What do Vlad the Impaler and Dracula have in common? Both come from Transylvania, and both of them liked to extract blood, whether they liked it or not. While Count Dracula seems to be a far-fetched story, historic accounts of Vlad the Impaler, prince of Wallachia, now a state of Romania, bring to light one of histories most barbaric rulers, known for amongst many acts, impaling his victims. A strange historical fact is that European royal families like the British, contain Vlad as one of their ancestors.
Most accounts of the diversion from the historical Vlad the Impaler and Count Dracula, come from the ambiguous name that Vlad’s family had. Vlad’s family name was Dracul, which translates from Romanian as “the Dragon” but ambiguously can also translate as “the Devil”. As the final a in the name Dracula translates as “son of” Dracula historically was known as son of the devil. From there an embellished story of a blood thirsty, immortal man who transforms into a vampire bat emerged.
Vlad bloodletting ways were formed by his very hard childhood. Young Vlad Dracula was born into a very tumultuous time in the history of Wallachia. The principality was one of the furthest outposts of the Eastern Roman Empire based in Hungary, and the Ottoman Turk Empire was encroaching further and further into Christian Europe. Wallachia’s aim was to stay independent as both the Turks and Hungarians, didn’t really serve the best interests of the state. To top it all off the nobles of Wallachia were given to consistent political assassinations to change the rulers of the country. Many nobles had seen more than a single handful of different rulers in their lifetime due to their changes in alliances from one year to the next.
When Vlad was still a child the Ottoman Empire had finally overrun Wallachia’s border. Wallachia as a part of the Ottoman Empire was forced to send soldiers to the Ottoman armies, and Vlad’s father also sent his 2 youngest sons as homage to the ruling Sultan. Because of Vlad’s hatred of the Turks he was often reprimanded (imprisoned and whipped) while hostage of them. During Vlad’s stay his father and oldest brother were assassinated with help from the Wallachian nobles. It was about this time when Vlad lost some of his marbles and became a ruler that would go to extremes to achieve order in his state.
When Vlad returned to Wallachia for his 2nd and main reign, he found his land in a heavy state of decay. No part of society was immuned to treachery, resulting in reduced productivity, and agricultural output was low. Vlad used his cruel justice on any person in his land, to reduce crime and increase productivity, which seemed to work. No one was immuned to his justice, if you were in his land and committed an injustice you were heavily punished or more aptly put tortured. The most common offenders who were tortured were the nobles or Saxon (German) merchants, who often cheated the Romanian peasants.
Vlad’s first act to assert his authority as the leader, was to hold a feast for all the nobles in his land. Knowing that many had conspired in his father and brother’s death, he had them arrested. He then impaled the weaker members of the party on the spot, and the stronger were sent to his castle in the north which was destroyed and forced them to rebuild it, which many of them did not survive.
Vlad’s other main causes was to rid the land of the Ottomans. While in 1459 they were the overlords of the country, slowly Vlad and his forces started to turn back the Turks, and would often send emissaries back to Turkey with their decapitated heads. Vlad was celebrated amongst Christian nobility for turning back the Turks from Christian lands.
The story of the Forest of the Impaled was recorded by the Turks, when they turned up to invade a Wallachian city to find 20,000 of their troops impaled and their corpses rotting. Disgusted by what they saw, they returned to Constantinople. This was not the only time this occurred, as there were a few recorded stories of cities of German merchants, with many thousands impaled at the same time.
Vlad had many was to serve justice although he much prefered impailment. He used, hanging,strangling,blinding, decapitation, burying alive, roasting, and also cut of sexual organs for sexual offenders, and also cut off other body parts at will.
The Ottomans eventually retook Wallachia and Vlad retreated to Hungary, and was imprisoned there by his king. During his imprisonment Vlad was known to continue his torture, impaling flies, birds and any small thing he could get his hands on.
Vlad’s rule eventually restored a productive land, dropped the crime rate, and created better infrastructure, but was known to have killed 80,000 of his own people to achieve these results. But his atrocities don’t include what he did in war, and does not count, although there are similarities between the end results of his victims in both.
These days fact or fiction, the legend of Count Dracula is more well-known than the true story about, Vlad the Impaler, trying to deliver justice through the most extreme methods. The good thing is you don’t have to worry about being attacked by a fanged vampire, or a tyrant wanting to impale anyone who performs an injustice.