Written By: Stephanie Pislis
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Throughout time there have been few figures that have transcended the ages merely due to the sheer nature of their cruel acts. Vlad the Impaler, however, is one of these figures. Named after his preferred method of execution, Vlad the Impaler was a voivoid, or prince, of Wallachia, Romania in the 15th century. Vlad, sometimes referred to as Vlad Dracula, is also credited with the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous 1897 gothic horror novel, Dracula.
Despite common misconceptions, the name Dracula is not a surname, but rather a patronymic denoting lineage. In 1431, Vlad’s father, Vlad senior, was inducted by the King of Hungary into a knightly order called The Order of the Dragon. The Order of the Dragon was an Order, whose mission was to protect the Holy Cross and fight any enemies of Christianity. With the old Romanian word dracul meaning “dragon”, and also meaning “devil” in modern Romanian, Drăculea simply translates to “son of the devil” or “son of the dragon”. A rather fitting epithet for the devilish protagonists of Stoker’s renowned novel.
Drăculea translates to “Son of the Devil”
Many historians agree on Transylvania, Romania as being Vlad’s place of birth, however he spent much of his elsewhere. Most of his time was spent in other Romanian cities and a large portion of his adolescence was spent in the Ottoman empire (modern day Turkey). It is likely that Stoker chose the city of Transylvania for the setting of his gothic novel because of its expansive and mountainous geography. What better place to locate Dracula’s eerie and decrepit castle than a foggy landscape surrounded by towering mountains and vast forests?
In order to understand why Vlad the Impaler became the way he was, one must understand his childhood. In 1442, an agreement between Vlad’s father and Nobles of the Ottoman Empire was made in order for Vlad’s father to keep his current rule of Wallachia. In return, Vlad’s father agreed for the Nobles to keep Vlad and his younger brother in captivity as an assurance of trust. The young brothers spent many years in captivity under Ottoman rule. Despite being treated reasonably well and having been given an education as well as military training, the young Vlad held an eternal grudge against his captors. His brother, on the other hand, gradually subdued to the ways of his rulers, even eventually converting to Islam, the predominant religion of the Ottomans.
Vlad was kept in captivity during his childhood so his father could stay in power
During Vlad’s imprisonment, Vlad’s father was betrayed and killed by a group of Wallachian boyars. The boyars were a group of noblemen that held great political power in Romania. Soon after this event, Vlad was released from his captivity with the Ottomans and returned to Wallachia in an attempt to reclaim his father’s title. One infamous event, an event which is renown for having commenced the atrocities with which we now associate as Vlad’s cruelty, was the killing of 500 boyars. Vlad held an enormous banquet inviting hundreds of boyars and, despite his clandestine intentions, Vlad deceived the boyars into thinking that the gathering was merely to discuss political matters. Perhaps as a means of revenge for the killing of his father or perhaps to further secure his position as voivoid of Wallachia, Vlad had his guests stabbed. He then impaled their still-twitching bodies on large stakes. He decorated the castle’s courtyards with the bloody bodies of his enemies. Vlad’s infamous method of killing is attributed by some to his time spent as a hostage in the Ottoman empire.
Another event which demonstrates Vlad’s cruelty was yet another meeting held with Ottoman envoys. Vlad asserted that Wallachia would only continue to pay their due taxes if the Ottoman envoys agreed to remove and cease to wear their turbans. The envoys refused this preposterous request outright, stating that the turban was a symbol of their religion and their devotion. Not pleased with this response, Vlad had the turbans permanently nailed to their skulls. Vlad then proceeded to dispose of their corpses by means of his favorite method, impalement. Vlad’s total death count by means of impalement is thought to be anywhere between 80,000 to 100,000 corpses.
Vlad nailed turbans to the Skulls of Ottoman members
Although it is unclear when the exact date of Vlad’s death occurred, sources indicate his death occurred in either December 1476 or January 1477 during a battle to defend Wallachia. Like all rulers in power during this era, there is always another person looking to take power and so they did. Vlad’s corpse was cut into pieces and his severed head was sent to his enemy victor, Mehmed II. Mehmed II was associated with the Turkish members within the Ottoman Empire. He had Vlad’s head, fittingly, impaled on a spike. Mehmed’s acts ironically fit Vlad’s story as Vlad impaled many Nobleman and Turkish people of the Ottoman Empire.
Vlad’s total death count is between 80,000 and 100,000 Corpses
Historians prefer to romanticize Vlad the Impaler as being a sadistic and cruel madman. However, during his reign, in his native land, Vlad was worshipped as an intrepid and brave ruler. He was venerated as a savior from utter Ottoman domination. Whichever way one chooses to remember Vlad, it cannot be argued that his creative and unique method of killing will forever live on throughout the ages.
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