Vlad the Impaler
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2013)|
|Vlad III Dracula|
|Voivode of Wallachia|
|Reign||1448; 1456–1462; 1476|
|Born||November or December 1431|
|Birthplace||Sighișoara, Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary (now Romania)|
|Died||December 1476 or January 1477, exact date unknown (aged 45)|
|Place of death||Bucharest, Wallachia|
|Wives||unnamed Transylvanian noblewoman
|Issue||Mihnea cel Rău, Vlad IV Călugărul|
|Royal House||House of Drăculești (branch of the House of Basarab)|
|Father||Vlad II Dracul|
|Mother||Cneajna of Moldavia|
Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1476/77), was a member of the House of Drăculești, a branch of the House of Basarab, also known by his patronymic name: Dracula. He was posthumously dubbed Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Țepeș pronounced [ˈvlad ˈt͡sepeʃ]), and was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462, the period of the incipient Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. His father, Vlad II Dracul, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was founded to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero in Romania as well as other parts of Europe for his protection of the Romanian population both south and north of the Danube. A significant number of Romanian and Bulgarian common folk and remaining boyars (nobles) moved north of the Danube to Wallachia, recognized his leadership and settled there following his raids on the Ottomans.
As the cognomen 'The Impaler' suggests, his practice of impaling his enemies is part of his historical reputation. During his lifetime, his reputation for excessive cruelty spread abroad, to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula was inspired by Vlad's patronymic.
- 1 Name
- 2 Family
- 3 First reign and exile
- 4 Second reign
- 5 Third reign and death
- 6 Legacy
- 7 Popular culture
- 8 Portrayal in film
- 9 References
- 10 External links
His Romanian patronymic Dragwlya (or Dragkwlya) Dragulea, Dragolea, Drăculea, is a diminutive of the epithet Dracul carried by his father Vlad II, who in 1431 was inducted as a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order founded by Sigismund of Hungary in 1408. Dracul is the Romanian definite form, the -ul being the suffixal definite article (deriving from Latin ille). The noun drac "dragon" itself continues Latin draco. Thus, Dracula literally means "Son of the Dragon". In Modern Romanian, the word drac has adopted the meaning of "devil" (the term for "dragon" now being balaur or dragon). This has led to misinterpretations of Vlad's epithet as characterizing him as "devilish".
Vlad's nickname of Țepeș ("Impaler") identifies his favourite method of execution but was only attached to his name posthumously, in c. 1550. Before this, however, he was known as Kazıklı Bey (Sir Impaler) by the Ottoman Empire after their armies encountered his "forests" of impalement victims.
Vlad was born in Sighișoara, Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary (today part of Romania), in the winter of 1431 to Vlad II Dracul, future voivode of Wallachia. Vlad's father was the son of the celebrated Voivode Mircea the Elder. His mother is unknown, though at the time his father is believed to have been married to Princess Cneajna of Moldavia (eldest daughter of Alexander "the Good", Prince of Moldavia and aunt to Stephen the Great of Moldavia) and also to have kept a number of mistresses. He had two older half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, and a younger brother, Radu III the Handsome.
Vlad and Radu spent their early formative years in Sighișoara. During the first reign of their father, Vlad II Dracul, the Voivode brought his young sons to Târgoviște, the capital of Wallachia at that time.
The Byzantine chancellor Mikhail Doukas showed that, at Târgoviște, the sons of boyars and ruling princes were well-educated by Romanian or Greek scholars commissioned from Constantinople. Vlad is believed to have learned combat skills, geography, mathematics, science, languages (Old Church Slavonic, German, Latin), and the classical arts and philosophy.
Life in Edirne
In 1436, Vlad II Dracul ascended the throne of Wallachia. He was ousted in 1442 by rival factions in league with Hungary, but secured Ottoman support for his return by agreeing to pay the Tribute to the Sultan.
Vlad II also sent his two legitimate sons, Vlad and Radu cel Frumos, to the Ottoman court, to serve as hostages of his loyalty. After the death of Vlad II Dracul, Radu cel Frumos converted to Islam and entered the service of the Ottoman court.
During his years as hostage, Vlad was educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish language and works of literature. He would speak this language fluently in his later years. He and his brother were also trained in warfare and riding horses. The boys' father, Vlad Dracul, was awarded the support of the Ottomans and returned to Wallachia and took back his throne from Basarab II and some unfaithful Boyars.
In October 2011, Prince Charles publicly claimed that he is a descendant of Vlad the Impaler. The claim accompanied his announcement of a pledge to help conserve the forested areas of Transylvania. Radu Florescu documented on page 193 of his book, "Dracula: Prince of Many Faces" that the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I granted Ladislas Dracula and his brother John recognition as Dracula's direct descendants. Based on their documentation, the Emperor granted them letters patent (a patent of nobility) on January 20, 1535, in which their descent is described and also specific mention is made in the patent of "the ancient insignia of Ladislas's family" as being the same as that of the Bathory family—a gules (red) sword covering three wolf teeth.
First reign and exile
In December 1447, boyars in league with the Hungarian regent John Hunyadi rebelled against Vlad II Dracul and killed him in the marshes near Bălteni. Mircea II of Wallachia, Dracul's eldest son and heir, was blinded and buried alive at Târgoviște.
To prevent Wallachia from falling into the Hungarian fold, the Ottomans invaded Wallachia and put young Vlad III on the throne. However, this rule was short-lived as Hunyadi himself now invaded Wallachia and restored his ally Vladislav II, of the Dănești clan, to the throne.
Vlad fled to Moldavia, where he lived under the protection of his uncle, Bogdan II. In October 1451, Bogdan was assassinated and Vlad fled to Hungary. Impressed by Vlad's vast knowledge of the mindset and inner workings of the Ottoman Empire as well as his hatred of the new sultan Mehmed II, Hunyadi reconciled with his former rival and made him his advisor.
After the Fall of Constantinople to Mehmed II in 1453, Ottoman influence began to spread from this base through the Carpathians, threatening mainland Europe, and by 1481 conquering the entire Balkans peninsula. Vlad's rule thus falls entirely within the three decades of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.
In 1456, three years after the Ottomans had conquered Constantinople, they threatened Hungary by besieging Belgrade. Hunyadi began a concerted counter-attack in Serbia: while he himself moved into Serbia and relieved the siege (before dying of the plague), Vlad led his own contingent into Wallachia, reconquered his native land and killed Vladislav II in hand-to-hand combat.
Vlad found Wallachia in a wretched state: constant war had resulted in rampant crime, falling agricultural production, and the virtual disappearance of trade. Regarding a stable economy essential to resisting external enemies, he used severe methods to restore order and prosperity.
Vlad had three aims for Wallachia: to strengthen the country's economy, its defense, and his own political power. He took measures to help the peasants' well-being by building new villages and raising agricultural output. He understood the importance of trade for the development of Wallachia. He helped the Wallachian merchants by limiting foreign merchant trade to three market towns: Târgșor, Câmpulung and Târgoviște.
Vlad considered the boyars the chief cause of the constant strife as well as of the death of his father and brother. To secure his rule he had many leading nobles killed. He also gave positions in his council which had traditionally belonged to the greatest boyars to persons of obscure or foreign origin who would be loyal to him alone. For lower offices, Vlad preferred knights and free peasants to boyars. In his aim of fixing up Wallachia, Vlad issued new laws punishing thieves. Vlad treated the boyars with the same harshness, believing them guilty of weakening Wallachia through their personal struggles for power.
The army was also strengthened. He had a small personal guard, mostly made of mercenaries, who were rewarded with loot and promotions. He also established a militia or ‘lesser army’ made up of peasants called to fight whenever war came.
Vlad Dracula built a church at Târgșor (allegedly in the memory of his father and older brother who were killed nearby), and he contributed with money to the Snagov Monastery.
