Vlad the Impaler - Dracula - (1431-1476)

Vlad the Impaler

1431 On November, at Sighisoara, Mures County, it seems that Vlad III, known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) or Vlad Dracul (he was also known as Dracula, especially by foreigners) was born. He was Prince of Wallachia in 1448, 1455-1462 and 1476. His father was Vlad II Dracul and his mother was a Transylvanian noble.

Tepes is known because he temporary obtained Wallachia’s independence from the Ottoman Empire but also because of the way he used to punish the wicked and the enemies. Culprits were impaled, fact that characterized him as a Prince with demonic cruelty methods.

1436 This year, his father, Vlad II Dracul, became Prince of Wallachia and moved to Royal Court in Targoviste. Vlad Tepes followed his father and lived together with him for 6 years, until 1442.

1442 By political reasons, he was sent by his father as prisoner to Sultan Murad II’s Court, together with his brother, Radu the Handsome.

1447 This year Sultan Murad II freed Vlad immediately after his father’s death – murdered by Vladislav II’s order, a competitor for Wallachia’s throne.

His brother, Radu, remained prisoner until 1462. In 1447 Vlad found out that noblemen in Targoviste had tortured and had buried alive his brother Mircea.

1448 When he was 17 years old, accompanied by Turkish army, Vlad had been crowned as Prince of Wallachia, but two months later he was defeated by Vladislav II, who recovered the throne

1456 On the 20th of August, Tepes killed Vladislav and was crowned second time. His first important revenge act was done against boyars in Targoviste, who were guilty for his father and brother’s death.

1459 On Easter Sunday he arrested all noble families that had taken part in princely party. The oldest ones were impaled and the others were obliged to walk one hundred kilometres from the capital to Poenari, where they had to build a fortress on the ruins of an old outpost overlooking Arges River.

Soon, Vlad the Impaler became famous because of his violent ways of punishment. According to Saxon detractors from Transylvania, he often ordered that condemned people to be skinned, boiled, beheaded, blinded, strangulated, hanged, burnt, roasted, chopped, nailed, buried alive. He also commended for his victims to have their nose, ears, tongue and genital organs cut. But his favourite torture was impalement, where Tepes (Impaler) nickname derives from, that who impales.

Tepes applied this method also against Transylvanian traders who did not respect his commercial laws. Incursions he did against Saxons from Transylvania were also acts of protectionism done to promote commercial activities in Wallachia. In 1459 Tepes also refused to pay anymore tribute to Turks (10.000 gold coins every year).

1460 It seems that at the beginning of this year, Vlad the Impaler concluded an alliance with Matei Corvin, agreement that Turks wanted to stop. Further, they would try though Pasha Hamza, Bey of Nicopolis, and Sultan’s Deacon, Catavolinos, to catch Vlad by guile, but it was unsuccessful and both were impaled.

1461-1462 During the winter between these two years, Vlad organized a surprise campaign in the South of Danube. Over 20.000 Turks were killed by Wallachians and the number of victims was written by Vlad himself in a letter for Matei Corvin.

1462 During spring, Sultan Mohammed II, leading a huge army, about 100-120.000 soldiers (the second biggest army after that which had conquered Constantinople) and 175 warships in order to conquer Chilia, would go to Danube. According to generous estimates, Wallachian Prince’s effectives were not more than 30.000 soldiers. Even if Vlad tried to stop Turks at the Danube, in front of Turnu Fortress, at night, they succeeded to cross the stream and went directly to Targoviste (1462, 4th of July).

On these conditions, the Impaler would apply harassment tactics: land’s desolation  -especially the way to Targoviste -, wells poisoning, Turkish detachments (gone for food) attack. In this oppressive atmosphere in which Turkish, hungry and scared, advanced through the desolated country, Vlad’s greatest blow happened, the night attack on 16-17th of July 1462, fact that demoralized more Ottoman army and was mentioned within all historical sources related to campaign in 1462. The attack target was the Sultan himself, but he escaped because his tent was confused with that of a vizier. But the psychological effect of the attack was an important one. Many Turks were killed and, according to reports, the Sultan “left in secret and shameful the camp”; seeing “the big lost oh his people” he ordered the withdrawal. Close to Targoviste, he was waited by a scene that terrified his armies: a spike forest where a lot of dead Turks were hanged; in front of this landscape the Turks “got very scared” and the Sultan recognized that “it was impossible to take the country of a man who does such great things” and that “would deserve more”.

According to Byzantine scholar Chalcocondil, the Sultan crowned Tepes’ brother, Radu the Handsome, as Prince of Targoviste in order to attract by his side all Vlad’s enemies. Pasha of Nicopolis was going to ensure reinforced support to Radu.

The period that followed was very unquiet for Wallachia’s history, the two brothers wanted to strengthen their forces in order to eliminate the enemies. Unlike Vlad Tepes who wanted to fight more against Ottoman Empire, Radu the Handsome offered peace and friendship to boyars and in the end they were by his side. On these conditions, left by the majority of noblemen but having a very numerous army (it seems that he obtained a last victory against his opponents on the 8th of September) on October 1462 Vlad crossed to Transylvania in order to meet his ally, Matei Corvin.

Because this was neither too decided nor too ready to fight, he decided to change the initial plan recognizing the existing situation of Wallachia and refusing to support Vlad. Moreover, the King had taken that decision also because of a supposed letter of Vlad to the Sultan in which he would have asked forgiveness and, more than this, would have engaged to help him against Magyar armies. As a consequence, on November 1462 Vlad the Impaler, instead of receiving his ally’s help, he was arrested under the charge of treason and imprisoned at Visegrad for 12 years. After Visegrad, he was forced to live almost two years at Buda, under house arrest.

1475 This year Vlad was freed by the request of Stephen the Great, Moldavia’s Prince, in the context of Turkish pressures which were stronger and stronger over territories in the North of Danube. This year Vlad was recognized as Prince of Wallachia for the third time but this reign was a very short one.

1476 The Impaler was murdered at the end of December. His body was beheaded and the head was sent to the Sultan who impaled it as a proof of the triumph over Vlad. There was a hypothesis that “Dracula” would have been buried at Snagov Monastery, on an island close to Bucharest. Recent examinations showed that Vlad’s “tomb” from the monastery contains only few horse bones dated from the Neolithic and not the real mortal remains of the Prince. In renowned historian Constantine Razachevici’s opinion, Vlad’s tomb would be at Comana Monastery, his foundation.

The Impaler versus Dracula. Bram Stoker’s book, “Dracula”, is not directly based on Vlad Dracul’s reign, it is a fiction that takes place in Transylvania and England in century XIX. From the success of the novel, Transylvania is linked to fictional character Dracula.

English writer Bram Stoker could easily search to Royal Library in London some of those Saxon X century engravings that were also within collection of British Museum, where Vlad the Impaler is described as a monster, a vampire that drinks human blood and a great lover of cruelty. He had probably accessed History of Moldavia and Wallachia book of Johann Christian Engel, who describes Vlad as a bloody tyrant fact that probably gave him the idea to consider Wallachia’s Prince as a model for his fictional character, Dracula. Some historians proposed the idea that Stoker would have had a friendship with a Magyar teacher from University in Budapest, Arminius Vambery (Hermann Vamberger) and it is possible that this would have offered him information about Vlad the Impaler. Moreover, the fact that Dr. Abraham Van Helsing mentions his friend Arminius within his novel in 1897 as a source of his knowledge about Vlad III called Dracula, seems to support this hypothesis. It must be remembered that this seems to be the only cause because there is not any connection between Vlad Dracul from history (1431-1476) and the modern literary myth of the vampire that is Bram Stoker’s book. He used folkloric sources, historical mentions and personal experiences in order to create a complex character.[1]

 

 

Bibliography:

    1. http://www.ro.biography.name/conducatori/94-romania/364-vlad-tepes-1431-1476

 

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