Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler
Vlad III Dracula
Prince of Wallachia

The Ambras Castle portrait of Vlad III, c. 1560, reputedly a copy of an original made during his lifetime.[1]
Reign 1448; 1456–1462; 1476
Born November or December 1431[2]
Birthplace Sighișoara, Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary
Died December 1476[2] (aged 45)
Place of death Bucharest, Wallachia
Royal House House of Drăculești (branch of the House of Basarab)
Father Vlad II Dracul
Mother Cneajna of Moldavia

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1476), also known by his patronymic Dracula (son of the Dragon (Vlad II) Dracul), and posthumously dubbed Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Țepeș pronounced [ˈvlad ˈt͡sepeʃ]), was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462, the period of the incipient Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. His father was a member of the Order of the Dragon (Dracul) and Dracula means son of the Dragon to indicate his father's title within the Order of the Dragon.

Vlad III is remembered for spending much of his rule campaigning efforts against the Ottoman Empire and its expansion[3] and for the impaling of enemies.[4] Already during his lifetime, his reputation of excessive cruelty spread abroad, to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The total number of his victims is estimated in the tens of thousands. The name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula was inspired by Vlad's patronymic.[4]



Bust of Vlad the Impaler near the birthplace plate

During his life Vlad wrote his name in Latin documents as Wladislaus Dragwlya, vaivoda partium Transalpinarum (1475).[5]

His Romanian patronymic Dragwlya (or Dragkwlya)[5] is a diminutive of the epithet Dracul "the Dragon" carried by his father Vlad II, who in 1431 was inducted as a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order founded by Sigismund of Hungary in 1408. Dracul is the Romanian definite form, the -ul being the suffigated definite article (deriving from Latin ille). The noun drac "dragon" itself continues Latin draco. In Modern Romanian, the word drac has adopted the meaning of "devil" (the term for "dragon" now being balaur). This has led to misinterpretations of Vlad's epithet as characterizing him as "devilish".[citation needed]

Vlad's moniker of Țepeș ("Impaler") identifies his favourite method of execution. It was attached to his name posthumously, in ca. 1550.[5]


Early life

Transylvanian Saxon engraving from 1462 depicting Vlad Țepeș
A woodcut depicting Vlad Țepeș published in Nuremberg in 1488 on the title page of the pamphlet Die geschicht dracole waide.

Vlad was born in Sighișoara, Transylvania, in the winter of 1431 to Vlad II Dracul, future voivode of Wallachia and son of the celebrated Voivode Mircea the Elder. His mother is believed to be the second wife of Vlad Dracul, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia, eldest daughter of Alexandru cel Bun and aunt to Stephen the Great of Moldavia.[6] He had two older half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, and a younger brother, Radu III the Beautiful.

In the year of his birth Vlad's father, known under the nickname Dracul, had traveled to Nuremberg where he had been vested into the Order of the Dragon. At the age of five, young Vlad was also initiated into the Order.[2]

Vlad and Radu spent their early formative years in Sighișoara under the care and tutelage of their mother and the wives of other exiled boyars. During the first reign of their father, Vlad II Dracul, the Voivode brought his young sons to Târgoviște, the capital of Wallachia at that time.

The Byzantine chancellor Mikhail Doukas showed that, at Târgoviște, the sons of boyars and ruling princes were well-educated by Romanian or Greek scholars commissioned from Constantinople. Vlad is believed to have learned combat skills, geography, mathematics, science, languages (Old Church Slavonic, German, Latin), and the classical arts and philosophy.[7]

Life in Edirne

In 1436, Vlad II Dracul ascended the throne of Wallachia. He was ousted in 1442 by rival factions in league with Hungary, but secured Ottoman support for his return by agreeing to pay the Jizya (tax on non-Muslims) to the Sultan and also send his two legitimate sons, Vlad III and Radu, to the Ottoman court, to serve as hostages of his loyalty.

Vlad III was imprisoned and often whipped and beaten because of his verbal abuse towards his trainers and his stubborn behavior, while his younger brother Radu 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 Topkapı Palace. Radu was also honored by the title Bey and was given command of the Janissary contingents.

