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Vlad the Impaler Facts and Myths - The Biography of a Cruel Prince

Updated on August 31, 2016

Vlad Dracul - Between Myths and Facts

Vlad the Impaler is a real historical figure, who ruled Wallachia, a small country on the present Romania's territory. Also known as Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, he is most known for his cruel ruling, during which he used excessive methods to discourage theft, corruption, and to consolidate his position on the country's throne.Vlad the Impaler is actually a controversial figure, most of the Occident knows him as a cruel, sadistic, ruler, who took pleasure in killing people, however most of the Eastern world, Romanians, Bulgarians think about him as a hero, who stood for his people, and who protected his country and territory.Who is this almost fictional character, and what is fact and what is myth about him, and the many anecdotal stories that surround him?

Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times

The authors of the book are two important figures, both professors of history at Boston College. The authors, Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally, have written several other historycal books together, and are both specialized in the Eastern European history.

Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times
Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times

The book makes an introduction in the Dracula's era, showing the many facets of the political and historical reality, in order to make us understand the context. Then, the two authors capture in their biography not only the ruthlessness, and cruelty of the Romanian voivode, but also his courage, and his fight against the empires of the times, in his quest to free his country.

 
Sighisoara - the City where Vlad Tepes Was Born
Sighisoara - the City where Vlad Tepes Was Born | Source

Vlad the Impaler Biography - Historical Facts

Who Was Vlad III the Impaler?

Here are a few historical facts about Vlad the Impaler.

  • Vlad the Impaler, or Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, was the son of Vlad II Dracul, belonging to a princiary family.
  • Vlad the III was born in 1431 in Sighişoara - Transylvania, and died in 1476.
  • He ruled Wallachia three times, first time when he was 17, in 1448 when he ruled for only two months. The second time he was Voivode of Wallachia between from 1456 to 1462, the most important part of his ruling. Third reign, in 1476, was ended by his assassination in late December by a throne pretendent.
  • His education started in Sighişoara, continued in Trgovişte, the capital of Wallachia, and then in Edirne with the Ottoman court. In Edirne he and his brother were held as hostages, in sign of loyalty to the Ottoman empire. He learned here the Turkish language, and was immersed in the Turkish culture.
  • He was married three times, first wife was Cneajna Bathory of Transylvania, then Jusztina Szilagyi of Moldova, and the third wife was Ilona Nelipic of Wallachia. He had five kids from the three marriages.
  • He is most known for his cruel ruling, and for his favorite method of punishment the impalement.
  • It is believed that he killed around 100.000 people during his reign.
  • During those times, Wallachia was under constant protectorate from either the Hungarian, or Ottoman empires, or both at the same time. Romanians had to pay tributes in money or people.
  • Vlad was feared and hated by his enemies.
  • He was a loved ruler by the folk.
  • During his reign crime was inexistent due to the extreme punishment for any offense, little or big.
  • He loved his country, most of his actions served to protect Wallachia, and to break the expensive protectorate.

Vlad Dracul Documentary

Mass Murderer, or Hero?

What do you think about Vlad the Impaler? Some compare him with Hitler and Stalin, as a mass murderer, do you think he should be compared with them? Some consider him as a national hero, and someone who stood up against the Ottoman's expansion. What do you think about him?

What is your opinion about Vlad the Impaler?

He was a mass murderer, he deserves a place alongside Hitler and Stalin.

He was a mass murderer, he deserves a place alongside Hitler and Stalin.

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    • melinda 2 years ago

      Vlads methods where extreme like most rullers of his day but he was hero look at it like this the tuks had hundred thousand soldiers wile vlad had maybe ten thousand if he was lucky so the only way to win a war with odds like that and with the arms of the time physiological war fair was the only way to go during the times he ruled there was no poverty very low crime rate and the first responsibility of a leader is to his people as long as his people are well and safe thin u have to do all u can the bits of him killing children and innocent people where told by enemies and most likely untrue if they where the Romanian people would not still or even back they say he was a hero and hold him in such disregard

    • Aaron 2 years ago

      I can only repeat what othres have written -- these are stunning, breathtakingly beautiful and my first thought was of oil paintings, too! Incredible! Love the water and the clouds, the colors and the history! Too beautiful for Dracula!! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!Sylvia

    • Shelly Sellers 3 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Vlad was a murderer.

    He was a hero, OK maybe not a hero but he's done quite a few good things

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      • vlad 2 years ago

        Correct.

      • anonymous 3 years ago

        He did more for his country and people than Obama has.

      Vlad the Impaler Biography

      Vlad's Childhood and Youth

      Born in 1431 in Sighisoara, a city in Transylvania, Vlad the third is son of Vlad II, a member of the Order of the Dragon. He had three brothers, Mircea II, Vlad the Monk, and Radu the Handsome. His early childhood was spent in Sighisoara, and later, they moved to Targoviste, the capital of Wallachia, were he and his brothers were educated as the elite of Wallachia.

      When Vlad Dracul, his father was throned as Wallachia's voivode, the Ottoman's empire sultan, demanded his legitimate sons, Vlad and Radu to be held as gage of his allegiance. In consequence, Vlad spent his youth among strangers, without mother and father, in Edirne. Here he learned the Turkish language, and he was trained in warfare. The sultan of the time liked Vlad, and it looks like Vlad respected the sultan as well. At the time, the Ottomans' policy was to maintain relaxed relationships with the vassal countries, hence the the territories under the empire's influence were gladly paying tribute, for their relative liberty.

      Internal Policy in Valachia

      In 1447 when the boyars killed Vlad's father, the Ottomans invaded Wallachia and put Vlad the third on the throne. His rule didn't last long, as Hungarians invaded the country after only two months and installed Vladislav II as voivode, an ally of the Hunyards.

      International Political Changes

      In 1451, Vlad fled to Hungary, under the protection of his former enemy John Hunyadi, (Ioannes Corvinus). Vlad hated Mehmed, the new sultan, as he probably felt he was the one responsible for converting his brother to the Turkish way of living. John Hunyadi, who previously helped dethroning Vlad, was impressed by the vast knowledge of the Ottomans, and saw Vlad's hatred of Mehmed as a quality. Vlad knew well Mehmed from his time spent at the Ottoman court, and he realized that the new sultan was nothing like the previous sultans, who kept vassals under a relaxed protectorate. This was confirmed later by the Ottomans' expansion in Europe.

      Vlad's Second Reign - A Cruel Reign

      Helped by John Hunyadi, Vlad gets the Wallachian throne for the second time in 1456. During this reign he started the famous campaign of moral cleanse of Wallachia. Sick of the constant battle for power, and the political instability in the country, and probably fueled by vengeance, he targeted the nobility, who was the one responsible for these, because they always put their interests first. Vlad didn't forget that the boyars were the ones who killed his father and brother. Vlad was also concerned with the country's morals, and he wanted to put a stop to any sort of crime in Wallachia. His moral cleanse campaign was one of the cruelest in the history, he punished all offenses, small or big, with extreme measures like impalement, his favorite method of punishment, boiling, roasting, cutting of hands, etc...

      Vlad with Help from Europe Ataques the Ottomans

      With support from Hungary and the Pope, who realized Europe was threatened by the ambitions of Mehmed II, Vlad the Third launched an offensive against the Turks villages along the Danube, killing tens of thousands. This followed immediately after a very long delay in paying the tribute to the Ottomans' court. This meant war. The sultan crossed the Danube with an army of nearly 100.000 to punish the Wallachian. With an army of only 30.000, Vlad employed a guerrilla tactic, conducting constant small attacks and ambushes, decimating Mehmed's army. This victory was celebrated by the entire Europe, as the Ottomans were planning a vast campaign of conquering new European territories.

      Dethroned by His Brother

      In 1462 Radu the Handsome, Vlad's youngest brother, with Mehmed's support and internal support from the boyars, took the throne. Defeated, Vlad the Impaler fled the country looking for help in Transylvania, to his ally Matthias Corvinus. Instead of helping him, Corvinus arrests him based on a forged letter from Vlad III to the Ottomans. He locks Vlad at Visegrad, then at Buda for about 10 years.

      The Third Reign Meant His Death

      As the Ottomans' pressure on the Europe increased, and Europe wanted their old ally back, the alleged treachery was forgiven, and Vlad's conversion from Orthodoxism to Catholicism, sealed a new alliance and his rehabilitation. In 1475 after his brother's sudden death, Vlad the third accessed the throne for the third time. His plans to regain Wallachian freedom from the Ottomans were abruptly stopped by his assassination two months after his enthronement. Vlad's body is believed to have been buried at Snagov monastery, but this theory cites a tradition without any documents to support it. Another source suggests his grave at Comana monastery, but this is also not documented. Comana monastery was founded by Vlad.

      Vlad the Impaler: The Real Count Dracula

      Vlad the Impaler: The Real Count Dracula (Wicked History (Paperback))
      Vlad the Impaler: The Real Count Dracula (Wicked History (Paperback))

      An easy book to read, captivating even for young students.Many pictures, and also many facts. A few historical sources are questionable, but overall, a great read.

       
      Vlad Depicted as Pilatus - Condemning Jesus
      Vlad Depicted as Pilatus - Condemning Jesus

      Myths about Vlad the Impaler

      There are many stories about Vlad the third that are just pure fiction, or they don't have any support.

      • He drank human blood - this is just a myth. Bram Stoker puzzled together more historical characters, he was probably inspired by Elizabeth Bathory's story, who was allegedly bathing in killed victims' blood, though Bathory's story is also unlikely to be true.
      • He was known as Vlad the Devil, or Vlad son of the Devil. This is just a confusion, the word Dracul, or Draculea has a double meaning in Romanian. The true meaning was son of the Dragon, a reference to his father's affiliation to the Order of the Dragon. (Draco in Latin means dragon).
      • Bran castle was Vlad's castle. This does not have any historical support. In fact Vlad never lived there, and the Wallachian voivodes, didn't have any authority there starting 1419. Vlad's castle was Poienari.
      • He was an instrument of the devil. In fact he was an instrument of Christianity, whatever that meant at the time. He diligently worked to strengthen the Christianity's position, and juggled with alliances and enemies in his attempt to resist the Ottoman's expansion in Europe. Pope himself understood the value of an ally such as Vlad, and helped him resist the Turks' expansion.
      • He loved to kill, and he looked for reasons to kill anyone. He wasn't the only one killing for almost no reason, in his times the boyars would kill anyone who would not serve their interests. Other voivodes were taking power through assassinations during that times.
      • He was inspired by his thirst of vengeance. This is probably partially true, but it was also an attempt to make a difference in a world where personal interests of the boyars were put in front of country's interests.
      • He hated the Turks, this is the reason he killed thousands of them. Nobody knows how affected Vlad the many years of captivity at the Ottoman court, fact is that his famous raids against the Turks south of the Danube were part of his plan to regain Wallachian independence. There are many facts that show he was in good terms with the Ottoman empire before Mehmed II. When the overly ambitious Mehmed II got the power, he started to change the Ottoman Empire's policy, and he wanted to conquer the Europe. It was only then, when Vlad started his anti Ottoman campaign.

      Dracula - The Dark Prince

      Dracula - The Dark Prince
      Dracula - The Dark Prince

      This movie is a pretty accurate story of the "Dark Prince's" life. The movie accurately describes the political context, and the historical events, showing us the real Dracula. The added drama only makes the story more appealing. The story is told from Vlad's point of view, as he defends his crown before the Court.

       

      The Castle of Vlad the Impaler - Vlad the Impaler's Castle

      Click thumbnail to view full-size
      Bran Castle is passed in the touristic circuit as Dracula's castle. However, in reality Vlad Dracul never lived here.Visegrd Mountain Fastness - Vlad the Impaler was locked up in this castle for 12 years.Photo credit: http://www.civertan.hu/Hunyadi Castle in Hunedoara is another place that passes as the castle where Vlad was locked, however this isn't true. Photo by http://travelvice.comPoienari Castle is a fortress built by Vlad Tepes's.Photo: Stefanmolnushttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACetatea_Poenari%2C_AG.jpgThis is the Princiary Court of Targoviste, Vlad's residence as voivode.Photo by Radu Adam: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raisedfist/
      Bran Castle is passed in the touristic circuit as Dracula's castle. However, in reality Vlad Dracul never lived here.
      Bran Castle is passed in the touristic circuit as Dracula's castle. However, in reality Vlad Dracul never lived here.
      Visegrd Mountain Fastness - Vlad the Impaler was locked up in this castle for 12 years.Photo credit: http://www.civertan.hu/
      Visegrd Mountain Fastness - Vlad the Impaler was locked up in this castle for 12 years.Photo credit: http://www.civertan.hu/
      Hunyadi Castle in Hunedoara is another place that passes as the castle where Vlad was locked, however this isn't true. Photo by http://travelvice.com
      Hunyadi Castle in Hunedoara is another place that passes as the castle where Vlad was locked, however this isn't true. Photo by http://travelvice.com
      Poienari Castle is a fortress built by Vlad Tepes's.Photo: Stefanmolnushttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACetatea_Poenari%2C_AG.jpg
      Poienari Castle is a fortress built by Vlad Tepes's.Photo: Stefanmolnushttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACetatea_Poenari%2C_AG.jpg
      This is the Princiary Court of Targoviste, Vlad's residence as voivode.Photo by Radu Adam: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raisedfist/
      This is the Princiary Court of Targoviste, Vlad's residence as voivode.Photo by Radu Adam: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raisedfist/

      Guestbook Comments

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          socialcx1 3 years ago

          I love this stuff. Thanks

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          Shelly Sellers 3 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

          We didn't have a change to visit Transylvania. I understand many Romanians consider him a hero and from their history, I understand their view...it is just difficult for me to consider Vlad a hero.

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          Dorian Bodnariuc 3 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Canada

          @shellys-space: It is hard to believe he did good things, when all western historians say otherwise.

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