.

The Pope absolved Dracul of his Turkish oath but the wily politician still attempted to steer a middle coarse. Rather than join the Christian forces himself he sent his oldest son, Mircea. Perhaps he hoped the sultan would spare his younger sons if he himself did not join the crusade. (Florescu In Search of Dracula 87) .The results of the Varna Crusade are well known.The Christian army was utterly destroyed in the Battle of Varna. John Hunyadi managed to escape the battle under conditions that add little glory to the White Knight’s reputation. Many, apparently including Mircea and his father, blamed Hunyadi for the debacle.

From this moment forth John Hunyadi was bitterly hostile toward Vlad Dracul and his eldest son. In 1447 Vlad Dracul was assassinated along with his son Mircea.Mircea was apparently buried alive by the boyars and merchants of Targoviste. Hunyadi placed his own candidate, a member of the Danesti clan, on the throne of Wallachia. .On receiving the news of Vlad Dracul’s death the Turks released Dracula and supported him as their own candidate for the Wallachian throne. In 1448 Dracula managed to briefly seize the Wallachian throne with Turkish support.

Within two months Hunyadi forced Dracula to surrender the throne and flee to his cousin, the Prince of Moldavia, while Hunyadi once again placed Vladislav II on the Wallachian throne. .Dracula remained in exile in Moldavia for three years, until Prince Bogdan of Moldavia was assassinated in 1451.The resulting turmoil in Moldavia forced Dracula to flee to Transylvania and seek the protection of his family enemy, Hunyadi.

The timing was propitious; Hunyadi’s puppet on the Wallachian throne, Vladislov II, had instituted a pro-Turkish policy and Hunyadi needed a more reliable man in Wallachia. (103) Consequently, Hunyadi accepted the allegiance of his old enemy’s son and put him forward as the Hungarian candidate for the throne of Wallachia. Dracula became Hunyadi’s vassal and received his father’s old Transylvanian duchies of Faragas and Almas. Dracula remained in Transylvania, under Hunyadi’s protection, until 1456 waiting for an opportunity to retake Wallachia from his rival..

In 1453 the Christian world was shocked by the final fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. The East Roman Empire which had existed since the time of Constantine the Great and which for a thousand years had shielded the rest of Christendom from Islam was no more. Hunyadi immediately began planning another campaign against the Turks. In 1456 Hunyadi invaded Turkish Serbia while Dracula simultaneously invaded Wallachia. In the Battle of Belgrade Hunyadi was killed and his army defeated. Meanwhile, Dracula succeeded in killing Vladislav II and taking the Wallachian throne but Hunyadi’s defeat made his long term tenure questionable.For a time at least, Dracula was forced to attempt to placate the Turks while he solidified his own position. .

Dracula’s main reign stretched from 1456 to 1462. His capital was the city of Targoviste while his castle was raised some distance away in the mountains near the Arges River. Most of the atrocities associated with Dracula’s name took place in these years. It was also during this time that he launched his own campaign against the Turks.His campaign was relatively successful at first.

His skill as a warrior and his well-known cruelty made him a much feared enemy. (Stoian 9) However, he received little support from his titular overlord, Matthius Corvinus, King of Hungary (the son of John Hunyadi) and Wallachia’s resources were too limited to achieve any lasting success against the conqueror of Constantinople. .The Turks finally succeeded in forcing Dracula to flee to Transylvania in 1462. Reportedly, his first wife committed suicide by leaping from the towers of Dracula’s castle into the waters of the Arges River rather than surrender to the Turks.Dracula escaped across the mountains into Transylvania and appealed to Matthius Corvinus for aid.

Instead the King had Dracula arrested and imprisoned him in a royal tower near Buda. Dracula remained a prisoner for twelve years. .Apparently his imprisonment was none too onerous. He was able to gradually win his way back into the graces of Hungary’s monarch; so much so that he was able to meet and marry a member of the royal family Dracula’s second wife was actually the sister of Matthius Corvinus.(Florescu Biography of Vlad the Impaler 34) The openly pro-Turkish policy of Dracula’s brother, Radu the Handsome, who was prince of Wallachia during most of Dracula’s captivity probably, was a factor in Dracula’s rehabilitation.During his captivity Dracula also renounced the Orthodox faith and adopted Catholicism. It is interesting to note that the Russian narrative (from Treptows Essays), normally very favorable to Dracula, indicates that even in captivity he could not give up his favorite past-time; he often captured birds and mice which he proceeded to torture and mutilate some were beheaded or tarred-and-feathered and released most were impaled on tiny spears.

(Treptow Essays on the Life and Times of Vlad Tepes 129) .The exact length of Dracula’s period of captivity is open to some debate. The Russian pamphlets indicate that he was a prisoner from 1462 until 1474.

However, during that period Dracula managed to marry a member of the Hungarian royal family and have two sons who were about ten years old when he reconquered Wallachia in 1476. McNally and Florescu place Dracula’s actual period of confinement at about four years from 1462 to 1466. It is unlikely that a prisoner would be allowed to marry into the royal family.Diplomatic correspondence from Buda (in Treptows) during the period in question also seems to support the claim that Dracula’s actual period of confinement was relatively short. .

Apparently in years between his release in 1474 when he began preparations for the reconquest of Wallachia Dracula resided with his new wife in a house in the Hungarian capital. One anecdote from (Treptows Essays 137) that period tells how a Hungarian captain followed a thief into Dracula’s house. When Dracula discovered the intruders he killed the Hungarian officer rather than the thief. When questioned about his actions by the king Dracula answered that: a gentleman does not enter the presence of a great ruler without an introduction.

(Treptow 141)- had the captain followed proper protocol he would not have incurred the wrath of the prince. .In 1476 Dracula was again ready to make another bid for power. Dracula and Prince Stephen Bathory of Transylvania invaded Wallachia with a mixed force of Transylvanians, a few dissatisfied Wallachian boyars and a contingent of Moldavians sent by Dracula’s cousin, Prince Stephen the Great of Moldavia. Dracula’s brother, Radu the Handsome, had died a couple of years earlier and had been replaced on the Wallachian throne by another Turkish candidate, Basarab the Old, a member of the Danesti clan.

At the approach of Dracula’s army Basarab and his coherents fled, some to the protection of the Turks, others to the shelter of the mountains. After placing Dracula on the throne Stephen Bathory and the bulk of Dracula’s forces returned to Transylvania, leaving Dracula’s tactical position very weak.Dracula had little time to gather support before a large Turkish army entered Wallachia determined to return Basarab to the throne.

Dracula’s cruelties over the years had alienated the boyars who felt they had a better chance of surviving under Prince Basarab. Apparently, even the peasants, tired of the depredations of the Impaler, abandoned him to his fate. Dracula was forced to march to meet the Turks with the small forces at his disposal, somewhat less than four thousand men. .Dracula was killed in battle against the Turks near the small town of Bucharest (the actual capital city of Romania) in December of 1476. A report (from Treptows 164) indicated that he was assassinated by disloyal Wallachian boyars just as he was about to sweep the Turks from the field.Other accounts have Dracula falling in defeat, surrounded by the bodies of his loyal Moldavian bodyguard (the troops loaned by Prince Stephen of Moldavia remained with Dracula after Stephen Bathory returned to Transylvania).

Still other reports claim that Dracula, at the moment of victory, was accidentally struck down by one of his own men. (Teptow 271) Dracula’s body was decapitated by the Turks and his head sent to Constantinople where the sultan had it displayed on a stake as proof that the Impaler was dead. He was reportedly buried at Snagov, an island monastery located near Bucharest. .More than anything else the historical Dracula is known for his inhuman cruelty. Impalement was Dracula’s preferred method of torture and execution. Impalement was and is one of the most gruesome ways of dying imaginable.

Dracula usually had a horse attached to each of the victim’s legs and a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body.The end of the stake was usually oiled and care was taken that the stake not be too sharp; else the victim might die too rapidly from shock. Normally the stake was inserted into the body through the buttocks and was often forced through the body until it emerged from the mouth. However, there were many instances where victims were impaled through other bodily orifices or through the abdomen or chest. Infants were sometimes impaled on the stake forced through their mother’s chests.

Victims were sometimes impaled so that they hung upside down on the stake.The cruelty of Dracula is, of course, a bitter reality.(Myles 53) .Death by impalement was slow and painful. Victims sometimes endured for hours or days.

Dracula often had the stakes arran …