Vlad Tepes - Prince Dracula
Vlad the Impailer
VLAD TEPES1431 - 1476 "Dracula"
Prince of Wallachia
Son of Vlad Dracul (Knight of the Order of the Dragon)
Grandson of Mircea the Great, Voevod of Wallachia
The word Voevod means Warlord-Prince. For those of you who aren't familiar with the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler, he was the prince of Wallachia during the time of the Ottoman Empire's attempts to take over parts of Eastern Europe in the 1400's. He helped John Hunyadi, the white knight, to defend their homelands from the Turkish muslim advances.
Adopting a totalitarian leadership, Vlad Tepes introduced a very strict order in Wallachia, strengthened the army, helped the trade with the neighboring countries, and was merciless towards those who went against him, be they noblemen (boyars) or of a lower status. Externally, he fought The Ottoman Empire, against which he scored famous victories. Vlad Dracolya, the fifteenth century voevod prince, also known as Vlad the Impaler, is best remembered as the inspiration for Bram Stoker's famous novel, Dracula. His true history, in fact, is far more fascinating than any vampire story.
Vlad was born in the town of Sighisoara in the early fourteen hundreds. He was the second son of the Prince of Wallachia, Vlad Dracul. The country of Wallachia was a principality, meaning that it was ruled by a prince, rather than a king. Dracul was a member of The Order of the Dragon (a position from which he derived his surname). The Order of the Dragon was a group of Slavic rulers and warlords who were sworn to uphold the Christian faith by fighting off the advancing Turks of the Ottoman Empire. Warfare was almost continuous in Wallachia and the surrounding areas at that period of history.
At a young age, perhaps the first battle he participated in, Vlad was taken captive by the Turks, along with his younger brother Radu the Handsome. Vlad and Radu were valuable hostages, being sons of the local prince, so they were taken back to Istanbul, and imprisoned by the Sultan, Mehemet. When his sons were taken, Dracul had unsuccessfully attempted to bargain with the Turks for their release. This bargaining was viewed as treason by John Hunyadi, (the King of Hungary in fact if not in name, and the most powerful member of the Order of the Dragon.) Hunyadi hired assassins who killed Dracul and his oldest son (Vlad's older brother) Mihnea.
Meanwhile in Istanbul, Sultan Mehemet was trying to indoctrinate Vlad and Radu into Islam, making allies of them. He hoped to use their claim to the Wallachian throne to his advantage. Radu converted quickly, and was released from prison. Vlad, however, was far more stubborn. It has been suggested that Vlad's sadistic tenancies started as a result of his imprisonment by the Sultan.
When Vlad finally seemed subdued, The sultan turned back to the conquest of Wallachia. After taking it's capital, he set up Vlad as the new prince. Vlad, however, did not want to be a puppet ruler, so after a few months, he fled the country, going north into Moldavia. Vlad stayed for some time with his cousin, and close friend Steven.
Vlad decided that the only way to oust the Turks, and become the true prince of Wallachia, was to enlist the help of John Hunyadi, the very man who had murdered his father and brother. Vlad was willing to put this aside to defeat their common enemy, the Sultan.
Hunyadi agreed to back Vlad militarily. Vlad and Hunyadi were successful in driving out Radu, who had been made prince by the Sultan when Vlad escaped. Vlad retook the Wallachian throne, beginning his second, and most infamous reign.
Vlad Dracolya was not a good or kind prince. He had a terrifying habit of repeatedly raiding certain towns in his territory, and murdering great numbers of people. For reasons unknown, the towns selected for these meaningless attacks where often those towns who's population had largely German ancestry. As a result, most of the remaining written records of Vlad come from propaganda pamphlets printed by the Germans on the newly invented printing press. The most famous picture of Vlad is a woodblock print from one of these pamphlets depicting Vlad eating his dinner on a grassy hill surrounded by a forest of impaled bodies.
Most of Vlad's victims were killed by impalement. When killing large numbers of peasants, he would drive them in herds over cliffs onto beds of spikes below. He also employed methods such as boiling, quartering,
decapitation, etc. More than anything else the historical Dracula is known for his inhuman cruelty. Impalement was Dracula's preferred method of torture and execution. Impalement 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.
Thousands were often impaled at a single time. Ten thousand were impaled in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu (where Dracula had once lived) in 1460. In 1459, on St. Bartholomew's Day, Dracula had thirty thousand of the merchants and boyars of the Transylvanian city of Brasov impaled. One of the most famous woodcuts of the period shows Dracula feasting amongst a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Brasov while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims.
There are many stories of varying levels of authentication about the dire deeds of Vlad during his second reign. A few of them go as follows:
Dracula was known throughout his land for his fierce insistence on honesty and order. Thieves seldom dared practice their trade within Dracula's domain - they knew that the stake awaited any who were caught. Dracula was so confident in the effectiveness of his law that he placed a golden cup on display in the central square of Targoviste. The cup was never stolen and remained entirely unmolested throughout Dracula's reign.
A merchant from a foreign land once visited Dracula's capital of Targoviste. Aware of the reputation of Dracula's land for honesty, he left a treasure-laden cart unguarded in the street over night. Returning to his wagon in the morning, the merchant was shocked to find 160 golden ducats missing. When the merchant complained of his loss to the prince, Dracula assured him that his money would be returned and invited him to remain in the palace that night. Dracula then issued a proclamation to the city - find the thief and return the money or the city will be destroyed. During the night he ordered that 160 ducats plus one extra be taken from his own treasury and placed in the merchant's cart. On returning to his cart in the morning and counting his money the merchant discovered the extra ducat.
