Who is Vlad Dracula
"Vlad the Impaler"?
Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Vlad III, Dracula, Drakulya, or Tepes, was born in late 1431, in the citadel of Sighisoara, Transylvania, the son of Vlad II or Dracul, a military governor, appointed by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. Vlad Dracul was also a knight in the Order of the Dragon, a secret fraternity created in 1387 by the Emperor, sworn to uphold Christianity and defend the empire against the Islamic Turks. Transylvania, along with Moldavia, and Wallachia, are now joined together as Romania. The name Dracul can be interpreted in two ways, the first translation from Romanian would be "Dragon", but it sometimes also means "Devil". Vlad was not called Tepes, which means ""spike" in Romanian, until after his death; Instead, he was known as Vlad The son of Dracula, so essentially, throughout his life, he was known as the "son of the Devil".
While growing up with such a name would normally present problems for most of us, Vlad certainly did not seem to mind, as he really did live up to his title; but before we look upon the exploits of the son, let us learn a bit more about the father. In 1436, Vlad Dracul took over the throne of Wallachia, taking up residence in the palace of Tirgoviste. It was there young Vlad Dracula would get his first taste of the opulent lifestyle, and perhaps also where the beast within would begin to grow. Merely two years later, in a strange turn of events, Vlad II betrayed the Order of the Dracul, forming an alliance with the Turks. He even went as far as allowing Sultan Murad II to keep his two sons, Vlad Dracula, and his younger brother Radu, as "insurance" that he would not plan to strike against the Turks.
In the winter of 1447, Vlad Dracul was assassinated in a coup orchestrated by one of his relatives, John Hunyadi, who had devoted his life to fighting the Ottoman Turks, and did not approve of Vlad Dracul's pro-Turkish policy. Vlad Dracula was granted his freedom following his father's death, but Radu decided to stay behind. In addition to learning of his father's demise, Vlad was also told his older brother, Mircea had his eyes gouged out, and been buried alive by the boyars of Tirgoviste. While in captivity, Vlad had grown resentful, and vowed to have his revenge on the Sultan.
The throne of Wallachia, which would have normally been reserved for Vlad Dracula, was now occupied by the boyars. The still teenaged Vlad Dracula, with the help of Pasha Mustafa Hassan' Turkish cavalry, defeated the boyars, reclaiming the throne for a very short period of time, as Hunyadi would soon thereafter appoint Vladislav II to the post. Vlad Dracula formed an alliance with Hunyadi, in the hopes of persuading him he was the rightful heir to the throne, but it wasn't until 1456, that Vlad Dracula would make his move, killing his father's murderer, and defeating Vladislav II, to take over as the new ruler of Wallachia. In 1569, following an Easter Sunday feast, Vlad Dracula had all the boyar families who had been attending arrested. Those who were in good health were condemned to a life of slavery, and put to work on the construction of his Poenari Castle on the Arges river. Those who were old and weak were impaled for all to see. Thus began Vlad the Impaler's reign of blood and terror.
Vlad the Impaler
Voievode of Wallachia
In 1447 Dracula's father was assassinated in the marshes near Bălteni by rebellious boyars becouse of his semi-pro-Turkish policy. In the same time, Dracula's older brother Mircea was also tortured (blinded with hot iron stakes and buried alive) and killed by his political enemies at Târgovişte. At this point, the Sultan released Dracula, invaded Wallachia and and put him on the throne as his puppet ruler. His rule was brief becouse soon after that, Hunyadi himself invaded Wallachia with the Hungarian military and ousted the Turks.
Vlad the Impaler fled to Moldavia and was put under the protection of his uncle, Bogdan II. It is said that during his escape, he had the shoes on his horse put on backwards to confuse anyone who tried to follow him. He stood there until October of 1451, when Bogdan was assassinated. After that, he decided to go to Hungary and try an alliance with Hunyadi. Not long after that, Vlad the Impaler became the Hungarian candidate for the throne of Wallachia.
In 1456, Hungary invaded Serbia to drive out the Turks, and Dracula simultaneously invaded Wallachia with his own contingent. Both campaigns were successful,but Hunyadi died suddenly of fever. Vlad the Impaler becomes prince of his native land and begins his main reign during which he committed many cruelties, and hence established his controversed reputation and which will end in 1462.
The first thing he had done as the prince of Wallachia was trying to seek revenge for his father and his brother deaths. On Easter Sunday of what we believe to be 1459, he arrested all the boyar families who had participated to the princely feast. He impaled the older ones on stakes while forcing the others to march from the capital to the town of Poenari. This fifty-mile trek was quite grueling, and those who survived were not permitted to rest until they reached destination. Vlad the Impaler then ordered them to build him a fortress on the ruins of an older outpost overlooking the Arges river. Many died in the process, and Dracula therefore succeeded in creating a new nobility and obtaining a fortress for future emergencies. What is left today of the building is identified as Castle Dracula.
The Battles of Vlad Dracula
In the beginning of 1462, Vlad launched a campaign against the Turks along the Danube river. During the winter of 1462, Vlad was very successful and managed to gain many victories, although the military force of Sultan Mehmed II was being by far more powerful than the Wallachian army. Becouse of that, the Sultan decided to launch a full-scale invasion of Wallachia in order to transform this land into a Turkish province. He entered Wallachia with an army three times larger than Dracula's. Not having any allies, Vlad the Impaler was forced to retreat towards Tirgoviste. In order to maintain his chances of winning the battle, he had to take some very hard and cruel decisions. He burned his own villages and poisoned the wells along the way, so that the Turkish army would find nothing to eat or drink. Moreover, when the Sultan, exhausted, finally reached the capital city, he was confronted by a most gruesome sight: thousands of stakes held the remaining carcasses of some 20,000 Turkish captives, a horror scene which was ultimately nicknamed the "Forest of the Impaled." This terror tactic had a strong effect on the Turks and the Sultan, tired and hungry, admitted defeat. Nevertheless, following his retreat from Wallachian territory, Mehmed left the next phase of the battle to Vlad's younger brother Radu, the Turkish favorite for the Wallachian throne. At the head of a Turkish army and joined by Vlad's detractors, Radu pursued his brother to Poenari castle on the Arges river.
It is said that Vlad's first wife committed suicide by leaping from the towers of Dracula's castle into the waters of the Arges River rather than surrender to the Turks. Dracula escaped across the mountains into Transylvania and appealed to Matthias Corvinus for aid, but Dracula was arrested and imprisoned in a royal tower near Buda, where he remained a prisoner for twelve years.
During his imprisonment, Vlad the Impaler was able to gradually win his way back into the graces of Hungary's monarch and he got married with a member of the royal family (some of the sources claim Dracula's second wife was actually the sister of Matthias Corvinus). During Dracula's incarceration, Wallachia was ruled by his brother, Radu the Handsome, who was the puppet of the Ottoman sultan.
The Death of Vlad Dracula
In 1476 Dracula and Prince Stephen Bathory of Transylvania invaded Wallachia with a mixed force of Transylvanians, a few dissatisfied Wallachian boyars and a contingent of Moldavians sent by Dracula's cousin, Prince Stephen the Great of Moldavia. Dracula's brother, Radu the Handsome, had died a couple of years earlier and been replaced on the Wallachian throne by another Turkish candidate, Basarab the Old, a member of the Danesti clan. For a short period of time, Vlad the Impaler managed to hold the throne, but soon a large Turkish army entered Wallachia determined to return Basarab to the throne.
Dracula was killed in battle against the Turks near the small town of Bucharest in December of 1476. Some reports indicated that he was assassinated by disloyal Wallachian boyars just as he was about to sweep the Turks from the field. Other accounts have Dracula falling in defeat, surrounded by the bodies of his loyal Moldavian bodyguard (the troops loaned by Prince Stephen of Moldavia remained with Dracula after Stephen Bathory returned to Transylvania). Still other reports claim that Dracula, at the moment of victory, was accidentally struck down by one of his own men. Dracula's body was decapitated by the Turks and his head sent to Constantinople where the sultan had it displayed on a stake as proof that the Impaler was dead. He was reportedly buried at Snagov, an island monastery located near Bucharest.