Raids into Transylvania
Since the Wallachian nobility was allied with the Transylvanian Saxons, Vlad also acted against them by eliminating their trade privileges and raiding their resident castles. In 1459, he had several Saxon settlers of Brașov (Kronstadt) impaled.
War with the Ottomans
In 1459, Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans, at the Congress of Mantua. In this crusade, the main role was to be played by Matthias Corvinus, son of John Hunyadi (János Hunyadi), the King of Hungary. To this effect, Matthias Corvinus received from the Pope 40,000 golden coins, an amount that was thought to be enough to gather an army of 12,000 men and purchase 10 Danube warships. In this context, Vlad allied himself with Matthias Corvinus, with the hope of keeping the Ottomans out of the country (Wallachia was claimed as a part of the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Mehmed II).
Later that year, in 1459, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II sent envoys to Vlad to urge him to pay a delayed tribute of 10,000 ducats and 500 recruits into the Ottoman forces. Vlad refused, because if he had paid the 'tribute', as the tax was called at the time, it would have meant a public acceptance of Wallachia as part of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad, just like most of his predecessors and successors, had as a primary goal to keep Wallachia as independent as possible. Vlad had the Turkish envoys killed on the pretext that they had refused to raise their "hats" to him, by nailing their turbans to their heads.
Vlad Țepeș planned to set an ambush. Hamza Pasha, the Bey of Nicopolis, brought with him 1000 cavalry and when passing through a narrow pass north of Giurgiu, Vlad launched a surprise attack. The Wallachians had the Turks surrounded and defeated. The Turks' plans were thwarted and almost all of them caught and impaled, with Hamza Pasha impaled on the highest stake to show his rank.
In the winter of 1462, Vlad crossed the Danube and devastated the entire Bulgarian land in the area between Serbia and the Black Sea. Disguising himself as a Turkish Sipahi and utilizing the fluent Turkish he had learned as a hostage, he infiltrated and destroyed Ottoman camps. In a letter to Corvinus dated 2 February, he wrote:
I have killed peasants men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea, up to Rahova, which is located near Chilia, from the lower Danube up to such places as Samovit and Ghighen. We killed 23,884 Turks without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers...Thus, your highness, you must know that I have broken the peace with him (Sultan Mehmet II).
In response to this, Sultan Mehmed II raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars, and in spring of 1462 headed towards Wallachia. Commanding at best only 30,000 to 40,000 men (depending of the source), Vlad was unable to stop the Ottomans from crossing the Danube on June 4, 1462 and entering Wallachia. He constantly organized small attacks and ambushes on the Turks, such as The Night Attack when 15,000 Turks were killed. This infuriated Mehmed II, who then crossed the Danube. With the exception of some Turkish references all the other chronicles at the time that mention the 1462 campaign state that the Sultan was defeated. Apparently, the Turks retreated in such a hurry that by July 11, 1462 the Sultan was already in Adrianopolis. According to the Byzantine historian Chalcocondil, Radu, brother of Vlad III and ingratiate of the Sultan, was left behind in Targoviste with the hope that he would be able to gather an anti-Vlad clique that would ultimately get rid of Vlad as Voivode of Wallachia and crown Radu as the new puppet ruler.
Vlad the Impaler's attack was celebrated by the Saxon cities of Transylvania, the Italian states and the Pope. A Venetian envoy, upon hearing about the news at the court of Corvinus on 4 March, expressed great joy and said that the whole of Christianity should celebrate Vlad Țepeș's successful campaign. The Genoese from Caffa also thanked Vlad, for his campaign had saved them from an attack of some 300 ships that the sultan planned to send against them.
Vlad's younger brother Radu cel Frumos and his Janissary battalions were given the task of leading the Ottoman Empire to victory at all expense by Sultan Mehmed II. After the Sipahis' incursions failed to subdue Vlad, the few remaining Sipahi were killed in a night raid by Vlad III in 1462. However, as the war raged on, Radu and his formidable Janissary battalions were well supplied with a steady flow of gunpowder and dinars; this allowed them to push deeper into the realm of Vlad III. Radu and his well-equipped forces finally besieged Poenari Castle, the famed lair of Vlad III. After his difficult victory Radu was given the title Bey of Wallachia by Sultan Mehmed II.
Vlad III's defeat at Poenari was due in part to the fact that the Boyars, who had been alienated by Vlad's policy of undermining their authority, had joined Radu under the assurance that they would regain their privileges. They may have also believed that Ottoman protection was better than Hungarian. It was said as well that Radu (through his spies or traitors) found the place where some Boyars' families were hidden during the war (probably some forests around Snagov) and blackmailed them to come to his side.
By 8 September, Vlad had won another three victories, but continuous war had left him without any money and he could no longer pay his mercenaries. Vlad traveled to Hungary to ask for help from his former ally, Matthias Corvinus. Instead of receiving help, he found himself arrested and thrown into the dungeon for high treason. Corvinus, not planning to get involved in a war after having spent the Papal money meant for it on personal expenses, forged a letter from Vlad III to the Ottomans where he supposedly proposed a peace with them, to give an explanation for the Pope and a reason to abandon the war and return to his capital.
Captivity in Hungary
Vlad was imprisoned at Oratia, a fortress located at Podu Dâmboviței Bridge. A period of imprisonment in Visegrád near Buda followed, where the Wallachian prince was held for 10 years. Then he was imprisoned in Buda.
The exact length of Vlad's period of captivity is open to some debate, though indications are that it was from 1462 until 1474. Diplomatic correspondence from Buda seems to indicate that the period of Vlad's effective confinement was relatively short. Radu's openly pro-Ottoman policy as voivode probably contributed to Vlad's rehabilitation. Moreover, Ștefan cel Mare, Voivode of Moldavia and relative of Vlad intervened on his behalf to be released from prison as the Ottoman pressure on the territories north of the Danube was increasing.
Third reign and death
After Radu's sudden death in 1475, Vlad III declared his third reign in 26 November 1476. Vlad began preparations for the reconquest of Wallachia in 1476 with Hungarian support. Vlad's third reign had lasted little more than two months when he was killed in battle against the Turks. The exact date of his death is unknown, presumably 31 October or the end of December 1476, but it is known that he was dead by 10 January 1477. The exact location of his death is also unknown, but it would have been somewhere along the road between Bucharest and Giurgiu. Vlad's head was taken to Constantinople as a trophy, and his body was buried unceremoniously by his rival, Basarab Laiota, possibly at Comana, a monastery founded by Vlad in 1461. The Comana monastery was demolished and rebuilt from scratch in 1589.
In the 19th century, Romanian historians cited a "tradition", apparently without any kind of support in documentary evidence, that Vlad was buried at Snagov, an island monastery located near Bucharest. To support this theory, the so-called Cantacuzino Chronicle was cited, which cites Vlad as the founder of this monastery. But as early as 1855, Alexandru Odobescu had established that this is impossible as the monastery had been in existence before 1438. Since excavations carried out by Dinu V Rosetti in June– October 1933, it has become clear that Snagov monastery was founded during the later 14th century, well before the time of Vlad III. The 1933 excavation also established that there was no tomb below the supposed "unmarked tombstone" of Vlad in the monastery church. Rosetti (1935) reported that "Under the tombstone attributed to Vlad there was no tomb. Only many bones and jaws of horses." In the 1970s, speculative attribution of an anonymous tomb found elsewhere in the church to Vlad Țepeș was published by Simion Saveanu, a journalist who wrote a series of articles on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Vlad's death. Most Romanian historians today favor the Comana monastery as the final resting place for Vlad Țepeș.
Reputation for cruelty
Even during his lifetime, Vlad III Țepeș became famous as a tyrant taking sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing. He is shown in crypto-portraits made during his lifetime in the role of cruel rulers or executioners. After Vlad's death, his cruel deeds were reported with macabre gusto in popular pamphlets in Germany, reprinted from the 1480s until the 1560s, and to a lesser extent in Tsarist Russia. As an example of how Vlad Țepeș soon became iconic for all horrors unimaginable, the following pamphlet from 1521 pours out putative incidents like this one (sic):
"er liess kinnder praten die musten ire mütter essen. Und schneyd den frawen den prüst ab den musten ire man essen. Danach liess er sie all spissen."
"Er briet die Kinder, und ihre Mütter mussten diese essen. Er schnitt den Frauen die Brüste ab, und ihre Männer mussten diese essen. Danach ließ er sie alle pfählen.
He roasted children, whom he fed to their mothers. And (he) cut off the breasts of women, and forced their husbands to eat them. After that, he had them all impaled.
Estimates of the number of his victims range from 40,000 to 100,000. According to the German stories the number of victims he had killed was at least 80,000. In addition to the 80,000 victims mentioned he also had whole villages and fortresses destroyed and burned to the ground.
Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution. Several woodcuts from German pamphlets of the late 15th and early 16th centuries show Vlad feasting in a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Brașov, while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims. It was reported that an invading Ottoman army turned back in fright when it encountered thousands of rotting corpses on the banks of the Danube. It has also been said that in 1462 Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, a man noted for his own psychological warfare tactics and the impalement of subjugated peoples in the Ottoman Empire, returned to Constantinople after being sickened by the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses outside Vlad's capital of Târgoviște.
Allegedly, Vlad's reputation for cruelty was actively promoted by Matthias Corvinus, who tarnished Vlad's reputation and credibility for a political reason: as an explanation for why he had not helped Vlad fight the Ottomans in 1462, for which purpose he had received money from most Catholic states in Europe. Matthias employed the charges of Southeastern Transylvania, and produced fake letters of high treason, written on 7 November 1462.
The German stories circulated first in manuscript form in the late 15th century and the first manuscript was probably written in 1462 before Vlad's arrest. The text was later printed in Germany and had a major impact on the general public, becoming a best-seller of its time with numerous later editions adding to and altering the original text.
In addition to the manuscripts and pamphlets the German version of the stories can be found in the poem of Michael Beheim. The poem called "Von ainem wutrich der hies Trakle waida von der Walachei" ("Story of a Madman Named Dracula of Wallachia") was written and performed at the court of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor during the winter of 1463.
To this day four manuscripts and 13 pamphlets have been found, as well as the poem by Michel Beheim. The surviving manuscripts date from the last quarter of the 15th century to the year 1500 and the found pamphlets date from 1488 to 1559–1568.
Eight of the pamphlets are incunabula, meaning that they were printed before 1501. The German stories about Vlad the Impaler consist of 46 short episodes, although none of the manuscripts, pamphlets or the poem of Beheim contain all 46 stories.
All of them begin with the story of the old governor, John Hunyadi, having Vlad's father killed, and how Vlad and his brother renounced their old religion and swore to protect and uphold the Christian faith. After this, the order and titles of the stories differ by manuscript and pamphlet editions.
The Russian or the Slavic version of the stories about Vlad the Impaler called "Skazanie o Drakule voevode" ("The Tale of Warlord Dracula") is thought to have been written sometime between 1481 and 1486. Copies were made from the 15th century to the 18th century, of which some twenty-two extant manuscripts survive in Russian archives. The oldest one, from 1490, ends as follows: "First written in the year 6994 of the Byzantine calendar (1486), on 13 February; then transcribed by me, the sinner Efrosin, in the year 6998 (1490), on 28 January". The Tales of Prince Dracula is neither chronological nor consistent, but mostly a collection of anecdotes of literary and historical value concerning Vlad Țepeș.
There are 19 anecdotes in The Tales of Prince Dracula which are longer and more constructed than the German stories. The Tales can be divided into two sections: The first 13 episodes are non-chronological events most likely closer to the original folkloric oral tradition about Vlad. The last six episodes are thought to have been written by a scholar who collected them, because they are chronological and seem to be more structured. The stories begin with a short introduction and the anecdote about the nailing of hats to ambassadors' heads. They end with Vlad's death and information about his family.
Of the 19 anecdotes there are ten that have similarities to the German stories. Although there are similarities between the Russian and the German stories about Vlad, there is a clear distinction in the attitude towards him. The Russian stories tend to portray him in a more positive light: he is depicted as a great ruler, a brave soldier and a just sovereign. Stories of atrocities tend to seem to be justified as the actions of a strong ruler. Of the 19 anecdotes, only four seem to have exaggerated violence. Some elements of the anecdotes were later added to Russian stories about Ivan the Terrible of Russia.
The nationality and identity of the original writer of the anecdotes Dracula is disputed. The two most plausible explanations are that the writer was either a Romanian priest or a monk from Transylvania, or a Romanian or Moldavian from the court of Stephen the Great in Moldavia. One theory claims the writer was a Russian diplomat named Fyodor Kuritsyn.
Ambras Castle portrait
A contemporary portrait of Vlad III, rediscovered by Romanian historians in the late 19th century, had been featured in the gallery of horrors at Innsbruck's Ambras Castle. This original has been lost to history, but a larger copy, painted anonymously in the first half of the 16th century, now hangs in the same gallery. This copy, unlike the crypto-portraits contemporary with Vlad III, seems to have given him a Habsburg lip.
Romanian and Bulgarian documents from 1481 onwards portray Vlad as a hero, a true leader, who used harsh yet fair methods to reclaim the country from the corrupt and rich boyars. Moreover, all his military efforts were directed against the Ottoman Empire which explicitly wanted to conquer Wallachia. Excerpt from "The Slavonic Tales":
- And he hated evil in his country so much that, if anyone committed some harm, theft or robbery or a lye or an injustice, none of those remained alive. Even if he was a great boyar or a priest or a monk or an ordinary man, or even if he had a great fortune, he couldn't pay himself from death. 
An Italian writer, Michael Bocignoli from Ragusa, in his writings from 1524, refers to Vlad Țepeș as:
- It was once (in Valahia), a prince Dragul by his name, a very wise and skillful man in war. 
(In Latin in the original text: Inter eos aliquando princeps fuit, quem voievodam appellant, Dragulus nomine, vir acer et militarium negotiorum apprime peritus.)
In the Letopisețul cantacuzinesc ("Cantacuzino chronicle"), a historic account written around 1688 by Stoica Ludescu of the Cantacuzino family, Vlad orders the boyars to build the fortress of Poenari with their own bare hands. Later in the document, Ludescu refers to the (re)crowning of Vlad as a happy event:
- Voievod Vlad sat on the throne and all the country came to pay respect, and brought many gifts and they went back to their houses with great joy. And Voievod Vlad with the help of God grew into much good and honor as long as he kept the reign of those just people. 
(In Romanian in the original text: De aciia șăzu în scaun Vladul-vodă și veni țara de i să închină, și aduse daruri multe și să întoarseră iarăși cine pre la case-și cu mare bucurie. Iar Vladul-vodă cu ajutorul lui Dumnezeu creștea întru mai mari bunătăți și în cinste pân' cât au ținut sfatul acelui neam drept.)
Around 1785, Ioan Budai-Deleanu, a Romanian writer,and renowned historian, wrote a Romanian epic heroic poem, "Țiganiada", in which prince Vlad Țepeș stars as a fierce warrior fighting the Ottomans. Later, in 1881, Mihai Eminescu, one of the greatest Romanian poets, in "Letter 3", popularizes Vlad's image in modern Romanian patriotism, having him stand as a figure to contrast with presumed social decay under the Phanariotes and the political scene of the 19th century. The poem even suggests that Vlad's violent methods be applied as a cure. In the final lyrics, the poet makes a call to Vlad Țepeș (i. e. Dracula) to come, to sort the contemporaries into two teams: the mad and the wicked and then set fire to the prison and to the madhouse.
- (In Romanian in the original text:
- Dar lăsaţi măcar strămoşii ca să doarmă-n colb de cronici;
- Din trecutul de mărire v-ar privi cel mult ironici.
- Cum nu vii tu, Ţepeş doamne, ca punând mâna pe ei,
- Să-i împarţi în două cete: în smintiţi şi în mişei,
- Şi în două temniţi large cu de-a sila să-i aduni,
- Să dai foc la puşcărie şi la casa de nebuni!)
In contrast, documents of Germanic, Saxon, and Hungarian origin portray Vlad as a tyrant, a monster so cruel that he needs to be stopped. For example, Johan Christian Engel characterizes Vlad as "a cruel tyrant and a monster of humankind". Several authors and historians believe that this may be the result of a bad image campaign initiated by the Transylvanian Saxons who were actively persecuted during Vlad's reign and later maintained and spread by Matthias Corvinus. It is conceivable that these actions were not beyond the Hungarian King since he had already framed Vlad Țepeș by producing a forged letter to incriminate Vlad of coalition with the Turks; however, there is incontestable evidence, both in Romanian and foreign documents, including Vlad's own letters, that he killed tens of thousands of people in horrible ways.
The connection of the name "Dracula" with vampirism was made by Bram Stoker, who probably found the name of his Count Dracula character in William Wilkinson's book, An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia: with various Political Observations Relating to Them. It is known that Stoker made notes about this book. It is also suggested that Stoker may have been made aware of the reputation of Vlad through an acquaintance of his, Hungarian professor Ármin Vámbéry from Budapest. The fact that character Dr. Abraham Van Helsing states in the 1897 novel that the source of his knowledge about Count Dracula is his friend Arminius appears to support this hypothesis, although there is no specific evidence that Stoker and Vambéry ever discussed Wallachian history.
Referring to a letter from his friend Arminius, van Helsing comments:
He must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land. (Chapter 18, pp 145)
This encourages the reader to identify the Vampire Count with the Voivode Dracula first mentioned by him, the one betrayed by his own brother: Vlad III Dracula betrayed by his brother Radu the Handsome.
Portrayal in film
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), in turn inspired by Dan Curtis' Dracula, merges a reincarnation romance with the medieval story of Vlad III. The wife of Count Dracula is deceived by his enemies into believing he has been killed in battle, and throws herself from a rampart into a river. As a suicide, she is denied a Christian burial, and Vlad Dracul, played by Gary Oldman, renounces God.
Attempting a somewhat more 'historical' look at the figure was Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula (alternately titled Dracula: The Dark Prince and Dark Prince: Legend of Dracula), a horror-war television film. In it, Vlad (Rudolf Martin) is a dispossessed noble, and a patriot who fights the occupation forces of the Turks hoping to avenge the murder of his father by Romanian nobles and the capture of his brother by the Ottoman sultan. At the end of the film, Vlad is excommunicated by the Orthodox Church shortly before being assassinated by his own brother, Radu, and having a vision of his late wife Lidia calling his name. As a result of his condemnation by the priests, Vlad is found to have risen from the grave and gained eternal life, free to roam the earth as he has been denied entrance to both Heaven and Hell.
Martin then reprised the character, in an episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Blade: Trinity (2004) also capitalizes on the connection between the historical figure and the legends. Drake (originally Dagon, known as a Sumerian god) is supposed to have had many forms throughout the centuries, Stoker's Dracula being one of them.
The next film adaption will be Dracula Untold (2014).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vlad III the Impaler.|
- The Tale of Dracula Russian manuscript circa 1490, with English translation
- Original coins issued by Vlad III the Impaler
|Prince of Wallachia
|Prince of Wallachia
Radu cel Frumos
Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
|Prince of Wallachia
Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân