Vlad the Impaler
|Vlad III Dracula|
Ambras Castle portrait of Vlad III (c. 1560), reputedly a copy of an original made during his lifetime
|Voivode of Wallachia|
|Died||December 1476(aged 45–46)|
|House||House of Drăculești|
|Father||Vlad II of Wallachia|
|Mother||Eupraxia of Moldavia (?)|
Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Țepeș; pronounced [ˈvlad ˈt͡sepeʃ]) or Vlad Dracula (1428/1431–1476/77), was voivode (or prince) of Wallachia in 1448, from 1456 to 1462, and in 1476. He was the second son of Vlad Dracul, who became the ruler of Wallachia in 1436. Vlad and his younger brother, Radu, were held as hostages in the Ottoman Empire from 1442 to secure their father's loyalty. Vlad's father and eldest brother, Mircea, were murdered after John Hunyadi, Governor of Hungary, invaded Wallachia in 1447. Hunyadi installed Vlad's second cousin, Vladislav II, as the new voivode.
Hunyadi launched a military campaign against the Ottoman Empire in 1448, and Vladislav accompanied him. Taking advantage of his cousin's absence, Vlad broke into Wallachia and seized the throne with Ottoman support. However, Vladislav returned and forced Vlad to seek refugee in the Ottoman Empire before the end of the year. Vlad went to Moldavia, and later to Hungary. He invaded Wallachia with Hungarian support in 1456 and Vladislav II died fighting against him. He began a purge among the Wallachian boyars to strengthen his position. He came into conflict with the Transylvanian Saxons who supported his opponents, Dan and Basarab Laiotă (who were Vladislav's brothers), and Vlad's illegitimate half-brother, Vlad the Monk. Vlad plundered the Saxon villages, taking the captured people to Wallachia where he had them impaled, which gave rise to his cognomen. Peace was only restored in 1460.
When the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed II, ordered Vlad to personally do homage to him, Vlad had his two envoys and their retinue captured and impaled. In February 1462, he broke into Ottoman territory across the Danube, plundering the region and massacring tens of thousands of Turks and Bulgarians. Mehmed personally launched a campaign against Wallachia in the summer to replace Vlad with his younger brother, Radu. Outnumbered by the invaders, Vlad was forced to withdraw, but he attempted to capture the sultan at Târgovişte during the night of 16 and 17 June. Although the sultan and the main Ottoman army left Wallachia, Radu managed to convince more and more Wallachians to desert Vlad. He went to Transylvania to seek assistance from Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, but Corvinus had him imprisoned in late 1462. The king accused Vlad of having plotted with the sultan against Hungary.
Vlad was held in captivity in Visegrád from 1463 to 1475. During this period, anecdotes about his cruelty started to spread in Germany and Italy. He was released at the request of Stephen III of Moldavia in the summer of 1475. He fought in Corvinus's army against the Ottomans in Bosnia in early 1476. He expelled Basarab Laiotă, who had accepted the sultan's suzerainty, with Moldavian and Hungarian assistance in November. However, the Ottomans helped Basarab Laiotă to return before the end of the year and Vlad was murdered. Vlad's reputation for cruelty and his patronymic gave rise to the name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.
- 1 Name
- 2 Early life
- 3 Reigns
- 4 Family
- 5 Legacy
- 6 Appearance and representations
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Sources
- 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 was inducted as a member of the Order of the Dragon in 1431, a chivalric order founded by Emperor Sigismund in 1408. 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 it was only attached to his name posthumously in c. 1550. Before this, however, he was known as Kaziklu Beg or Kaziklı Voyvoda (both meaning Impaler Lord) by the Ottoman Empire after their armies encountered his "forests" of impaled victims.
Vlad was the second legitimate son of Vlad Dracul, who was an illegitimate son of Mircea I of Wallachia. He must have been born between 1428 and 1431, because he was old enough in 1448 to be a candidate to the throne of Wallachia. Vlad was most probably born after his father settled in Transylvania in 1429. Historian Radu Florescu writes, Vlad was born in Sighișoara where his father lived in a three-storey stone house from 1431 to 1435. Modern historians identify Vlad's mother either as a daughter or a kinswoman of Alexander I of Moldavia, or as his father's unknown first wife.
The Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund of Luxembourg, made Vlad Dracul a member of the Order of the Dragon in 1431. Thereafter his sons were known as Dracula ("son of the Dragon"). Vlad Dracul seized Wallachia after the death of his half-brother, Alexander I Aldea, in 1436. One of his charters (which was issued in Wallachia on 20 January 1437) preserved the first reference to Vlad and his elder brother, Mircea, mentioning them as their father's "first born sons". During the following years, the two brothers were mentioned in four further documents. The last of the four charters (which was issued on 2 August 1439) also referred to their younger brother, Radu.
After a meeting with John Hunyadi, Voivode of Transylvania, Vlad Dracul failed to support an Ottoman invasion of Transylvania in March 1442. The Ottoman Sultan, Murad II, ordered him to come to Gallipoli to demonstrate his loyalty. Vlad and his younger brother, Radu, accompanied their father to the Ottoman Empire where they were imprisoned at the sultan's order. Vlad Dracul was released before the end of the year, but he had to leave his two sons as hostages in the Ottoman Empire before returning to Wallachia. Consequently, Vlad became the first ruler of Wallachia to have been educated among the Ottomans.
According to contemporaneous Ottoman chronicles, Vlad and Radu were held in the fortress of Eğrigöz (now Doğrugöz). Their lives were especially in danger after their father sent Wallachian troops to fight against the Ottoman Empire during the Crusade of Varna in 1444. In a letter sent to the burghers of Brașov, Vlad Dracul stated that he had left his "little children to be butchered for the sake of Christian peace and in order to subject" himself to the king of Hungary, showing that he thought, Vlad and Radu had been murdered because of his alliance with Vladislaus, King of Poland and Hungary. Vlad Dracul was wrong: neither Vlad nor Radu was murdered or blinded.
Vlad Dracul made peace with the Ottoman Empire in 1446 or 1447, again acknowledging the sultan's suzerainty and promising to pay a yearly tribute to him. A remark by the contemporaneous historian, Michael Critobulus, suggests that Vlad and Radu were allowed to return to Wallachia after the treaty. Critobulus wrote, they fled to the Ottoman Empire after John Hunyadi invaded Wallachia and their father died. Hunyadi (who had became the governor of Hungary in 1446) broke into Wallachia in November 1447. Before the end of the year, both Vlad Dracul and his eldest son, Mircea, were murdered, and Hunyadi made Vladislav II (who was a son of Vlad Dracul's cousin, Dan II) the ruler of Wallachia.
After his father's death, Vlad became a potential claimant to Wallachia. In September 1448, John Hunyadi invaded the Ottoman Empire, and Vladislaus II of Wallachia accompanied him. Taking advantage of Vladislaus's absence, Vlad broke into Wallachia at the head of Ottoman troops in early October. The Ottomans captured and strengthened the fortress of Giurgiu on the Danube.
Hunyadi's army was annihilated in the Battle of Kosovo between 17 and 18 October. Hunyadi's deputy in Transylvania, Nicholas Vízaknai, urged Vlad to come to meet him, but Vlad refused, fearing an Ottoman invasion of Wallachia. Vladislaus II returned to Wallachia at the head of the remnants of his army and forced Vlad to cross the Danube to seek refugee in the Ottoman Empire. According to a letter written in Constantinople on 7 December 1448, Vlad had by that time left Wallachia.
After his fall, Vlad settled in Edirne in the Ottoman Empire. For unknown reasons, Vlad came to Moldavia where Bogdan II (his father's brother-in-law and possibly Vlad's maternal uncle) had mounted the throne with Hunyadi's support in the autumn of 1449. After a pretender to the throne of Moldavia, Peter III Aaron, murdered Bogdan at Răuseni in October 1451, Vlad and Bogdan's son, Stephen, fled to Transylvania. Hunyadi concluded a three-year truce with the Ottoman Empire on 20 November 1451. The agreement acknowledged that Wallachia was under the suzerainty of both the Ottoman Empire and Hungary, stipulating that if Vladislaus II died, the Wallachian boyars would be entitled to elect his successor.
Vlad seems to have planned to settle in Brașov (which was a center of the exiled Wallachian boyars), but Hunyadi forbade the burghers of the town to give shelter to Vlad on 6 February 1452. Before the end of the following March, Vlad returned to Moldavia where Alexăndrel had dethroned Peter Aaron. The events of his life during the following years are unknown. He must have returned to Hungary before 3 July 1456, because on that day Hunyadi informed the townspeople of Brașov that he had tasked Vlad with the defence of the Transylvanian border.
The circumstances and the date of Vlad's return to Wallachia are uncertain. He invaded Wallachia in April, or in July or August 1456 with Hungarian support. Vladislaus II died fighting against Vlad. He sent his first extant letter as voivode of Wallachia to the burghers of Brașov on 10 September, promising that he would protect them in case of an Ottoman invasion of Transylvania, but also seeking their assistance if the Ottomans occupied Wallachia. In the same letter, he also stated that "when a man or a prince is strong and powerful he can make peace as he wants to; but when he is weak, a stronger one will come and do what he wants to him", showing his authoritarian personality.
Multiple sources (including Laonikos Chalkokondyles's chronicle) recorded that hundreds or thousands of people were executed at Vlad's order at the beginning of his reign. He began a purge against the boyars who had participated in the murder of his father and elder brother, or whom he suspected of plotting against him. Chalkokondyles stated, Vlad "quickly effected a great change and utterly revolutionized the affairs of Wallachia" through granting the "money, property, and other goods" of his victims to his retainers. The lists of the members of the princely council during Vlad's reign also show that only two of them (Voico Dobrița and Iova) could retain their positions between 1457 and 1461.
Conflict with the Saxons
Shortly after his ascension to the throne, Vlad sent the customary tribute to the sultan. John Hunyadi's son, Ladislaus Hunyadi (who had become captain-general of Hungary after his father died on 11 August 1456) accused Vlad of having "no intention of remaining faithful" to the king of Hungary in a letter written to the burghers of Brașov. Hunyadi also ordered them to support Vladislaus II's brother, Dan, against Vlad. The burghers of Sibiu supported an other pretender, whom Vlad mentioned as "a priest of the Romanians who calls himself a Prince's son" in March 1457. The pretender (identified as Vlad's illegitimate brother, Vlad the Monk) took possession of Amlaș (which had customarily held by the rulers of Wallachia in Transylvania).
After Ladislaus V of Hungary had Ladislaus Hunyadi executed on 16 March 1457, Hunyadi's mother, Erzsébet Szilágyi, and her brother, Michael Szilágyi, stirred up a rebellion against the king. Taking advantage of the anarchy in Hungary, Vlad provided military assistance to Bogdan II's son, Stephen, to expel Peter Aaron from Moldavia in June 1457. Vlad also broke into Transylvania and plundered the villages around Brașov and Sibiu. The earliest printed stories about Vlad's life recounted that he had carried "men, women, children" from a Saxon village to Wallachia where they were impaled. Vlad's attack against the Transylvanian Saxon centers strengthened the position of the Szilágyis, because the Saxons were their principal opponents in Transylvania. Vlad's envoys participated in the negotiations between Michael Szilágyi and the Saxons, and he referred to Szilágyi as "his Lord and elder brother" in a letter on 1 December 1457. The citizens of Brașov were forced to expel the pretender Dan from their town. Vlad also agreed that the merchants of Sibiu could freely "buy and sell" goods in Wallachia in exchange for the "same treatment" of the Wallachian merchants in Transylvania.
John Hunyadi's younger son, Matthias Corvinus, was elected king of Hungary on 24 January 1458. On 3 March, Matthias ordered the burghers of Sibiu to keep the peace with Vlad, warning them not to take hostile actions against him. Vlad styled himself "Lord and ruler over all of Wallachia, and the duchies of Amlaș and Făgăraș" on 20 September 1459, showing that Matthias had granted him both domains that the rulers of Wallachia traditionally held in Transylvania. On the other hand, Szilágyi allowed Michael (who had been a member of the princely council during the reign of Vladislav II of Wallachia) and other Wallachian boyars to settle in Transylvania, taking their families and wealth with them already in late March 1458. Before long, Vlad had the boyar Michael killed.
In May 1458, Vlad asked the burghers of Brașov to send craftsmen to Wallachia, but relationship between Vlad and the Saxon towns in Transylvania deteriorated before the end of the year. The Saxons confiscated the steel that a Wallachian merchant had bought in Brașov without repaying the price to them. Vlad "ransacked and tortured" some Saxon merchants, according to a letter that Basarab Laiotă wrote to the citizens of Brașov on 21 January 1459. Basarab Laiotă (who was a son of Dan II of Wallachia) had laid claim to Wallachia and settled in Sighișoara. In April 1459, an other claimant to Wallachia, Dan III, who was supported by Matthias Corvinus, recorded that Saxon merchants and their children had been impaled or burnt alive in Wallachia at Vlad's order.
You know that King Matthias has sent me and when I came to Țara Bârsei the officials and councilors of Brașov and the old men of Țara Bârsei cried to us with broken hearts about the things which Dracula, our enemy, did; how he did not remain faithful to our Lord, the king, and had sided with the [Ottomans]. He did this following the teaching of the Devil. And he captured all the merchants of Brașov and Țara Bârsei who had gone in peace to Wallachia and took all their wealth; but he was not satisfied only with the wealth of these people, but he imprisoned them and impaled them, 41 in all. Nor were these people enough; he became even more evil and gathered 300 boys from Brașov and Țara Bârsei that he found in Târgoviște and all the markets of Wallachia. Of these he impaled some and burned others.
According to a scholarly theory, the conflict between Vlad and the Saxon towns emerged after Vlad had forbade the Saxons to enter Wallachia, forcing them to sell their goods to Wallachian merchants at the border, similarly to the early 16th-century Wallachian ruler, Neagoe Basarab. Documents from Vlad's rule do not support the theory about Vlad's protectionism or "border fairs". Instead, in a letter Vlad emphasized in 1476 that he had always promoted free trade during his reign.
Dan III broke into Wallachia in April 1460. He was defeated and executed before 22 April. Vlad invaded southern Transylvania and destroyed the suburbs of Brașov, ordering the impalement of all men and women who had been captured. During the ensuing negotiations, Vlad demanded the expulsion or punishment of all Wallachian refugees from Brașov. Peace had been restored on 26 July 1460, when Vlad addressed the burghers of Brașov as his "brothers and friends". On 24 August, Vlad invaded the region Amlaș and Făgăraș to punish the local inhabitants who had supported Dan III.
Konstantin Mihailović (who served as a janissary in the sultan's army) recorded that Vlad denied to do homage to the sultan at an unspecified year. Giovanni Maria degli Angiolelli likewise wrote, Vlad failed to pay the tribute to the sultan for three years. Both authors suggest that Vlad ignored the suzerainty of the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed II, already in 1459, but both works were written decades after the events, which makes their reliability questionable, according to historian Kurt W. Treptow. Tursun Beg (a secretary in the sultan's court) stated that Vlad strengthened his position in Wallachia with the sultan's support, and only turned against the Ottoman Empire when the sultan "was away on the long expedition in Trebizon" in 1461. After Mehmed's spies informed him about new negotiations between Vlad and Matthias Corvinus, Mehmed sent his envoy, the Greek Katabolinos, to Wallachia, ordering Vlad to come to Constantinople in the second half of 1461. The sultan secretly also instructed Hamza, bey of Nicopolis, to capture Vlad. However, Vlad found out the sultan's "deceit and trickery" and captured Hamza and Katabolinos, ordering their execution.
... [D]uring the winter it was reported to the sultan that Vlad was planning a rebellion to change the status quo, and that he had turned to the Hungarians, had come to an agreement with them, and made an alliance. The sultan took this matter most seriously and sent one of the leading men of his Porte, a Greek secretary, to summon Vlad to the Porte and say that, when he came into his presence at the Porte, he would suffer no harm at the hand of the sultan but rather would regain favor and blessing, and would not be overlooked by the sultan if he truly supported the sultan's interest. So Mehmed sent Katabolinos, the secretary of the Porte, to Vlad with the above instructions. But he sent secret instructions to Hamza, who was known as the Falconer and had been appointed to govern a large extent of territory along the Danube and also the prefecture of Vidin: if possible, he was to capture the man by guile. ... [Katabolinos and Hamza] took counsel regarding this matter and decided it would be most effective if they set an ambush in advance for Vlad there, in that land, when he joined up to escort the secretary, and thus make the arrest. ... But Vlad and his men were armed and, when he joined in escorting the lord of the Porte of that region and the secretary he fell into the ambush. As soon as Vlad realized what was happening, he ordered his men to arrest them and their servants. And when Hamza came against him, Vlad fought bravely, routed and captured him, and killed a few of those who fled. After capturing them, he led them all away to be impaled, but first he cut off the men's limbs. He had Hamza impaled on a higher stake, and he treated their retinues in the same way as their own lords.
Vlad gave orders in fluent Turkish to the commander of the fortress of Giurgiu to open the gates, enabling the Wallachian soldiers to break in the fortress and capture it. He broke into the Ottoman Empire, devastating the villages along the Danube. He informed Matthias Corvinus about the military action in a letter on 11 February 1462. He also informed the king that more than "23,884 Turks and Bulgarians" had been killed at his order during the campaign. He sought military assistance from Corvinus, stating that he broke the peace with the sultan "for the honor" of the king and the Holy Crown of Hungary and "for the preservation of Christianity and the strengthening of the Catholic faith". The Genoese governor of Kaffa also knew of an emerging conflict between Moldavia and Wallachia in early 1462.
Having learnt of Vlad's invasion, Mehmed II raised an army of more than 150,000 strong, that was said to be "second in size only to the one" that the sultan had led against Constantinople, according to Chalkokondyles. The size of the army suggests that the sultan decided to occupy Wallachia, according to a number of historians (including Franz Babinger, Radu Florescu and Nicolae Stoicescu). On the other hand, Mehmed had granted Wallachia to Vlad's brother, Radu, before the invasion of Wallachia, showing that the sultan's principal purpose was only the change of the ruler of Wallachia.
The Ottoman fleet landed at Brăila (which was the only Wallachian port on the Danube) in May. The main Ottoman army (which was under the command of the sultan) crossed the Danube at Nicoplis on 4 June 1462. Outnumbered by the enemy, Vlad adopted the scorched earth policy and retreated towards Târgoviște. During the night of 16 and 17 June, Vlad broke into the Ottoman camp in an attempt to capture or kill the sultan, which would have caused a panic among the Ottomans, enabling Vlad to defeat them. However, they "missed the court of the sultan himself" and attacked the tents of Mahmut Pasha and Isaac. At dawn Vlad left the Ottoman camp. Mehmed entered Târgoviște at the end of June. The town had been deserted, but the Ottomans were horrified to discover a "forest of the impaled" (thousands of stakes with the carcasses of executed people), according to Chalkokondyles.
The sultan's army entered into the area of the impalements, which was seventeen stades long and seven stades wide. There were large stakes there on which, as it was said, about twenty thousand men, women, and children had been spitted, quite a sight for the Turks and the sultan himself. The sultan was seized with amazement and said that it was not possible to deprive of his country a man who had done such great deeds, who had such a diabolical understanding of how to govern his realm and its people. And he said that a man who had done such things was worth much. The rest of the Turks were dumbfounded when they saw the multitude of men on the stakes. There were infants too affixed to their mothers on the stakes, and birds had made their nests in their entrails.
Tursun Beg recorded that the Ottomans suffered from summer heat and thirst during the campaign. The sultan decided to retreat from Wallachia and marched towards Brăila. Stephen III of Moldavia hurried to Chilia (now Kiliya in Ukraine) to seize the important fortress (where a Hungarian garrison had been placed) with the Ottomans assistance. Vlad went to Chilia, but left behind a troop of 6,000 strong to try to hinder the march of the sultan's army, but the Ottomans defeated the Wallachian troop. Stephen of Moldavia was wounded during the siege of Chilia and returned to Moldavia before Vlad arrived the fortress.
Vlad's brother, Radu, and his Ottoman troops stayed behind in the Bărăgan Plain after the main Ottoman army left Wallachia. Radu sent messengers to the Wallachian people, reminding them that the sultan could again invade their country. He defeated Radu and his Ottoman allies in two battles during the following months, more and more Wallachians deserted him, acknowledging Radu's rule. Vlad withdrew to the Carpathian Mountains, hoping that Matthias Corvinus would assist him to defeat his brother. However, Albert of Istenmező, the deputy of the Count of the Székelys, had recommended the Saxons to recognize Radu already in the middle of August. Radu offered the burghers of Brașov to confirm their commercial privileges in Wallachia and to pay a compensation of 15,000 ducat to them.
Imprisonment in Hungary
Matthias Corvinus came to Transylvania in November 1462. The negotiations between Corvinus and Vlad lasted for weeks. However, Corvinus did not want to wage war against the Ottoman Empire. At the king's order, his Czech mercenary commander, John Jiskra of Brandýs, captured Vlad near Rucăr in Wallachia.
To gave explanation for Vlad's imprisonment to Pope Pius II and the Venetians (who had sent money to finance a campaign against the Ottoman Empire), Corvinus presented three letters, allegedly written by Vlad on 7 November 1462, to Mehmed II, Mahmud Pasha and Stephen of Moldavia. According to the letters, Vlad offered to join his forces with the sultan's army against Hungary if the sultan restored him to his throne. On the other hand, Corvinus's court historian, Antonio Bonfini, admitted that the reason of Vlad's imprisonment was never clarified.
Vlad was first imprisoned "in the city of Belgrade" (now Alba Iulia in Romania), according to Chalkokondyles. Before long, he was taken to Visegrád where he was held for fourteen years. No documents which referred to Vlad between 1462 and 1475 have been preserved. In the summer of 1475, Stephen III of Moldavia sent his envoys to Matthias Corvinus, asking him to send Vlad to Wallachia against Basarab Laiotă, who had submitted himself to the Ottomans. According to the Slavic Stories about Vlad, he was only released after he converted into Catholicism.
Matthias Corvinus recognized Vlad as the lawful prince of Wallachia, but he did not provide him military assistance to regain his principality. Vlad settled in Pest. He and the Serbian Vuk Grgurević were sent by the king to fight against the Ottomans in Bosnia in early 1476. They captured Srebrenica and other fortresses in February and March 1476.
Mehmed II invaded Moldavia and defeated Stephen III of Moldavia in the Battle of Valea Albă on 26 July 1476. Stephen Báthory and Vlad broke into Moldavia, forcing the sultan to lift the siege of the fortress at Târgu Neamț in late August, according to a letter of Matthias Corvinus. The contemporanous Jakob Unrest added that Vuk Grgurević and a member of the noble Jakšić family also participated in the struggle against the Ottomans in Moldavia.
Matthias Corvinus ordered the Transylvanian Saxons to support Báthory's planned invasion of Wallachia on 6 September 1476, also informing them that Stephen of Moldavia would also broke into Wallachia. Vlad stayed in Brașov and confirmed the commercial privileges of the burghers of town in Wallachia on 7 October 1476. Báthory's forces captured Târgoviște on 8 November. Stephen of Moldavia and Vlad ceremoniously confirmed their alliance and they occupied Bucharest, forcing Basarab Laiotă to seek refuge in the Ottoman Empire on 16 November. Vlad informed the merchants of Brașov about his victory, urging them to come to Wallachia.
Basarab Laiotă returned to Wallachia with Ottoman support and Vlad died fighting against them in late December 1476. In a letter written on 10 January 1477, Stephen III of Moldavia related that Vlad's Moldavian retinue had also been massacred. According to Leonardo Botta, the Milanese ambassador to Buda, the Ottomans cut Vlad's corpse into pieces. Bonfini wrote, Vlad's head was sent to Mehmed II.
The place of his burial is unknown. According to popular tradition (which was first recorded in the late 19th century), Vlad was buried in the Monastery of Snagov. The excavations carried out by Dinu V. Rosetti in 1933 established that there was no tomb below the supposed "unmarked tombstone" of Vlad in the monastery church. Rosetti reported that "Under the tombstone attributed to Vlad there was no tomb. Only many bones and jaws of horses." Historian Constantin Rezachevici proposes, Vlad was most probably buried in the first church of the Comana Monastery which was established by Vlad.
|Ancestors of Vlad the Impaler|
Vlad had two wives, according to modern specialists. His first wife may have been an illegitimate daughter of John Hunyadi, according to historian Alexandru Simon. Vlad's second wife was Justina Szilágyi, who was the daughter of one of Matthias Corvinus's maternal uncles, Osvaldus or Ladislaus Szilágyi. She was the widow of Vencel Pongrác of Szentmiklós when "Ladislaus Dragwlya" married her, most probably in 1475. She survived Vlad Dracul, and married first Pál Suki, then János Erdélyi.
Vlad's eldest son, Mihnea, was born in 1462. Vlad's unnamed second son was killed before 1486. Vlad's third son, Vlad Drakwlya, unsuccesfully laid claim to Wallachia around 1495. He was the forefather of the noble Drakwla family.
Stories about Vlad's evil deeds began spreading already during his lifetime. After the arrest of Vlad in 1463, courtiers of Matthias Corvinus promoted their spread in Europe. The papal legate, Niccolo Modrussiense, wrote about such stories to Pope Pius II already in 1462. Fifteen years later, Gabriele Rangoni, Bishop of Eger (and a former papal legate), understood that Vlad had been imprisoned because of his cruelty. Rangoni also recorded the rumour that while in prison Vlad had caught rats to cut them up into pieces or stuck them on small pieces of wood, because he was unable to "forget his wickedness". A similar story was recorded by Fyodor Kuritsyn, who was the ambassador of Ivan III of Russia to Matthias Corvinus.
The oldest works containing the stories about Vlad's cruelty were published in Low German in the Holy Roman Empire before 1480. These publications contain detailed inscriptions of conflicts between Vlad and the Transylvanian Saxons, showing that they originated "in the literary minds of the Saxons". They describe Vlad as a "demented psychopath, a sadist, a gruesome murderer, a masochist", worse than Caligula and Nero. The invention of movable type printing contributed to their popularity, making the stories one of the first "bestsellers" in Europe. To enhance sales, the stories were published in books with woodcuts on their title pages which depicted horrific scenes. For instance, the editions published in Nuremberg in 1499 and in Strasbourg in 1500 depict Vlad dining at a table surrounded by dead or dying people on poles.
To this day[clarification needed] 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.[page needed]
... [Vlad] had a big copper cauldron built and put a lid made of wood with holes in it on top. He put the people in the cauldron and put their heads in the holes and fastened them there; then he filled it with water and set a fire under it and let the people cry their eyes out until they were boiled to death. And then he invented frigthening, terrible, unheard of tortures. He ordered that women be impaled together with their suckling babies on the same stake. The babies fought for their lives at their mother's breasts until they died. Then he had the women's breasts cut off and put the babies inside headfirst; thus he had them impaled together.— About a mischievous tyrant called Dracula vodă (No. 12-13.)
Antonio Bonfini also recorded anecdotes about Vlad in his Historia Pannonica around 1495. Bonfini wanted to justify both the removal and the restoration of Vlad by Matthias. He described Vlad as "a man of unheard of cruelty and justice". Bonfini's stories about Vlad were repeated in Sebastian Münster's Cosmography. Münster also recorded Vlad's "reputation for tyrannical justice".
... Turkish messengers came to [Vlad] to pay respects, but refused to take off their turbans, according to their ancient custom, whereupon he strengthened their custom by nailing their turbans to their heads with three spikes, so that they could not take them off.— Antonio Bonfini: Historia Pannonica
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 Hothead Named Dracula of Wallachia") was written and performed at the court of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor during the winter of 1463.
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 22 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 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. Despite the similarities, 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 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 Dracula anecdotes are 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.
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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.[better source needed]
- (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!)
The connection of the name "Dracula" with vampirism was made by Bram Stoker around the 1890s. Since then, the character of 'Count Dracula' has recurred through vampire mythology and popular culture.
Appearance and representations
A physical description of Vlad, including details such as his threatening green eyes, is provided by the Papal legate and Bishop of Modrussa Niccolò di Cattaro, who met Vlad in Buda where he was imprisoned at the time:
|“||He was not very tall, but very stocky and strong, with a cold and terrible appearance, a strong and aquiline nose, swollen nostrils, a thin reddish face in which very long eyelashes framed large wide-open green eyes; the bushy black eyebrows made them appear threatening. His face and chin were shaven, but for a moustache. The swollen temples increased the bulk of his head. A bull's neck connected [with] his head to his body from which black curly locks hung on his wide-shouldered person.||”|
|— Niccolò Modrussa|
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.
Gallery of representations
A 1491 engraving from Bamburg, Germany, depicting Dracole wayda.
A woodcut depicting Vlad Țepeș published in Nuremberg in 1488 on the title page of the pamphlet Die geschicht Dracole waide.
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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
- Marek, Miroslav. "A genealogy of the Drăculești family". genealogy.euweb.cz.
- Miller, Elizabeth (2005). "Vlad The Impaler". Vlad the Impaler. n.p. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015.
- Anset, Kat (23 Nov 2011). "Vlad the Impaler". The Good, the Bad, and the Monstrous. n.p. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015.
|Prince of Wallachia
|Prince of Wallachia
Radu cel Frumos
Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
|Prince of Wallachia
Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân