''Vlad the Impaler''
Bram stoker's inspiration for ''Drakula''
In 1897, writer Bram Stoker published the novel Dracula, the classic story of a vampire named Count Dracula who feeds on human blood, hunting his victims and killing them in the dead of night.
The Count Dracula in the book, which contemporary critics described as the “most blood-curdling novel” of the century, was Stoker’s own creation. But many believe the bloodthirsty villain was partly inspired by Vlad the Impaler, the terrifying ruler of Wallachia (part of present-day Romania) in the mid-1400s.
Though Vlad the Impaler is accepted as a national hero in Romania nowadays, this “real Dracula” was the reason of untold atrocities in the mid-1400s.
Vlad III earned his fearsome nickname for impaling more than 20,000 people and killing as many as 60,000 others during his bloody reign. He was even said to dine among his impaled enemies and dip his bread in their blood.
Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III), was born between 1428 and 1431 during a time of unrest in Wallachia.
His mother, the queen, came from a Moldavian royal family and his father was Vlad II Dracul. The surname translates to “dragon” and was given to Vlad II after his induction into a Christian crusading order known as the Order of the Dragon. Young Vlad had two brothers, Mircea and Radu.
Due to Wallachia’s proximity to the warring factions of Christian-ruled Europe and the Muslim-ruled Ottoman Empire, Dracul’s territory was the site of constant turmoil.
In 1442, the Ottomans called for a diplomatic meeting and invited Vlad Dracul. He saw an opportunity to educate his younger sons in the art of diplomacy so he brought Vlad III and Radu with him.
But Dracul and his two sons were captured and held hostage by the Ottoman diplomats instead. The captors told him that he would be released — but he had to leave his sons.
Dracul, believing it was the safest option for his family, agreed. Fortunately for Vlad III and his brother, during their time as hostages, the two princes received lessons in science, philosophy, and the art of war.
However, things were far worse back home. A coup orchestrated by local warlords — known as the boyar — overthrew Dracul. In 1447, he was killed in the swamps behind his home while his oldest son was tortured, blinded, and buried alive.
Tokat Castle in Anatolia, where Vlad the Impaler was held hostage by Ottomans for 4 years
Vlad III was freed soon after his family’s death, and at this time he began to use the name Vlad Dracula, meaning son of the dragon. When he returned to Wallachia, he transformed into a violent ruler, soon earning his moniker Vlad the Impaler in disturbing fashion.
In 1448, Vlad returned to Wallachia to take back the throne from Vladislav II, the man who had taken his father’s place. He succeeded, but after just a few months, the deposed Vladislav returned and took back the throne. But in 1456, Vlad returned with an army and support from Hungary and was able to take the throne from Vladislav for a second time.
Legend has it that Vlad personally beheaded his rival Vladislav on the battlefield. And once he was back on his father’s throne again, his reign of terror truly began.
The Battle With Torches by Romanian painter Theodor Aman. It depicts the The Night Attack of Târgovişte, a skirmish fought between forces of Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia and Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on Thursday, June 17, 1462.
Vlad the Impaler was an undeniably brutal ruler. Nevertheless, much of Christian Europe supported his strong, if macabre, defense of Wallachia from various incursions from Muslim Ottoman forces.
In fact, even Pope Pius II expressed admiration for the notoriously violent ruler’s military feats. A threat to Europe was deemed a threat to Christendom and, therefore, the Pope.
Though the real Dracula brought some stability and protection to a vulnerable region, Vlad III was still seemed to relish his own brutality. During one of his successful campaigns against the Ottoman Turks in 1462, Vlad wrote the following to one of his allies:
“I have killed peasants, men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea… 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.”
Impalement was no doubt Vlad the Impaler’s murder method of choice. During impalement, a wooden or metal pole would be jabbed through the body starting either in the rectum or vagina and would then slowly pierce through the body until it came out the victim’s mouth, shoulders, or neck
Sometimes the pole was rounded so that it would go through the body without puncturing any internal organs, prolonging the victim’s torture. In these particularly gruesome cases, it could take hours or even days for the victim to finally die — often on public display for everyone to watch. In one case, he impaled the Saxon merchants in Kronstadt who were once allied with the boyars — his family’s killers.
Vlad the Impaler used this torturous method to punish and kill anyone who displeased or threatened him, though it wasn’t the only way he dispensed his cruelty. At one point, he had the turbans of Ottoman diplomats nailed onto their skulls after they declined to remove them for religious reasons.
Vlad the Impaler’s appetite for violence often surpassed the bloodlust of his enemies. Sultan Mehmed II, notorious for his own atrocities, was aghast after seeing the decaying corpses of about 23,000 of his own men lined up on stakes for miles (some say as many as 60) around the capital of Târgoviște when he invaded Wallachia in 1462. 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.''
Laonikos Chalkokondyles: The Histories
Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II
Theodor Aman - Vlad the Impaler and the Turkish Envoys
Stories like this abound and, in total, contemporaneous accounts claimed that Vlad the Impaler killed 80,000 people during his reign — impaling more than 23,000 of them — but it’s difficult to know for sure how many people he truly slaughtered.
His bloody reign ended in 1462 when Hungarian forces took him prisoner. The Ottomans had launched a campaign to replace Vlad with his milder brother Radu. In turn, Vlad went to the Hungarians, thinking that they’d help solidify his hold on the throne. But, not wanting to risk war with the Ottomans, the Hungarians had Vlad imprisoned.
Almost nothing is known about Vlad’s imprisonment, but in 1476, he was released and married Jusztina Szilágyi, a relative of the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus, who made an arrangement with Vlad to restore him to his throne after Radu had been removed. However, Vlad died in battle alongside the Hungarians, who were now at war with the Ottomans, later that same year.
On 7 February 1474, Ali Bey Mihaloğlu unexpectedly attacked the town of Várad. Ahead of his 7,000 horsemen, he broke through its wooden fences and pillaged the town, burned the houses and took the population as prisoners. Their goal was to rob the treasury of the episcopate, but were resisted by the refugees and clergy in the bishop's castle (at the time the bishop's rank was absent, and no records mention the identity of a possible Hungarian captain). The town fell but the castle stood, forcing the Ottomans to give up the fight after one day of siege. While retreating, they devastated the surrounding areas.
Mihaloğlu Ali Bey, whose next task was to capture Vlad and kill him, trapped Vlad and her men with 300 Raiders under his command. Vlad was beheaded with his own sword and sent to Istanbul to Fatih Sultan Mehmet. later on, His severed head was exhibited to the public in Bursa.
Meanwhile, it has to be mentioned that Mihaloglu (son of Michael) Ali Beg was a descendant of one of the local governors of Byzantium in Anatolia who was later converted to Islam.
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