The merchant returned to Dracula and reported that his money had indeed been returned plus an extra ducat. Meanwhile the thief had been captured and turned over to the prince's guards along with the stolen money. Dracula ordered the thief impaled and informed the merchant that if he had not reported the extra ducat he would have been impaled alongside the thief.
Dracula once noticed a man working in the fields while wearing a too short caftan. The prince stopped and asked the man whether or not he had a wife. When the man answered in the affirmative Dracula had the woman brought before him and asked her how she spent her days. The poor, frightened woman stated that she spent her days washing, baking and sewing. The prince pointed out her husband's short caftan as evidence of her laziness and dishonesty and ordered her impaled despite her husband's protestations that he was well satisfied with his wife. Dracula then ordered another woman to marry the peasant but admonished her to work hard or she would suffer her predecessor's fate.
Dracula was very concerned that all his subjects work and contribute to the common welfare. He once noticed that the poor, vagrants, beggars and cripples had become very numerous in his land. Consequently, he issued an invitation to all the poor and sick in Wallachia to come to Targoviste for a great feast, claiming that no one should go hungry in his land. As the poor and crippled arrived in the city they were ushered into a great hall where a fabulous feast was prepared fore them. The princes guests ate and drank late into the night, When Dracula himself made an appearance. "What else do you desire? Do you want to be without cares, lacking nothing in this world," asked the prince. When they responded positively, anticipating gifts, Dracula ordered the hall boarded up and set on fire. None escaped the flames. Dracula explained his action to the boyars by claiming that he did this, 'in order that they represent no further burden to other men so that no one will be poor in my realm.
Once, two ambassadors from the Sultan came with a message for Vlad. When they entered his throne room, he asked them to remove their turbans. It was considered rude to address the prince without taking off one's hat. The Turks, however, took exception to this request. For one thing, Vlad and the Sultan where not on good terms, so insulting him really didn't seem to matter, and just as importantly, the turbans were not just headgear, they were a symbol of the Muslim religion. The Turks refused, not knowing just how serious a mistake it was to insult Vlad. Vlad immediately ordered his guards to seize them, and then stated that if they were so unwilling to part with the turbans, that they should be nailed to their heads. Vlad then watched in satisfaction as the Turks writhed and screamed as nails were driven into their skulls. The envoys were sent back to the sultan.
Just as Vlad reacted violently to insult, he responded very well to flattery. Once a messenger was sent to Vlad from king Mathias of Hungary. It was unknown what news the messenger brought, but it angered Vlad. Vlad invited the messenger to eat dinner with him personally. Before the meal, Vlad asked the messenger "Do you know why I have asked you here?" The man knew Vlad's reputation, knew he was angry, and saw two soldiers standing behind Vlad, holding a gold tipped spear. Thinking fast, he replied "I do not know, but I know you are a wise and great ruler, and no matter what you command, even if you were to command my death, it should be done." Vlad motioned the soldiers away, and said "Had you not answered so well, I would have impaled you on the spot." He then showered the messenger with gifts, and sent him back to Mathias.
Wallachia had been, for the most part, free from invasion during Vlad's second reign, but a new Sultan, Suiliman II had come to power, and the Ottoman Empire once again turned its eyes toward Wallachia.
Vlad was informed by his spies of the great power of the approaching Turkish army. He knew that his forces could not win in open battle, and that he lacked the resources to survive a long siege, so he undertook a very desperate venture. In the middle of the night, Vlad personally led a small elite force into the Turkish camp in the hopes of taking the Sultan off guard and killing him. If the Sultan died, the Turkish troops would be so demoralized that they might retreat. Thanks to the element of surprise, and excellent knowledge of the local terrain, Vlad's midnight offensive was almost successful. The Sultan was wounded, although not fatally, and
Vlad's entire force escaped without casualties. (this battle was recorded in great detail by a Turkish soldier)
But the attack did not stop the Turkish army. Vlad retreated to his castle at Targoviste, and prepared to flee. His wife, believing that escape was impossible, committed suicide by leaping off of a cliff into a river. The river was afterwards known as the Princess River.
Vlad was hit by a second tragedy as he and his servants escaped through the forest on horseback-- the servant who was carrying Vlad's infant son dropped him. The pursuing Turks were too close to risk turning back to look for the child, so they were forced to leave him behind. In one day Vlad had lost both his home and his family.
Seeking help, Vlad went to King Mathias of Hungary-- but Vlad's evil deeds finally caught up with him. People from some of the villages most persecuted by Vlad had gotten to Mathias first. They told the king that Vlad was an ally of the Turks, and coming as a spy. When Vlad arrived, he was immediately thrown into prison.
The Turks did not stay long in Targoviste. They were greeted by the impaled heads of several of their spies. Before fleeing, Vlad had set fire to the city, rendering it into ruins. The Turks took the city anyway, but after only a few days, Black Plague broke out among the soldiers, and they were forced to retreat out of Wallachia.
Vlad was imprisoned for several months, but he caught the eye of Ilona, King Mathias's sister. She used her influence with her brother to have Vlad freed, and they were married. Vlad was partially pardoned, but he was required to stay within the city. He was given a large home, and lived there for several years with his new wife, who bore him another son. Once Mathias considered him an ally again, Vlad was free to go, so he returned to Wallachia and reclaimed the throne for the third and final time. He built a new capital, Bucharesti (now Bucharest, the capital of modern-day Romania)
Shortly after retaking his throne, A peasant came to Vlad with a young boy, saying that he had found him in the forest years ago on the night of the Turkish attack. The boy was Vlad's lost son. The boy was returned to Vlad, and the peasant was greatly rewarded.
Vlad died in battle, over the age of fifty. He will always be remembered. As a fiend to most, but as a hero to the people of Romania for defending his homeland from the Turks.
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