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Vlad III Dracula
Prince of Wallachia
Vlad Tepes 002.jpg
The most famous portrait, though posthumous, of Vlad III Dracula[1][2]
Reign 1448; 1456–1462; 1476
Born November or December 1431[3]
Birthplace Schäßburg, Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary
Died December 1476 (aged 45)
Place of death Bucharest, Wallachia
Wives 1. unnamed Transylvanian noblewoman
2. Ilona Szilágyi
Offspring 1st marriage:
Mihnea cel Rău
2nd marriage:
Vlad Dracula IV and another son whose name remains unknown
Royal House House of Drăculeşti (branch of the House of Basarab)
Father Vlad II Dracul
Mother Princess Cneajna of Moldavia

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (c. 1431 – December 1476), more commonly known as the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Ţepeş pronounced [ˈvlad ˈt͡sepeʃ]) or Dracula, was a three-time voivode of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462.

Historically, Vlad is best known for his resistance against the Ottoman Empire and its expansion[4] and for the cruel punishments he imposed on his enemies.[5]

In the English-speaking world, Vlad III is perhaps most commonly known for inspiring the name of the vampire in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.[6]



His Romanian surname Dracula (also spelled "Draculea", "Drakulya,"drackuliea"), which Vlad was referred to in several documents, means "Son of the dragon" and points to his father, Vlad Dracul, who received that moniker from his subjects because he had joined the Order of the Dragon. Dracul, derived from the Latin word Draco meant "dragon", derived from the Greek word Δράκων (Dracon), though in modern Romanian it means "devil".

His post-mortem moniker of "Ţepeş" ("Impaler") originated in his killing opponents by impalement, a practice popularized by medieval Transylvanian pamphlets. In Turkish, he was known as "Kazıklı Voyvoda" (pronounced [kɑzɯkˈɫɯ]) which means "Impaler Prince".

Early life

Vlad was born in Sighişoara, Transylvania in the winter of 1431 to Vlad II Dracul, future voivode of Wallachia, and his wife, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia, daughter of Alexandru cel Bun. He had two older half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, from his father's first marriage, and a younger brother, Radu cel Frumos.

In the year of his birth Vlad's father, known under the nickname the Dragon (Romanian: Dracul) had traveled to Nuremberg, today located in Germany, where he had been vested into the Order of the Dragon. At the age of five, young Vlad was also initiated into the Order.[7]

Like his father, who was the son of the Wallachian voivode Mircea the Elder, in the early years of childhood, the future ruling prince Vlad the Impaler got a distinguished education, and mastered German and Latin. During the first reign of Vlad II, Vlad the Impaler accompanied his father to Targoviste - capital of Wallachia at that time.

The Byzantine chancellor Mikhail Doukas showed that, at Targoviste, the sons of boyars and ruling princes got a distinguished education from either Romanian or Greek scholars, coming from Constantinople. The young prince learned for sure; combat skills, geography, mathematics, science, language; Romanian, Latin, Bulgarian (church Slavic) and the classical arts and philosophy.[8]

Life in Edirne

In 1436, 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 agreeing to pay tribute to the Sultan and also send his two younger sons, Vlad and Radu the Handsome, to the Ottoman court, to serve as hostages of his loyalty.

Vlad was locked up in prison and often whipped and beaten because of his verbal abuse towards his captors and his stubborn behavior, while his younger brother Radu the Handsome was much easier to control. Radu converted to Islam, entered the service of Sultan Murad II's son, Mehmed II (later known as the Conqueror), and was allowed into the Ottoman royal court.

These years had a great influence on Vlad's character and led to Vlad's well-known hatred for the Ottoman Turks, the Janissary, his brother Radu the Handsome for becoming an Ottoman, and the young Ottoman prince Mehmed II (even after he became sultan). According to McNally and Florescu, he was jealous of his fathers preference for his elder half-brothers Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, he also distrusted his own father for trading him to the Turks and betraying the Order of the Dragon's oath to fight them. It was in Turkey where Vlad first witnessed the act of impalement[9] (the Ottomans often beheaded traitors and deserters).

Vlad was later released, corrected and taken to be educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish and Persian language and literature. He would speak these languages fluently in his later years [10]. He and his brother were also trained in warfare and riding horses. The boys' father, Vlad Dracul, was released quickly, in 1443, and with the support of the Ottomans he returned to Wallachia and took back his throne from Basarab II.

Bust of Vlad the Impaler near the birthplace plate

First reign and exile

In December 1447, boyars in league with the Hungarian regent John Hunyadi rebelled against Vlad Dracul and killed him in the marshes near Bălteni. Mircea, Dracul's eldest son and heir, was blinded with hot iron stakes and buried alive at Târgovişte.

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 Danesti 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.

In 1453, the Ottomans, under Sultan Mehmed II took Constantinople after a prolonged siege, putting an end to the final major Christian presence in the eastern Mediterranean, after which Ottoman influence began to spread from this base through the Carpathians, threatening mainland Europe.

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.

Second reign

Internal policy

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' wellbeing 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: Targusor, Campulung and Targoviste.

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 and gave positions in his council, traditionally belonging to the greatest boyars, to persons of obscure origins, who would be loyal to him alone, and some to foreigners. For lower offices, Vlad preferred knights and free peasants to boyars. In his aim of cleaning up Wallachia Vlad gave new laws punishing thieves and robbers. Vlad treated the boyars with the same harshness, because they were guilty of weakening Wallachia through their internal struggles for power.

The army was also strengthened. He had a small personal guard, mostly made of mercenaries, who were rewarded by loot. Another reward for soldiers was promotion. Adding to his guard he formed ‘the lesser army’ made up of peasants called to fight when ever war came.

Vlad Dracula built a church at Targusor (allegedly in the memory of his father and older brother who were killed nearby), and he contributed with money to the Snagov Monastery and to the Comana Monastery fortifications.[11]

Raids into Transylvania

Since the Wallachian nobility was linked to the Transylvanian Saxons, Vlad also acted against them by eliminating their trade privileges and raiding their cities. In 1459, he had several Saxon settlers of Kronstadt impaled.[12]

Vlad was also on guard against the rival Dăneşti clan, and some of his raids into Transylvania may have been aimed at capturing potential challengers. Several members of the clan died at Vlad's hands, including a Dăneşti prince suspected to have taken part in his brother Mircea's murder. Vlad condemned him to death and forced him to read his own eulogy while kneeling before his open grave.

War with the Ottomans

Vlad allied himself with Matthias Corvinus, Hunyadi's son who had risen to be King of Hungary. Wallachia controlled her side of the Danube and Sultan Mehmed II wanted to have control over the river, as naval attacks could be launched against his empire all the way from the Holy Roman Empire. On September 26, 1459, Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans and on January 14, 1460, at the Congress of Mantua, the Pope proclaimed the official crusade that was to last for three years. His plan, however, failed and the only European leader that showed enthusiasm for the crusade was Vlad Ţepeş, whom the Pope held in high regard.

Later that year, in 1459, Mehmed sent envoys to Ţepeş to urge him to pay the delayed tribute. Vlad refused to pay the tribute, of 10,000 ducats and 500 young boys, to the Ottomans. To provoke Mehmed, Vlad had the envoys killed, by nailing their turbans to their heads. Subsequently, the Ottomans attempted to remove him, and the Turks crossed the Danube and started to do their own recruiting, to which Ţepeş reacted by capturing the Turks and impaling them.[13]

Meanwhile, the Sultan received intelligence reports that revealed Ţepeş's alliance with Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus. The Sultan knew he could not stop the alliance, so he tried to kidnap Vlad for whatever reason.[14] He sent the Bey of Nicopolis and Hamza Kastrioti, to stage a diplomatic meeting with Vlad at Giurgiu, but with orders to ambush him there; and thereafter, take him to Constantinople: "no matter how: by tricks, under oath, or any other kind of trap".[14]

Vlad Ţepeş was forewarned about the ambush and planned to set an ambush of his own. Hamza Kastrioti brought with him 1,000 cavalry and when passing through a narrow pass north of Giurgiu, Ţepeş launched a surprise-attack. The Wallachians had the Turks surrounded and fired with their handgunners until the entire expedition-force was killed. The Turk's plans were thwarted and some of them caught and impaled, but the Bey of Nicopolis Hamza Kastrioti escaped and never returned to fight in Wallachia[14]

In the winter of 1461/1462 Vlad crossed the Danube and devastated the area between Serbia and the Black Sea. Disguising himself as a Turk, he infiltrated the fortress and destroyed it. In a letter to Corvinus dated February 2, he wrote: "I have killed men and women, old and young... 23,884 Turks and Bulgarians without counting those whom we burned alive in their homes or whose heads were not chopped off by our soldiers..."[12]. The Christians were spared and many of them were settled in Wallachia.[13]

In response to this, Sultan Mehmed II raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars[15] and in the spring of 1462 headed towards Wallachia. Mehmed was greeted by a forest of stakes on which Vlad had impaled 20,000 of Mehmed's previous Ottoman army.[16] Commanding between 20,000 and 40,000 men, Vlad was unable to stop the Ottomans from entering Wallachia and occupying the capital Târgovişte on 4 June 1462. Subsequently, he resorted to guerrilla warfare, constantly organizing small attacks and ambushes on the Turks. The most famous of these attacks occurred on June 16/17, when during the night Vlad and some of his men (wearing Ottoman disguises again) entered the main Turkish camp and attempted to assassinate Mehmed, though the assassination attempt failed.

Another attack took place on the night of the 23rd June. Vlad needed to go to Chilia, but he left 6,000 of his men to pursue the retreating Ottoman enemy. He decided to attack the Turks once again and surprised the rear-guard of Iosuf Bey, which soon was forced to flee. Turkhanbeyoglu Omer Bey helped the Ottoman army and forced the overwhelmed and outnumbered Wallachians to retreat into the woods.

There was another battle near Buzau soon after, when 15,000 Wallachians defeated the Turkish light cavalry of Evrenos Bey. On the 29th June Mehmed II reached Braila, which he burned to the ground and then crossed the Danube.[17]

Vlad the Impaler's attack was celebrated among 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 March 4, expressed great joy and said that the whole of Christianity should celebrate Vlad Ţepeş'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.[13]

Radu cel Frumos and his Janissary battalion was given the responsibility of repelling his brothers deadly raids after the Sipahis failed to subdue Vlad. Radu was now given the task of leading the Ottoman Empire to victory he was positioned north of the Danube, after most of the demoralized Ottoman Turks withdrew. Vlad defeated another Sipahi attack in July 1462, killing 4,000 of Radu's troops. But many Romanian Boyars had been alienated by Vlad's policy and disliked him because he was undermining their authority, and weakening their control over Wallachia and of course the Prince. They joined Radu, thinking Ottoman protection was better than Hungarian protection. Others had their families taken hostage by the Ottomans and isolated in Millets and thus also sided with Radu to stop their loved ones being hurt or killed.

Until the 8th September, Vlad obtained another 3 victories. But continuous war had left him without any money and he could no longer pay his mercenaries. Vlad travelled to Hungary to ask for help from his former ally, Matthias Corvin. But instead of receiving help he found himself arrested and thrown into the dungeon for high treason[17].

First marriage

Vlad's first wife was a Transylvanian noblewoman whose name is unknown. She bore him at least one son, Mihnea cel Rău, who would later rule Wallachia 1508 to 1510.

Vlad's first wife died during the siege of Poienari Castle, which was surrounded by the Ottoman army led by Radu. An archer having seen the shadow of Vlad's wife behind a window, shot an arrow through the window into Vlad's main quarters, with a message warning him that Radu's army was approaching. McNally and Florescu explain that the archer was one of Vlad's relatives, who sent the warning out of loyalty despite having converted to Islam to escape enslavement by the Turks. Upon reading the message, Vlad's wife threw herself from the tower into a tributary of the Argeş River flowing below the castle. According to legend, she remarked that she "would rather have her body rot and be eaten by the fish of the Argeş than be led into captivity by the Turks". Today, the tributary is called Râul Doamnei (the "Lady's River", also called the Princess's River). This legend is the only known historical reference to Vlad's first wife.

Captivity in Hungary

Matthias Corvinus had received from the Pope a consistent financial support to fight against the Turks. But he had spent the money on completely different purposes. He now had the Ottomans at his borders, and needed someone to use as a scapegoat.

When Vlad came to him to ask for his help with fighting the war, Corvinus arrested him using false documents: a forged letter, in which Vlad pledged loyalty to Mehmed II and promised to strike an agreement with the Ottomans over Wallachia.

Vlad imprisoned at Oratia, a fortress located at Podu Dambovitei Bridge. A period of imprisonment in Visegrad, near Buda followed, where the Wallachian prince was held for 10 years. Then he was imprisoned in Buda.[18]

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 voivod probably contributed to Vlad's rehabilitation. During his captivity, some sources say Vlad also converted to Catholicism, in contrast to his brother who converted to Islam, if the conversion happened at all.

Second marriage

Gradually winning back King Matthias's favour, he married Ilona Szilágyi, a cousin of the king, and in the years before his final release in 1474, lived with her in a house in the Hungarian capital.

Around 1465, Ilona bore him two sons: the elder, Vlad IV Dracula, who spent most of his time in king Matthias' retinue and later was an unsuccessful claimant to the Wallachian throne. The younger, whose name is unknown, lived with the Bishop of Oradea in Transylvania until 1482, when he fell ill. He returned to Buda, where he died in his mother's presence.[19]. The descendants of Vlad and Ilona married into Hungarian nobility.

Third reign and death

On 26 November 1476, the High Council decided Vlad was to be enthroned. Vlad began preparations for the reconquest of Wallachia and in 1476, with Hungarian support, invaded the country. Vlad’s third reign lasted little more than two months when he was killed on the battlefield against the Ottomans near Bucharest in 1476.[20]

The Turks decapitated his corpse and sent the head to Constantinople, where the Sultan had it displayed on a stake as proof that the Impaler was finally dead. The exact location of his remains is unknown. One theory is that Vlad's remains may be located at the Comana monastery.[21] The other theory is that Vlad is buried at Snagov, an island monastery located near Bucharest.[22]


Methods of execution

Woodblock print of Vlad the Impaler dining in the presence of numerous impaled corpses

When he came to power Vlad ruled with the intention of exacting revenge on the boyars for killing his father and eldest brother. Though Vlad took nearly a decade to do so, he fulfilled this vow, completing the task on an Easter Sunday around 1457. The older boyars and their families were immediately impaled. The younger and healthier nobles and their families were marched north from Târgovişte to the ruins of Poienari Castle in the mountains above the Argeş River, 40 miles north of Târgovişte. Vlad was determined to rebuild this ancient fortress as his own stronghold and refuge so he might monitor the movements of the Hungarians coming through Transylvania and the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. The enslaved boyars, their families and some master masons were forced to labor until their deaths, rebuilding the old castle with materials from another nearby ruin. According to tradition, they labored until the clothes fell off their bodies and then were forced to continue working naked. None survived the construction of castle Poienari, as those who did not die from exhaustion were impaled.

Throughout his reign, Vlad systematically eradicated the old boyar class of Wallachia. The old boyars had repeatedly undermined the power of the prince during previous reigns and had been responsible for the violent overthrow of several princes. Vlad was determined that his own power be on a modern and thoroughly secure footing. In place of the executed boyars, Vlad promoted new men from among the free peasantry and middle class, who would be loyal only to their prince.

Vlad the Impaler's reputation was considerably darker in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe and Romania. The fame of his cruelty spread in the form of a pamphlet, seriously exaggerated, and promoted by Mathias Corvinus. Matthias 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. Mathias employed the charges of Southeastern Transylvania, and produced fake letters of high treason, written on the 7 November 1462.[23]

In the West, Vlad III Ţepeş has been characterized as a tyrant who took sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing his enemies. The number of his victims ranges from 40,000 to 100,000.[24] 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.[25] These numbers are most likely exaggerated.[26]

The atrocities committed by Vlad in the German stories include impaling, torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people, feeding people the flesh of their friends or relatives, cutting off limbs, and drowning. All of these punishments mainly came from things people did that displeased Vlad the most; stealing, lying, and adulterous relations. Other methods of punishment included skinning the feet of thieves, then putting salt on them and letting goats lick off the salt. This was a way that Vlad kept his people in order and taught them that stealing would not be tolerated in his lands. No exceptions were made: he punished anyone who broke his laws, whether men or women, no matter the age, religion or social class.

Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution. His method of torture was a horse attached to each of the victim's legs as a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. Death by impalement was slow and agonizing. Victims sometimes endured for hours or even days. Vlad often had the stakes arranged in various geometric patterns. The most common pattern was a ring of concentric circles in the outskirts of a city that constituted his target. The height of the spear indicated the rank of the victim. The corpses were often left decaying for months.

One of the most famous woodcuts of the period shows Vlad feasting in a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Braşov, while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims. This place was famously known as the Forest of the Impaled. In this forest is a story of Vlad's "sense of humor": a servant was holding his nose and Vlad said to him while feasting "why do you do that?" The servant replied, "I cannot stand the stench" Vlad immediately ordered him impaled on the highest stake and said, "then you shall live up there where the stench cannot reach you." [27]

Vlad the Impaler is alleged to have committed even more impalements and other tortures against invading Ottoman forces. It was reported that an invading Ottoman army turned back in fright when it encountered thousands of rotting corpses impaled on the banks of the Danube.[12] It has also been said that in 1462 Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, a man noted for his own psychological warfare tactics, returned to Constantinople after being sickened by the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses outside Vlad's capital of Târgovişte. Many of the victims were Turkish prisoners of war Vlad had previously captured during the Turkish invasion. The total Turkish casualty toll in this battle reached over 40,000. The warrior sultan turned command of the campaign against Vlad over to subordinates and returned to Constantinople, even though his army had initially outnumbered Vlad's three to one and was better equipped. Vlad was also a courageous man - he led from the front; he never let his soldiers do all the fighting. Vlad's blood-lust was deeper than impalement; he desired to be in battle as well.

German stories about Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler as Pontius Pilate judging Jesus Christ. National Gallery, Ljubljana, 1463

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.[26] The text was later printed in Germany and had major impact on the general public becoming a best-seller of its time with numerous later editions adding 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 Michel Beheim. The poem called "Von ainem wutrich der hies Trakle waida von der Walachei" ("Story of a Madman Called Dracula of Wallachia") was written and performed at the court of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor during the winter of 1463.[28]

To this day four manuscripts and 13 pamphlets are 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: 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 differs by manuscript and pamphlet editions.[25]

The German stories were written most likely for political reasons, especially to blacken the image of the Wallachian ruler. The first version of the German text was probably written in Braşov by a Saxon scholar. According to some researchers, the writer expressed the general feelings of the Saxons in Braşov and Sibiu who had borne the brunt of Vlad’s wrath in 1456–1457 and again in 1458–1459 and 1460.

Against this political and cultural backdrop, it is quite easy to understand the hostility towards Vlad the Impaler. Although there is historic background for the events described in the German stories, some are either exaggerated or even fictitious.

The Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, also had political reasons for promoting Vlad's image as an evil prince. Corvinus had received large subsidies from Rome and Venice for the war against the Ottomans, but because of a conflict with Holy Roman Emperor, Emperor Frederick III, he couldn’t afford the military support for the fight.

By making Vlad a scapegoat, Corvinus could justify his reasons for not taking part in the war against the Ottomans. He arrested Vlad and used a forged letter in which Vlad announced his loyalty to Mehmed II, as well as horror stories about Vlad, to justify his actions to the Pope. In 1462 and 1463, the court in Buda fostered negative stories of Vlad in central and Eastern Europe, and capitalized on the horrors attributed to him.[26]

The stories eventually changed from propaganda to literature and became very popular in the German world in the 15th and 16th centuries. Part of the reason for this success was the newly-invented printing press, which allowed the texts to filter to a wide audience.

Vlad the Impaler as Aegeas, the Roman proconsul in Patras, crucifying Saint Andrew. Approximately 1470–1480, Belvedere Galleries, Vienna

In later accounts of these stories, Vlad's atrocities against the people of Wallachia have sometimes been interpreted as attempts to enforce his own moral code upon his country. According to the pamphlets, he appears to have been particularly concerned with female chastity. Maidens who lost their virginity, adulterous wives, and unchaste widows were all targets of Vlad's cruelty. Vlad also insisted that his people be honest and hard-working. Merchants who cheated their customers were likely to find themselves mounted on a stake beside common thieves.

Russian stories about Vlad the Impaler

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.[29] The oldest one, from 1490, ends as follows: "First written in the year Byzantine calendar (1486), on 13 February; then transcribed by me, the sinner Elfrosin, 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 Ţepeş.

There are 19 anecdotes in The Tales of Prince Dracula which are longer and more constructed than the German stories. It 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.[30]

Of the 19 anecdotes there are ten that have similarities to the German stories.[31] Although there are similarities between the Russian and the German stories about Vlad, there is a clear distinction with the attitude towards him. The Russian stories tend to give him a more positive File: 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.[32] Some elements of the anecdotes were later added to Russian stories about Ivan the Terrible of Russia.[33]

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 Moldova. One theory claims the writer was a Russian diplomat named Fyodor Kuritsyn.[34]

Vampire legend

It is most likely that Bram Stoker found the name for his vampire from 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.[35] It is also suggested by some that because Stoker was a friend of a Hungarian professor (Ármin Vámbéry) from Budapest, Vlad's name might have been mentioned by this friend. Regardless of how the name came to Stoker's attention, the cruel history of the Impaler would have readily lent itself to Stoker's purposes. However, recent research suggests that Stoker actually knew little about the Prince of Wallachia.[35]

The legend of the vampire was and still is deeply rooted in that region. There have always been vampire-like creatures in various stories from across the world. However, the vampire, as he became known in Europe, largely originated in Southern Slavic folklore – although the tale is absent in Romanian culture. A veritable epidemic of vampirism swept through Eastern Europe beginning in the late 17th century and continuing through the 1700s. The number of reported cases rose dramatically in Hungary and the Balkans. From the Balkans, the "plague" spread westward into Germany, Italy, France, England, and Spain. Travelers returning from the Balkans brought with them tales of the undead, igniting an interest in the vampire that has continued to this day. Philosophers in the West began to study the phenomenon. It was during this period that Ludovico Fatinelli wrote his famous treatise on vampirism in Hungary. It was also during this period that authors and playwrights first began to explore the vampire legend. Stoker's novel was merely the culminating work of a long series of works that were inspired by the reports coming from the Balkans and Hungary.

Given the history of the vampire legend in Europe, it is perhaps natural that Stoker should place his great vampire in the heart of the region that gave birth to the story. Once Stoker had determined on a locality, Vlad Dracula would stand out as one of the most notorious rulers of the selected region. He was obscure enough that few would recognize the name and those who did would know him for his acts of brutal cruelty; Dracula was a natural candidate for vampirism.

Romanian attitudes

Romanian folklore and literature, on the other hand, paints Vlad Ţepeş as a hero. His reputation in his native country as a man who stood up to both foreign and domestic enemies gives him the virtual opposite symbolism of Stoker's vampire. In Romania he is considered one of the greatest leaders in the country's history, and was voted one of "100 Greatest Romanians" in the "Mari Români" television series aired in 2006.

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 latter half of the sixteenth century, now hangs in the same gallery[1][2]. This copy, unlike the all the cryptoportraits contemporary with Vlad III, seems to have given him a Habsburg lip, although he was not a member of the Habsburg lineage.

His image in modern Romanian culture clashes with foreign perceptions. It is the last part of a rather popular 19th century poem by Mihai Eminescu, "Scrisoarea a III-a", that helped turn Vlad's image into modern legend, by having him stand as a figure to contrast with presumed social decay under the Phanariotes and the political scene of the 19th century (even suggesting that Vlad's violent methods be applied as a cure). Notably though, the first author to depict Vlad as a Romanian heroic character was a Transylvanian who probably never travelled to Wallachia, Ioan Budai-Deleanu. Around 1800 he wrote a Romanian epic heroicomic poem, "Ţiganiada", in which prince Vlad Ţepeş stars as a fierce warrior fighting the Ottomans. Well in advance of Romanian literature at that time, this work, unlike Eminescu's, remained unpublished and ignored for a century, and did not exert any influence.

All accounts of his life describe him as ruthless, but only the ones originating from his Saxon detractors paint him as sadistic or insane. These pamphlets continued to be published long after his death, though usually for lurid entertainment rather than propaganda purposes. It has largely been forgotten until recently that his tenacious efforts against the Ottoman Empire won him many staunch supporters in his lifetime, not just in modern day Romania but in the Kingdom of Hungary, Poland, the Republic of Venice, the Holy See, and the Balkans. A Hungarian court chronicler reported that King Matthias "had acted in opposition to general opinion" in Hungary when he had Dracula imprisoned, and this played a considerable part in Matthias reversing his unpopular decision. During his time as a "distinguished prisoner" before being fully pardoned and allowed to reconquer Wallachia, Vlad was hailed as a Christian hero by visitors from all over Europe.

Film adaptations

Unlike the fictional Dracula films, there have been comparatively few movies about the man who inspired the vampire. The 1975 documentary In Search of Dracula explores the legend of Vlad the Impaler. He is played in the film by Christopher Lee, known for his numerous portrayals of the fictional Dracula in films ranging from the 1950s to the 1970s.[36]

In 1979, a Romanian film called Vlad Ţepeş (sometimes known, in other countries, as The True Story of Vlad the Impaler) was released, based on his six-year reign and brief return to power in late 1476. The character is portrayed in a mostly positive perspective though the film also mentions the excesses of his regime and his practice of impalement. The lead character is played by Ştefan Sileanu.[37]

Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula, a film released in 2000, tells the life story of Vlad the Impaler mostly accurately while ending fictionally with Vlad rising from the grave and gaining eternal worldly life as well as supernatural abilities, implying that he has now become the fictional Dracula. Vlad is played in the film by Rudolf Martin.

Numerous film adaptations of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula and original works derived from it have incorporated Vlad the Impaler's history into the fictional Count Dracula's past, depicting them as the same person, including, among others: the 1972–1979 comic book series The Tomb of Dracula from Marvel Comics, the 1973 film Dracula, starring Jack Palance, and the 1992 film Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as Dracula, apparently making a likeness to Vlad the Impaler.

Popular culture

  • British alternative rock band Kasabian wrote a song titled "Vlad the Impaler" for their third album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum which was released in 2009. It served as the first single and starred Noel Fielding as Vlad in the music video.
  • There is a black metal band from France called Vlad Tepes.
  • In the Japanese manga series "Hellsing", it turns out that the main character "Alucard" is in fact Vlad III Dracula or Vlad the impaler.
  • There is a song from the hardcore band "Gravemaker" called "Vlad The Impaler".


  1. ^ a b Florescu, Radu R. and McNally, Raymond T. (1989). Dracula: Prince of many faces. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-28656-7. 
  2. ^ a b Ibid., see caption next to black and white photograph of this painting that appears in the set of illustrations between pages 74 and 75.
  3. ^ Florescu, Radu R. and McNally, Raymond T. (1989). Dracula: Prince of many faces. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-28656-7.
  4. ^ Count Dracula's Legend
  5. ^ Vlad III (ruler of Walachia)
  6. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c DRACULA: between myth and reality. by Adrian Axinte. Stanford University.
  13. ^ a b c The Night Attack
  14. ^ a b c
  15. ^ Other estimates for the army include 150,000 by Michael Doukas, 250,000 by Laonicus Chalcond.
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^
  19. ^ Raymond T. McNally, Radu Florescu (1994). In search of Dracula: the history of Dracula and vampires. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-395-65783-0.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Rezachevici, Constantin (2002). The Tomb of Vlad Tepes. The most probable hypothesis.. Journal of Dracula Studies, Number 4. 
  22. ^ Treptow, Kurt W. (2000). Vlad III. The Life and Times of the Historical Dracula. The Center for Romanian Studies. ISBN 973-98392-2-3. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Florescu, Radu R. (1999). Essays on Romanian History. The Center for Romanian Studies. ISBN 973-9432-03-4. 
  25. ^ a b Harmening, Dieter (1983). Der Anfang von Dracula. Zur Geschichte von Geschichten.. Königshausen+Neumann. ISBN 3-88479-144-3. 
  26. ^ a b c Andreescu, Stefan (1999). Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). The Romanian Cultural Foundation Publishing House. ISBN 973-577-197-7. 
  27. ^ History of Central Europe
  28. ^ Miller, Elizabeth. (2003). "Beheim and the Dracula Connection".
  29. ^ McNally, Raymond. (1982). "Origins of the Slavic Narratives about the Historical Dracula".
  30. ^ Andreescu; McNally&Florescu
  31. ^ Striedter, Jurij. (1961). "Die Erzählung vom walachisen Vojevoden Drakula in der russischen und deutschen Überlieferung".
  32. ^ Andreescu; McNally & Florescu
  33. ^ Perrie, Maureen. (1987). "The Image of Ivan the Terrible in Russian folklore".
  34. ^ Andreescu, McNally
  35. ^ a b Miller, Elizabeth (2000). Dracula: Sense & Nonsense. Desert Island Books Limited. ISBN 1-874287-24-4. 
  36. ^ Vem var Dracula? [In Search of Dracula] (1975) The Internet Movie Database
  37. ^ Vlad Tepes IMDB page


  • Florescu, Radu R.; McNally, Raymond T. (1989). Dracula: Prince of Many Faces. Little Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-28655-9. 
  • Florescu, Radu R.; McNally, Raymond T. (1994). In Search of Dracula. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-65783-0. 
  • Treptow, Kurt W. (2000). Vlad III Dracula: The Life and Times of the Historical Dracula. Center for Romanian Studies. ISBN 973-98392-2-3. 
  • Babinger, Franz (1992). Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691010786. 
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Vladislav II
Prince of Wallachia
Succeeded by
Vladislav II
Preceded by
Vladislav II
Prince of Wallachia
Succeeded by
Radu cel Frumos
Preceded by
Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
Prince of Wallachia
Succeeded by
Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân

External links

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