These years presumably 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 for converting to Islam and the young Ottoman prince Mehmed II (even after he became sultan). He was envious of his father's preference for his elder brother, Mircea II and half brother, Vlad Călugărul. He also distrusted the Hungarians and his own father for trading him to the Turks and betraying the Order of the Dragon's oath to fight the Ottoman Empire.

Vlad was later released under probation and taken to be educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish and Persian languages and works of literature. He would speak these languages fluently in his later years.[8] He and his brother were also trained in warfare and riding horses. The boys' father, Vlad Dracul, was awarded the support of the Ottomans and returned to Wallachia and took back his throne from Basarab II and some unfaithful Boyars.

First marriage

Vlad's first wife was a noblewoman from Transylvania by the name of Cnaejna (Princess) Bathory of Transylvania with whom he had two sons: Radu (1435-1482) and Vlad Dracula IV (Vlad Țepeluș, ?-1500).[9] Radu 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.[10] Vlad Tepelus was married to Neacsa Ujlaki and he was an unsuccessful claimant to the Wallachian throne between 1476 and 1488.[9]

Second marriage

Vlad's second wife was Jusztina Szilagyi of Moldavia, with whom he had two sons: Mihnea I "the Bad" (Mihnea I cel Rău, ?-1510) and Mihail (?-1485).[9]

According to local legend, she died during the siege of Poenari Castle, which was surrounded by the Ottoman army led by his brother Radu Bey and the Wallachian Janissary. A woodland 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 and served in the ranks of Radu Bey. Upon reading the message, Vlad's wife threw herself from the tower into a tributary of the Argeș River flowing below the castle, saying she would rather rot and be eaten by the fish of the Argeș 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).

Third marriage

Gradually winning back King Matthias's favour, he married Ilona Szilágyi of Wallachia, 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. Ilona and Vlad had one daughter, Zaleska[9] who died in 1510 without known offsprings.


The descendents of Vlad Tepes' sons, Vlad Țepeluș and Mihnea I "the Bad", are ancestors of Elizabeth II, Queen of England.[9][11] Mary of Teck, descendant of Vlad the Impaler, married into the Royal Family in 1893 to King George V. In October of 2011, Prince Charles publically claimed that geneology proves that he is a distant relative of Vlad the Impaler. The claim accompanied his announcement of a pledge to help conserve the forested areas of Transylvania.

First reign and exile

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

To prevent Wallachia from falling into the Hungarian fold, the Ottomans invaded Wallachia and put young Vlad III on the throne. However, this rule was short-lived as Hunyadi himself now invaded Wallachia and restored his ally Vladislav II, of the Dănești clan, to the throne.

Vlad fled to Moldavia, where he lived under the protection of his uncle, Bogdan II. In October 1451, Bogdan was assassinated and Vlad fled to Hungary. Impressed by Vlad's vast knowledge of the mindset and inner workings of the Ottoman Empire as well as his hatred of the new sultan Mehmed II, Hunyadi reconciled with his former rival and made him his advisor.

After the Fall of Constantinople to Mehmed II in 1453, Ottoman influence began to spread from this base through the Carpathians, threatening mainland Europe, and by 1481 conquering the entire Balkans peninsula. Vlad's rule thus falls entirely within the three decades of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.

In 1456, three years after the Ottomans had conquered Constantinople, they threatened Hungary by besieging Belgrade. Hunyadi began a concerted counter-attack in Serbia: while he himself moved into Serbia and relieved the siege (before dying of the plague), Vlad led his own contingent into Wallachia, reconquered his native land and killed Vladislav II in hand-to-hand combat.[citation needed]

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' well-being by building new villages and raising agricultural output. He understood the importance of trade for the development of Wallachia. He helped the Wallachian merchants by limiting foreign merchant trade to three market towns: Târgșor, Câmpulung and Târgoviște.

Vlad considered the boyars the chief cause of the constant strife as well as of the death of his father and brother. To secure his rule, he had many leading nobles killed 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 fixing up Wallachia, Vlad gave new laws punishing thieves and robbers. Vlad treated the boyars with the same harshness, believing them guilty of weakening Wallachia through their personal struggles for power.

The army was also strengthened. He had a small personal guard, mostly made of mercenaries, who were rewarded with loot and promotions. He also established a militia or ‘lesser army’ made up of peasants called to fight whenever war came.

Vlad Dracula built a church at Târgșor (allegedly in the memory of his father and older brother who were killed nearby), and he contributed with money to the Snagov Monastery and to the Comana Monastery fortifications.[12]

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 Brașov (Kronstadt) impaled.[13]

War with the Ottomans

In 1459, Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans, at the Congress of Mantua. In this crusade, the main role was to be played by Matthias Corvinus, son of John Hunyadi (János Hunyadi), the King of Hungary. To this effect, Matthias Corvinus received from the Pope 40,000 golden coins, an amount that was thought to be enough to gather an army of 12,000 men and purchase 10 Danube warships. In this context, Vlad allied himself with Matthias Corvinus, with the hope of keeping the Ottomans out of the country (Wallachia was claimed as a part of the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Mehmed II).

Later that year, in 1459, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II sent envoys to Vlad to urge him to pay a delayed Jizya (tax on non-Muslims) of 10,000 ducats and 500 recruits into the Ottoman forces. Vlad refused, because if he had paid the 'tribute', as the tax was called at the time, it would have meant a public acceptance of Wallachia as part of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad, just like most of his predecessors and successors, had as a primary goal to keep Wallachia as independent as possible. Vlad had the Turkish envoys killed on the pretext that they had refused to raise their "hats" to him, by nailing their turbans to their heads.[citation needed]

Vlad the Impaler and the Turkish Envoys. Painting by Theodor Aman.

Meanwhile, the Sultan received intelligence reports that revealed Vlad's domination of the Danube.[14] He sent the Bey of Nicopolis and Hamza Pasha, to make peace and, if necessary, eliminate Vlad III.[14]

Vlad Țepeș planned to set an ambush. Hamza Pasha, the Bey of Nicopolis brought with him 10,000 cavalry and when passing through a narrow pass north of Giurgiu, Vlad launched a surprise attack. The Wallachians had the Turks surrounded and defeated. The Turks' plans were thwarted and almost all of them caught and impaled, with Hamza Pasha impaled on the highest stake to show his rank.[14]

In the winter of 1462, Vlad crossed the Danube and devastated the entire Bulgarian land in the area between Serbia and the Black Sea. Disguising himself as a Turkish Sipahi, he infiltrated and destroyed Ottoman camps. In a letter to Corvinus dated 2 February, he wrote:

I have killed peasants men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea, up to Rahova, which is located near Chilia, from the lower Danube up to such places as Samovit and Ghighen. We killed 23,884 Turks without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers...Thus, your highness, you must know that I have broken the peace with him (Sultan Mehmet II).[13][15]

In response to this, Sultan Mehmed II raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars,[16] and in spring of 1462 headed towards Wallachia. Commanding at best only 30,000 to 40,000 men (depending of the source), Vlad was unable to stop the Ottomans from crossing the Danube at June 4th, 1462 and entering Wallachia. He was constantly organizing small attacks and ambushes on the Turks, such as The Night Attack when 15,000 Turks were killed.[2] Vlad III defeated Ottoman Sipahi commanders such as Iosuf Bey, Ömer Bey Turahanoğlu and Evrenos Bey. This infuriated Mehmed II, who then crossed the Danube. With the exception of some Turkish references, all the other chronicles at the time that mention the 1462 campaign state that the Sultan was defeated. Apparently, the Turks retreated in such a hurry that by July 11th, 1462 the Sultan was already in Adrianopolis. According to the Byzantine historian Chalcocondil, Radu the Beautiful, brother of Vlad III and ingratiate of the Sultan, was left behind in Targoviste with the hope that he would be able to gather an anti-Vlad clique that would ultimately get rid of Vlad as Voivode of Wallachia and crown Radu as the new ruler.

Vlad the Impaler's attack was celebrated by the Saxon cities of Transylvania, the Italian states and the Pope. A Venetian envoy, upon hearing about the news at the court of Corvinus on 4 March, expressed great joy and said that the whole of Christianity should celebrate Vlad Țepeș's successful campaign. The Genoese from Caffa also thanked Vlad, for his campaign had saved them from an attack of some 300 ships that the sultan planned to send against them.[15]


Vlad III's younger brother, the highly capable Radu Bey, and his Janissary battalions were given the task of leading the Ottoman Empire to victory at all expense by Sultan Mehmet II. After the Sipahis' incursions failed to subdue Vlad, the few remaining Sipahis were killed in a night raid by Vlad III in 1462. However, as the war raged on, Radu and his formidable Janissary battalion were well supplied with a steady flow of gunpowder and dinars; this allowed them to push deeper into the realm of Vlad III. Radu and his well-equipped forces finally besieged Poenari Castle, the famed lair of Vlad III. After his difficult victory Radu was given the title Bey of Wallachia by Sultan Mehmet II.

Vlad III's defeat at Poenari was due in part to the fact that the Boyars, who had been alienated by Vlad's policy of undermining their authority, had joined Radu under the assurance that they would regain their privileges. They may have also believed that Ottoman protection was better than Hungarian. It was said as well that Radu (through his spies or traitors) found the place where some Boyars' families were hidden during the war (probably some forests around Snagov) and blackmailed them to come to his side.

By 8 September, Vlad won another three 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 Corvinus. Instead of receiving help, he found himself arrested and thrown into the dungeon for high treason. Corvinus, not planning to get involved in a war after having spent the Papal money meant for it on personal expenses, forged a letter from Vlad III to the Ottomans where he supposedly proposed a peace with them, to give an explanation for the Pope and a reason to abandon the war and return to his capital.

Captivity in Hungary

Matthias Corvinus had received consistent financial support from the Pope 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, Matthias Corvinus arrested him using false documents: a forged letter, in which Vlad supposedly pledged loyalty to Mehmed II and promised to strike an agreement with the Ottomans over Wallachia.

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

The exact length of Vlad's period of captivity is open to some debate, though indications are that it was from 1462 until 1474. Diplomatic correspondence from Buda seems to indicate that the period of Vlad's effective confinement was relatively short. Radu's openly pro-Ottoman policy as voivode probably contributed to Vlad's rehabilitation. Moreover, Ștefan ce Mare, Voievod of Moldavia and relative of Vlad intervened on his behalf to be released from prison as the Ottoman pressure on the territories north of Danube was increasing.

Third reign and death

Vlad the Impaler as Pontius Pilate judging Jesus Christ. National Gallery, Ljubljana, 1463.[citation needed]

After the sudden death of his brother Radu III the Fair in the year 1475, Vlad III declared his third reign in 26 November 1476. Vlad began preparations for the reconquest of Wallachia and in 1476, with Hungarian support, invaded the country and crossed the river Danube. Vlad’s third reign had lasted little more than two months when he was assassinated.[17][18] The exact date of his death is unknown, presumably the end of December 1476, but it is known that he was dead by 10 January 1477. The exact location of his death is also unknown, but it would have been somewhere along the road between Bucarest and Giurgiu. Vlad's head was taken to Constantinople as a trophy, and his body was buried unceremoniously by his rival, Basarab Laiota, possibly at Comana, a monastery founded by Vlad in 1461.[19] The Comana monastery was demolished and rebuilt from scratch in 1589.[20]

In the 19th century, Romanian historians cited a "tradition", apparently without any kind of support in documentary evidence, that Vlad was buried at Snagov, an island monastery located near Bucharest. To support this theory, the so-called Cantacuzino Chronicle was cited, which cites Vlad as the founder of this monastery. But as early as 1855, Alexandru Odobescu had established that this is impossible as the monastery had been in existence before 1438. Since excavations carried out by Dinu V Rosetti in June–October 1933, it has become clear that Snagov monastery was founded during the later 14th century, well before the time of Vlad III. The 1933 excavation also established that there was no tomb below the supposed "unmarked tombstone" of Vlad in the monastery church. Rosetti (1935) reported that “Under the tombstone attributed to Vlad there was no tomb. Only many bones and jaws of horses." In the 1970s, speculative attribution of an anonymous tomb found elsewhere in the church to Vlad Tepes was published by Simion Saveanu, a journalist who wrote a series of articles on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Vlad's death.[20] Most Romanian historians today favor the Comana monastery as the final resting place for Vlad Tepes.[19]


Reputation for cruelty

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

Even during his lifetime, Vlad III Țepeș became famous as a tyrant taking sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing. He is shown in cryptoportraits made during his lifetime in the role of cruel rulers or executioners such as Pontius Pilate ordering the torture and execution of Jesus Christ, or as Aegeas, the Roman proconsul in Patras, overseeing the crucifixion of Saint Andrew.[citation needed] After Vlad's death, his cruel deeds were reported with macabre gusto in popular pamphlets in Germany, reprinted from the 1480s until the 1560s, and to a lesser extent in Tsarist Russia.

Estimates for number of his victims range from 40,000 to 100,000, comparable to the cumulative number of executions over four centuries of European witchhunts.[21] 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.[22]

Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution. Several woodcuts from German pamphlets of the late 15th and early 16th centuries show Vlad feasting in a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Brașov, while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims. It was reported that an invading Ottoman army turned back in fright when it encountered thousands of rotting corpses impaled on the banks of the Danube.[13] 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 Târgoviște.[23]

Allegedly, Vlad's reputation for cruelty was actively promoted by Matthias Corvinus, who tarnished Vlad’s reputation and credibility for a political reason: as an explanation for why he had not helped Vlad fight the Ottomans in 1462, for which purpose he had received money from most Catholic states in Europe.[citation needed] Matthias employed the charges of Southeastern Transylvania, and produced fake letters of high treason, written on 7 November 1462.[citation needed]

German sources

1499 German woodcut showing Dracule waide dining among the impaled corpses of his victims.

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.[24] 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 Michael 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.[25]

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.[22]

Russian sources

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.[26] The oldest one, from 1490, ends as follows: "First written in the year 6994 of the Byzantine calendar (1486), on 13 February; then transcribed by me, the sinner Efrosin, in the year 6998 (1490), on 28 January". The Tales of Prince Dracula is neither chronological nor consistent, but mostly a collection of anecdotes of literary and historical value concerning Vlad Țepeș.

There are 19 anecdotes in The Tales of Prince Dracula which are longer and more constructed than the German stories. 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.[27]

Of the 19 anecdotes there are ten that have similarities to the German stories.[28] 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 portray him in a more positive light: he is depicted as a great ruler, a brave soldier and a just sovereign. Stories of atrocities tend to seem to be justified as the actions of a strong ruler. Of the 19 anecdotes, only four seem to have exaggerated violence.[27] Some elements of the anecdotes were later added to Russian stories about Ivan the Terrible of Russia.[29]

The nationality and identity of the original writer of the anecdotes Dracula is disputed. The two most plausible explanations are that the writer was either a Romanian priest or a monk from Transylvania, or a Romanian or Moldavian from the court of Stephen the Great in Moldavia. One theory claims the writer was a Russian diplomat named Fyodor Kuritsyn.[30]

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.[2][1] This copy, unlike the cryptoportraits contemporary with Vlad III,[clarification needed] seems to have given him a Habsburg lip.[citation needed]

Popular culture

Romanian patriotism

Romanian and Slavic documents starting with 1481 and on portray Vlad as a hero, a true leader, that 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.[31]

An Italian writer, Michael Bocignoli from Ragusa, in his writings from 1524, he refers to Vlad Tepes as:

It was once (in Valahia), a prince Dragul by his name, a very wise and skillful man in war.[32]

(In Latin in the original text: Inter eos aliquando princeps fuit, quem voievodam appellant, Dragulus nomine, vir acer et militarium negotiorum apprime peritus.)[33]

In "Letopisetul cantacuzinesc", a historic chronicle written by Stoica Ludescu from the Cantacuzino family around 1688, Vlad orders the boyars to build the fortress Poenari with their own 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.[34]

(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 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 biggest 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 is even suggesting that Vlad's violent methods be applied as a cure. In the final lyrics, the poet makes a call to Vlad Tepes (i.e. Dracula) to come, to sort the contemporaries into two teams: fool and rotten and then set fire to the prison and to the fools' home.[35]

(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!)

Petre Tutea, romanian filosofer characterized Vlad Tepes as follows:

Vlad Țepeș... has the merit of placing on the Moldavian throne the greatest of the Romanian voievods, Stephen the Great. With weapons! He has the merit that he lowered the absolute ethics through the spikes put in the buttocs at absolute level. You were sleeping with your bag of gold near your head and were afraid to steal it yourself. This is the absolute voievod, Vlad Țepeș. Because without this one the Romanian history is a lambs' medow![36]

(In Romanian in the original text: "Vlad Țepeș...are meritul de a fi pus pe tronul Moldovei pe cel mai mare voievod român, pe Ștefan cel Mare. Cu armele! Are meritul că a coborât morala absolută prin țepele puse în cur la nivel absolut. Dormeai cu punga de aur la cap și ți-era frică să n-o furi tu de la tine. Ăsta-i voievod absolut, Vlad Țepeș. Păi fără ăsta istoria românilor e o pajiște cu miei!")[37]

In contrast, documents of Germanic, Saxonic, and Hungarian origin portray Vlad as a tyrant, a monster so cruel that needs to be stopped. For example, Johan Christian Engel characterizes Vlad as "a cruel tyrant and a monster of humankind".[38] Several authors and historians believe that this may be the result of a bad image campaign initiated by the Transylvanian saxons who were actively persecuted during Vlad's reign and later maintained and spread by Matthias Corvinus. [39][24][38][40]. It is conceivable that these actions were not beyond the Hungarian King since he already framed Vlad Tepes by producing a forged letter to incriminate Vlad of coalition with the Turks; however, there is incontestable evidence, both in Romanian and foreign documents, including Vlad's own letters, that he killed in horrible ways tens of thousands of people.

Bram Stoker

The connection of the name "Dracula" with vampirism was made by Bram Stoker, who probably found the name of his Count Dracula character in William Wilkinson's book, An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia: with various Political Observations Relating to Them.[41] It is known that Stoker made notes about this book.[42] It is also suggested that Stoker may have heard of Vlad through his friend, Hungarian professor Ármin Vámbéry, from Budapest. The fact that character Dr. Abraham Van Helsing states in the 1897 novel that the source of his knowledge about Count Dracula is his friend Arminius appears to support this hypothesis.


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.[43]

In 1979, a Romanian film called Vlad Țepeș (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 Ștefan Sileanu.[44]

Vlad was depicted in his youth in the 1989 Romanian film Mircea, which focused on the reign of his grandfather, Mircea I of Wallachia (AD 1386-1418).

Vampire films and novels

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. These include, among others: the 1972–1979 comic book series The Tomb of Dracula from Marvel Comics, the 1973 film Dracula, starring Jack Palance, the 1979 BBC/Masterpiece Theater production Dracula, starring Louis Jordan, or in the 1992 film Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as Dracula.

Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula, a television film released in 2000, tells the life story of Vlad the Impaler mostly accurately, but has a fictitious ending in which Vlad rises from the grave as an immortal with supernatural powers, implying he has now become the legendary vampire character. Vlad is portrayed in the film by German actor Rudolf Martin.

Another popular novel which mentions Vlad the Impaler is Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, which tells an incredibly realistic and historical tale of historians searching for the tomb of the supposedly dead Vlad. In the novel, Vlad the Impaler is not just a horrifying tyrant but a vampire whose whereabouts the historians are hurriedly trying to discover before something bad happens. The book is not only rich in suspense and superstition, but also gives an accurate biography of the prince of Wallachia.

Kelly Jacobs's 2011 novel "The Diary of Drakula, volume one," expands heavily on the pop culture version of the historic Viovode, blending the fictional Count of Bram Stoker fame with his inspiration, the real life Viovode of Wallachia, Vlad the Impaler, in a composite biography. The novel is the first part of a two part series which is written in the same style as the original by Bram Stoker, as a collection of diary entries, letters and various documents. Although the novel has non-historical elements for entertainment value, most of the events depicted therein have a real historical basis, such as the fall of Constantinople, the night attack of 1462, and Vladislav's political stance and legal actions against Saxon merchants.

See also


  1. ^ a b Florescu, Radu R. & McNally, Raymond T. (1989). pp. 74–75. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Florescu, Radu R. & McNally, Raymond T. (1989). Dracula, prince of many faces: his life and his times. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-28655-9. 
  3. ^ Count Dracula's Legend
  4. ^ a b "Vlad III". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2010. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/631524/Vlad-III. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Anuarul Institutului de Istorie Cluj-Napoca, no. 35, Institutul de Istorie din Cluj, Editura Academiei, 1996,pp. 29-34.
  6. ^ Dracula: Prince of Many Faces", Florescu and McNally, page 45
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ Florescu, Radu R. & McNally, Raymond T. (1989). p. 133. 
  9. ^ a b c d e The British Chronicles, Volume 2 by David Hughes
  10. ^ McNally, Raymond T. & Florescu, Radu (1994). In search of Dracula: the history of Dracula and vampires. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-65783-0. 
  11. ^ Pedigree
  12. ^ [2]Template:Link corrected date=November 2011[dead link]
  13. ^ a b c DRACULA: between myth and reality. by Adrian Axinte. Stanford University.
  14. ^ a b c exploringromania.com
  15. ^ a b The Night Attack
  16. ^ Other estimates for the army include 150,000 by Michael Doukas, 250,000 by Laonicus Chalcond.
  17. ^ Vlad Tepes[3]
  18. ^ The Life and Deaths of Vlad the Impaler[4]
  19. ^ a b Constantin Rezachevici, Unde a fost mormântul lui Vlad Tepes? (II), Magazin Istoric, nr.3, 2002, p.41)
  20. ^ a b Rezachevici, Constantin (2002). The tomb of Vlad Tepes: the most probable hypothesis. Journal of Dracula Studies, Number 4. http://blooferland.com/drc/index.php?title=Journal_of_Dracula_Studies#Number_4_.282002.29. [5]
  21. ^ Florescu, Radu R. (1999). Essays on Romanian History. The Center for Romanian Studies. ISBN 973-9432-03-4. 
  22. ^ a b Harmening, Dieter (1983). Der Anfang von Dracula. Zur Geschichte von Geschichten.. Königshausen+Neumann. ISBN 3-88479-144-3. 
  23. ^ Garza, Thomas (2010). The Vampire in Slavic Cultures. United States: Cognella. pp. 145–146. ISBN 9781609274115. 
  24. ^ a b {{cite book |last1 = Andreescu |first1 = Stefan |authorlink1 = Stefan Andreescu |lastauthoramp=y |title = Vlad Tepes (Dracula): bewteen legend and histrorical truth |year = 1998 |publisher = Editura Enciclopedica |isbn = 9734502581 (ISBN13: 9789734502585)
  25. ^ Dickens, David B. & Miller, Elizabeth (2003). Michel Beheim, German Meistergesang, and Dracula. Journal of Dracula Studies, Number 5. http://blooferland.com/drc/index.php?title=Journal_of_Dracula_Studies#Number_5_.282003.29. 
  26. ^ McNally, Raymond. (1982). "Origins of the Slavic Narratives about the Historical Dracula".
  27. ^ a b Andreescu; McNally&Florescu
  28. ^ Striedter, Jurij. (1961). "Die Erzählung vom walachisen Vojevoden Drakula in der russischen und deutschen Überlieferung".
  29. ^ Perrie, Maureen (1987). The image of Ivan the Terrible in Russian folklore. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-33075-0. 
  30. ^ Andreescu, McNally
  31. ^ ThinkQuest Education Foundation
  32. ^ Epistula Michaelis Bocignoli Ragusei
  33. ^ Epistula Michaelis Bocignoli Ragusei in multiple languages
  34. ^ Letopisetul cantacuzinesc
  35. ^ [ http://www.natkat.org/Maria/scrisoarea3e.html Letter 3 (summary)
  36. ^ {{cite book |last1 = Tutea |first1 = Petre |authorlink1 = Petre Tutea |lastauthoramp=y |title = 322 memorable quotes of Petre Țuțea |year = 1997 |publisher = Editura Humanitas |isbn = 973-28-0630-3
  37. ^ Petre Țuțea - 322 de vorbe memorabile ale lui Petre Țuțea, București, Editura Humanitas, 1997, p.119./ISBN 973-28-0630-3.
  38. ^ a b Prof. Ioan Scurtu, historian
  39. ^ Vlad Tepes - the first victim of a press campaign
  40. ^ Stefan Andreescu - Vlad Tepes Dracula
  41. ^ Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia: With Various Political Observations Relating to Them by William Wilkinson - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists
  42. ^ Miller, Elizabeth (2000). Dracula: sense & nonsense. Desert Island Books. ISBN 1-874287-24-4. 
  43. ^ Vem var Dracula? (In Search of Dracula) at the Internet Movie Database
  44. ^ Vlad Tepes at the Internet Movie Database

External links

Media related to Vlad the Impaler at Wikimedia Commons

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

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