|Vlad III Dracula (Vladimir)|
|Prince of Wallachia|
|The most famous portrait, though posthumous, of Vlad III Dracula|
|Reign||1448; 1456–1462; 1476|
|Born||November or December 1431|
|Died||December 1476 (aged 45)|
|Place of death||Bucharest, Wallachia|
|Wives||1. unnamed Transylvanian noblewoman|
2. Ilona Szilágyi
Mihnea cel Rău
Vlad Dracula IV and another son whose name remains unknown
|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), more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Țepeș pronounced [ˈvlad ˈt͡sepeʃ]) or simply as Dracula, was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462.
Historically, Vlad III is best known for his resistance against the Ottoman Empire and its expansion and for the impaling of enemies.
Vlad III is believed to have inspired the association of his name to that of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.
NamesHis Romanian surname Drăculea (also spelled "Drakulya"), by which Vlad was referred to in several documents, is in reference to his father, Vlad Dracul who was a proud member of the monarchical chivalric order for selected nobility with a latin name "Societas Draconistrarum" meaning the Order of the Dragon. A member of this order would be referred to as Dracul, a noun of the Latin word Draco, meaning "dragon" (which was derived from the Greek word Δράκων (Drákōn)). A son of Dracul would then be called Dracula. The emblem of the order was a dragon incurved into the form of a circle. In Romanian language, the word Dracul also has the meaning "devil" which sometimes leads to mistranslation of Dracula's name. In the bible, the devil is also called the dragon - great dragon and the snake. [citation needed for whole paragraph]
His post-mortem moniker of "Țepeș" ("Impaler") originated in his killing opponents by impalement. In Turkish, he was known as "Kazıklı Voyvoda" (pronounced [kazɯkˈɫɯ]) which means "Impaler Prince".
During his life Vlad wrote his name in Latin documents as Wladislaus Dragwlya or Drakwlya.
Today "Drakula" or "Drakulić" (e.g. Slavenka Drakulić) is a common surname in the former countries of Yugoslavia.
Early lifeVlad was born in Sighișoara, Transylvania (part of the Kingdom of Hungary at the time), 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. He had two older half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, and a younger brother, Radu cel Frumos.
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.
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 Bulgarian, German, Latin), and the classical arts and philosophy.
Life in Edirne
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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 agreeing to pay tribute 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 jealous 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. 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 reign and exileIn December 1447, boyars in league with the Hungarian regent John Hunyadi, rebelled against Vlad Dracul, 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.
In 1453, the Ottomans, under Sultan Mehmed II took Constantinople after a prolonged siege, putting an end to the final major Christian presence in the eastern Mediterranean, after which Ottoman influence began to spread from this base through the Carpathians, threatening mainland Europe.
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.
Internal policyVlad 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 cleaning up Wallachia Vlad gave new laws punishing thieves and robbers. Vlad treated the boyars with the same harshness, because they were guilty of weakening Wallachia through their internal 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.
Raids into TransylvaniaSince 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.
Vlad was also on guard against the rival Dănești clan, and some of his raids into Transylvania may have been aimed at capturing potential challengers. Several members of the clan died at Vlad's hands, including a Dănești prince suspected to have taken part in his brother Mircea's murder. Vlad condemned him to death and forced him to read his own eulogy while kneeling before his open grave.
War with the OttomansVlad allied himself with Matthias Corvinus , son of John Hunyadi (János Hunyadi), the King of Hungary. Wallachia was claimed as a part of the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Mehmed II. In 1459, Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans, at the Congress of Mantua. The only European leader that showed enthusiasm for the crusade was Vlad Țepeș.
Later that year, in 1459, Mehmed sent envoys to Vlad to urge him to pay the delayed tribute. Vlad refused to pay the tribute, of 10,000 ducats and 500 recruits into the Ottoman forces. In order to provoke and instigate war with the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, 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. Subsequently, the Ottomans attempted to remove him, and the Turks crossed the Danube and started to do their own recruiting of adolescent Romanians into the Janissary.
Meanwhile, the Sultan received intelligence reports that revealed Vlad's domination of the Danube He sent the Bey of Nicopolis and Hamza Pasha, to make peace and/or eliminate Vlad III.
Vlad Țepeș planned to set an ambush. Hamza Pasha, the Bey of Nicopolis brought with him 1,000 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, but Hamza Pasha escaped.
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 Bulgars 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).
In response to this, Sultan Mehmed II raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars and in 1462 headed towards Wallachia. Commanding only 40,000 men, Vlad was unable to stop the Ottomans from entering Wallachia and occupying the capital Târgoviște. He was constantly organizing small attacks and ambushes on the Turks, such as The Night Attack when 15,000 Turks were killed.
Vlad III defeated Ottoman Sipahi commanders such as Iosuf Bey, Turkhanbeyoglu Omer Bey and Evrenos Bey. This instigated Mehmed II, who then crossed the Danube.
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.
DefeatVlad 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, killing possibly 4,000 of Radu's troops. However the war raged on, Radu and his formidable Janissary battalion was well supplied with a steady flow of gunpowder and dinars, this advantage allowed them to push deeper into the realm of Vlad III. Radu and his well equipped forces finally besieged and captured Poenari Castle the famed lair of Vlad III. After his difficult victory Radu was then given the title Bey of Wallachia by Sultan Mehmet II.
Vlad III was defeated because the Boyars had been alienated by Vlad's policy and disliked him because he was undermining their authority, and weakening their control over Wallachia. They joined Radu and believed that Ottoman protection was better than Hungarian occupation. Others had their families contained by the Ottomans in Millets (districts) and thus also sided with Radu in order to reunite with their loved ones.
Until 8 September, Vlad obtained 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. But instead of receiving help he found himself arrested and thrown into the dungeon for high treason. Matthias Corvinus feared that Vlad III and his forces might devastate the rural countryside of Hungary and instigate an Ottoman invasion.
First marriageVlad's first wife, according to local legend, was a noblewoman of unknown origin who 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). This legend is the only known historical reference to Vlad's first marriage.
Captivity in HungaryMatthias Corvinus had received from the Pope a consistent financial support 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 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.
Second marriageGradually winning back King Matthias's favour, he married Ilona Szilágyi, 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.
Around 1465, Ilona bore him two sons: the elder, Vlad IV Dracula, spent most of his time in the king's retinue and later was an unsuccessful claimant to the Wallachian throne. The younger, whose name is unknown, 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. The descendants of Vlad and Ilona married into Hungarian nobility.
Third reign and deathOn 26 November 1476, Vlad III declared his third reign. 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 lasted little more than two months when he was killed on the battlefield, during a fierce confrontation with the Ottoman Sipahis near Bucharest in 1476. Vlad III was buried in the Snagov monastery, and his head is believed to be in Istanbul.
He was taken back to Wallachia and buried. In the early 1900s Vlad was exhumed for research. The researchers found nothing. Remains were found around his grave, and were thought to be the prince's. He was buried again and left there until another dig took place years later. His grave was found destroyed and no remains were found. The other theory is that Vlad is buried at Snagov, an island monastery located near Bucharest.
Methods of executionPoienari Castle in the mountains above the Argeș River, 40 miles north of Târgoviște. Vlad was determined to rebuild this ancient fortress as his own stronghold and refuge so he might monitor the movements of the Hungarians coming through Transylvania and the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. The enslaved boyars, their families and some master masons were forced to labor until their deaths, rebuilding the old castle with materials from another nearby ruin. According to tradition, they labored until the clothes fell off their bodies and then were forced to continue working naked. None survived the construction of castle Poienari, as those who did not die from exhaustion were impaled.
Throughout his reign, Vlad systematically eradicated the old boyar class of Wallachia. The old boyars had repeatedly undermined the power of the prince during previous reigns and had been responsible for the violent overthrow of several princes. Vlad was determined that his own power be on a modern and thoroughly secure footing. In place of the executed boyars, Vlad promoted new men from among the free peasantry and middle class, who would be loyal only to their prince.
Vlad the Impaler's reputation was considerably darker in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe and Romania. The fame of his cruelty spread in the form of a pamphlet, seriously exaggerated, and promoted by Matthias Corvinus. Matthias 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. Matthias employed the charges of Southeastern Transylvania, and produced fake letters of high treason, written on 7 November 1462.
In the West, Vlad III Țepeș has been characterized as a tyrant who took sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing. The number of his victims ranges from 40,000 to 100,000. 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. These numbers are most likely exaggerated.
The atrocities committed by Vlad in the German stories include impaling, torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people, feeding people the flesh of their friends or relatives, cutting off limbs, and drowning. All of these punishments mainly came from things people did that displeased Vlad the most; stealing, lying, and adulterous relations. Other methods of punishment included skinning the feet of thieves, then putting salt on them and letting goats lick off the salt. This was a way that Vlad kept his people in order and taught them that stealing would not be tolerated in his lands. No exceptions were made: he punished anyone who broke his laws, whether men or women, no matter the age, religion or social class.
Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution. His method of torture was a horse attached to each of the victim's legs as a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. Death by impalement was slow and agonizing. Victims sometimes endured for hours or even days. Vlad often had the stakes arranged in various geometric patterns. The most common pattern was a ring of concentric circles in the outskirts of a city that constituted his target. The height of the spear indicated the rank of the victim. The corpses were often left decaying for months.
One of the most famous woodcuts of the period shows Vlad feasting in a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Brașov, while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims. This place was famously known as the Forest of the Impaled. In this forest is a story of Vlad's "sense of humor": a servant was holding his nose and Vlad said to him while feasting, "Why do you do that?" The servant replied, "I cannot stand the stench." Vlad immediately ordered him impaled on the highest stake and said, "Then you shall live up there, where the stench cannot reach you." 
Vlad the Impaler is alleged to have committed even more impalements and other tortures against invading Ottoman forces. 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. 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. Many of the victims were Turkish prisoners of war Vlad had previously captured during the Turkish invasion. The total Turkish casualty toll in this battle reached over 40,000. The warrior sultan turned command of the campaign against Vlad over to subordinates and returned to Constantinople, even though his army had initially outnumbered Vlad's three to one and was better equipped.
German stories about Vlad the Impalermanuscript form in the late 15th century and the first manuscript was probably written in 1462 before Vlad's arrest. 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 Michel 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.
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.
The German stories were written most likely for political reasons, especially to blacken the image of the Wallachian ruler. The first version of the German text was probably written in Brașov by a Saxon scholar. According to some researchers, the writer expressed the general feelings of the Saxons in Brașov and Sibiu who had borne the brunt of Vlad’s wrath in 1456–1457 and again in 1458–1459 and 1460.
Against this political and cultural backdrop, it is quite easy to understand the hostility towards Vlad the Impaler. Although there is historic background for the events described in the German stories, some are either exaggerated or even fictitious.
The Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus, also had political reasons for promoting Vlad's image as an evil prince. Corvinus had received large subsidies from Rome and Venice for the war against the Ottomans, but because of a conflict with Holy Roman Emperor, Emperor Frederick III, he could not afford the military support for the fight.
By making Vlad a scapegoat, Corvinus could justify his reasons for not taking part in the war against the Ottomans. He arrested Vlad and used a forged letter in which Vlad announced his loyalty to Mehmed II, as well as horror stories about Vlad, to justify his actions to the Pope. In 1462 and 1463, the court in Buda fostered negative stories of Vlad in central and Eastern Europe, and capitalized on the horrors attributed to him.
The stories eventually changed from propaganda to literature and became very popular in the German world in the 15th and 16th centuries. Part of the reason for this success was the newly invented printing press, which allowed the texts to filter to a wide audience.
Russian stories about Vlad the ImpalerThe 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. 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.
Of the 19 anecdotes there are ten that have similarities to the German stories. 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. Some elements of the anecdotes were later added to Russian stories about Ivan the Terrible of Russia.
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.
Vampire legendIt is most likely that Bram Stoker found the name for his vampire from William Wilkinson's book, An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia: with various Political Observations Relating to Them.  It is known that Stoker made notes about this book. It is also suggested by some that because Stoker was a friend of a Hungarian professor (Ármin Vámbéry) from Budapest, Vlad's name might have been mentioned by this friend. Regardless of how the name came to Stoker's attention, the cruel history of the Impaler would have readily lent itself to Stoker's purposes. However, recent research suggests that Stoker actually knew little about the Prince of Wallachia.
The legend of the vampire was and still is deeply rooted in that region. There have been vampire-like creatures in various stories from across the world. However, the vampire, as he became known in Europe, largely originated in Southern Slavic folklore – although the closest equivalent in Romanian folklore relates to strigoi. A veritable epidemic of vampirism swept through Eastern Europe beginning in the late 17th century and continuing through the 18th century. The number of reported cases rose dramatically in Hungary and the Balkans. From the Balkans, the "plague" spread westward into Germany, Italy, France, England, and Spain. Travelers returning from the Balkans brought with them tales of the undead, igniting an interest in the vampire that has continued to this day. Philosophers in the West began to study the phenomenon. It was during this period that Ludovico Fatinelli wrote his famous treatise on vampirism in Hungary. It was also during this period that authors and playwrights first began to explore the vampire legend. Stoker's novel was merely the culminating work of a long series of works that were inspired by the reports coming from the Balkans and Hungary.
Given the history of the vampire legend in Europe, it is perhaps natural that Stoker should place his great vampire in the heart of the region that gave birth to the story. Once Stoker had determined on a locality, Vlad Dracula would stand out as one of the most notorious rulers of the selected region. He was obscure enough that few would recognize the name and those who did would know him for his acts of brutal cruelty; Dracula was a natural candidate for vampirism.
Romanian attitudesRomanian folklore and literature, on the other hand, paints Vlad Țepeș as a hero. His reputation in his native country as a man who stood up to both foreign and domestic enemies gives him the virtual opposite symbolism of Stoker's vampire. In Romania he is considered one of the greatest leaders in the country's history, and was voted one of "100 Greatest Romanians" in the "Mari Români" television series aired in 2006.
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 latter half of the 16th century, now hangs in the same gallery. This copy, unlike the cryptoportraits contemporary with Vlad III, seems to have given him a Habsburg lip, although he was not a member of the Habsburg lineage.
His image in modern Romanian culture clashes with foreign perceptions. It is the last part of a rather popular 19th century poem by Mihai Eminescu,"Scrisoarea a III-a", that helped turn Vlad's image into modern legend, by having him stand as a figure to contrast with presumed social decay under the Phanariotes and the political scene of the 19th century (even suggesting that Vlad's violent methods be applied as a cure). Notably though, the first author to depict Vlad as a Romanian heroic character was a Transylvanian who probably never travelled to Wallachia, Ioan Budai-Deleanu. Around 1800 he wrote a Romanian epic heroicomic poem, "Țiganiada", in which prince Vlad Țepeș stars as a fierce warrior fighting the Ottomans. Well in advance of Romanian literature at that time, this work, unlike Eminescu's, remained unpublished and ignored for a century, and did not exert any influence.
All accounts of his life describe him as ruthless, but only the ones originating from his Saxon detractors paint him as sadistic or insane. These pamphlets continued to be published long after his death, though usually for lurid entertainment rather than propaganda purposes. It has largely been forgotten until recently that his tenacious efforts against the Ottoman Empire won him many staunch supporters in his lifetime, not just in modern day Romania but in the kingdoms of Hungary, Poland, the Republic of Venice, the Holy See, and the Balkans. A Hungarian court chronicler reported that King Matthias "had acted in opposition to general opinion" in Hungary when he had Dracula imprisoned, and this played a considerable part in Matthias reversing his unpopular decision. During his time as a "distinguished prisoner" before being fully pardoned and allowed to reconquer Wallachia, Vlad was hailed as a Christian hero by visitors from all over Europe.
Film and book adaptationsUnlike 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.
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.
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).
Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula, a 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, who also portrayed Dracula in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the same year.
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, the 1992 film Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as Dracula, and the anime and manga, Hellsing.
In The Diaries of the Family Dracul, a trilogy by Jeanne Kalogridis, Vlad Țepeș is merged with his fictional counterpart, Count Dracula. The novels use elements of both Vlad's life and Stoker's novel to portray the character of Vlad the Impaler.
The Historian, a 2005 novel by American author Elizabeth Kostova, also blends the history and folklore of Vlad Țepeș and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. Much of Vlad's life is portrayed accurately, despite the novel's supernatural overtones.
In his 2009 novel Vlad: The Last Confession C.C. Humphreys presents a fictionalized version of the life and times of Vlad Țepeș.
On Spike TV's show Deadliest Warrior, Vlad was pitted against Chinese philosopher Sun-Tzu. Vlad emerged the overall victor with a score of 652 kills to Sun Tzu's 348 in 1,000 computer-simulated head-to-head battles.
Vlad Tepes is also one of the supporting characters of Jeannie Frost's "Night Huntress" series, as well as the main character in two of her upcoming spin-off books, part of the "Night Huntress World". Frost's Vlad is a combination of the historical character with the legend of Vampirism. He hates to be called "Dracula" and the heroine of the "Night Huntress" books, Cat, calls him "an "over-publicized bat" (even though they are good friends) referring to the many books written and movies made about him. He is, like the historical character, very protective of his people. Part of his background story is similar to the background story Francis Ford Coppola gave to his Dracula in 1992.
In 2009 Alternative Rock group Kasabian released a song named after Vlad 'Vlad The Impaler', the promo video features Noel Fielding dressed up as the figure himself, in a grotesque and exaggerated way. The lyrics include "cut throat this blood runs thick" this relates to the torturous ways of Vlad himself and the character of Dracula.