Intriguing Facts About Vlad the Impaler – the Real-Life Dracula
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Ever since Bram Stoker created the character of Count Dracula, many have wondered who was this scary character based on. While Dracula is part of Stoker’s imagination, it’s most likely that the character was inspired by the life of Vlad III Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler. Who was this man, and was he as cruel as the fictional version of himself? Well, he was probably worse than that.
Vlad the Impaler, who lived in the 15th century, was a leader of Wallachia (a part of modern-day Romania). Vlad’s morbid nickname is proof of his ruthlessness and his favorite, cold-blooded way of dealing with his enemies – impaling.
The dates of his birth and death are known, but it’s most likely that he lived between 1428 and 1477. He was the son of Vlad Dracul, who became the ruler of Wallachia in 1436. (1)Without any further ado, let’s find out all the facts about Vlad the Impaler, the merciless ruler who inspired some of the masterpieces of today’s pop culture
1. He had nothing to do with Transylvania
The list of interesting facts about Vlad the Impaler starts with the question – where was Vlad actually from? Even though Bram Stoker’s novel is set in Transylvania, Vlad III wasn’t actually from Transylvania at all. He was actually from Wallachia, which is a region that sits right next to Transylvania. Wallachia and Transylvania weren’t that great friends at the time, and smaller conflicts were happening between the two during Vlad’s leadership. Both regions are parts of modern-day Romania.
Bran Castle, a tourist attraction located near the town of Brasov, is considered Dracula’s castle. Vlad probably never set foot here. The entire area that’s surrounding the castle often gets foggy, giving the castle a very spooky and mysterious look. That’s probably why the castle was chosen as the visitors’ spot.
While you’re there, it’s easy to imagine that such a vicious leader could make Bran castle their home and be comfortable in the foggy, scary setting. However, the castle is just a tourist spot and doesn’t have a lot to do with the actual history. (2)
2. Vlad was held hostage for 5 years by the Ottoman Empire
When Vlad was just a teenager, his father became the ruler of Wallachia. As the leader, Vlad II had a difficult task in front of him – to fight the influences of the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) on the Balkan peninsula, and try to stop their breakthrough towards Western Europe.
In 1442, Vlad II was invited to a diplomatic meeting with Ottoman Sultan (leader) Murad II. He naively brought his two sons with him, Vlad III and Radu, along. Unfortunately, the meeting turned out to be a trap. All three of them were arrested, but Sultan decided to let Vlad II go under one condition. He would have to leave his children behind, and so he did.
Murad II wanted to be sure that Vlad II would behave himself in the ongoing war between Turkey and Hungary. They spent the next 5 years captured in the Tokat Castle, where they were tutored and prepared to fight one day for the Ottoman Empire. After five years, Vlad II was murdered, and his children were released from the captivation. (2) (3)
3. During his captivation, he was tutored
While Vlad and his brother, Radu, were captured in the Ottoman Empire, they were both tutored. They received education about science and philosophy and had a chance to learn about close combat and war strategies. At the time, it was not so uncommon to captivate children from enemy countries and reeducate them to become Ottoman warriors. (4)
Sultan Murad II believed he could change the way they think, and that they’ll become loyal fighters of the Ottoman Empire once they grew up. Once they were released, Radu chose to stay in modern-day Turkey, but Vlad decided to go back home. Vlad probably learned most of the warfare, interrogation tactics, and how to assert dominance and authority during his captivation years. Years later, the education will backfire on the Ottoman Empire once Vlad becomes the leader of Wallachia. (2) (3)
4. Vlad III was very violent
Vlad the Impaler spent five years of his life in captivation, where he was educated, brainwashed, and tortured. These years were especially hard on him as he spent his forming years in prison. Vlad was only 12 when he was imprisoned, and 17 when freed.
Vlad made history as a very violent leader, and it’s believed that years in captivation formed him and made him who he was.
Vlad got his nickname after his favorite way of killing his opponents, impaling. But, we won’t go into details of it, so you’re going to have to do the research by yourself – and only if you have a strong stomach! (5)
Sometimes Vlad would invite his enemies to dinner, and then murder them all together to send a message to others who might not accept his authority. On another occasion, he ordered the mass killing of 20,000 Ottomans in order to send a message. (3)
5. Vlad’s family name, Dracula, means “dragon”
Here’s another interesting fact about Vlad the Impaler most people don’t know about. Vlad’s father’s last name was Dracul. In Romanian, this means “dragon”. Vlad III’s family name was Dracula, which means Dracul’s son, and could be translated to the “son of the dragon”. In the modern Romanian language, the word “dracul” is no longer used, but the word “drac” refers to the devil. (6)
Some people say that Bram Stoker was actually inspired by the name, and not by the person. It’s possible that Bram decided to name the main character Dracula because of the meaning of the word, but such allegations aren’t confirmed. (7)
6. He was married twice
It might be hard to imagine, but one of the interesting facts about Vlad the Impaler confirms that he was married two times during his 45-year, turbulent life. According to historian Alexandru Simon, his first wife was probably an illegitimate daughter of John Hunyadi, a Hungarian politician at the time. It’s not clear when and why this marriage broke up.
His second wife was Juszstina Szilagyi, a cousin of Matthias Corvinus, the king of Hungary and Croatia who would later imprison him. Vlad had three sons, one from the first marriage and two from the second. (8)
7. He spent 12 years in a Hungarian prison
In 1459, Pope Pius II called for a crusade against the Ottomans. The Vatican financed the attacks and chose the Hungarian leader at the time, Matthias Corvinus to lead the efforts. Corvinus chose Vlad as his ally against the Ottomans, because of Vlad’s extensive knowledge of the opponent.
Vlad spent 3 years trying to fight the Ottomans, but he didn’t have the support from Corvinus that he was promised. In the meantime, the Hungarian leader stood on the sidelines and wasted the money he was given by the Pope.
Soon enough, Vlad needed help as Wallachia was close to being defeated by the Ottomans. However, Corvinus had already spent the money he was given on unnecessary luxuries and was hopeless to hide it. Once Vlad reached out to him, Corvinus imprisoned him and falsified a paper in his name, which requested peace from the Ottomans in Vlad’s name.
Vlad spent 12 years in prison, falsely accused of ruining all chances of victory by conspiring with the Ottomans. (9)
8. The location of his death is unknown
Shortly after being released, Vlad the Impaler died in a battle against the Ottomans near Bucharest. The Ottomans took his head to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) to claim the victory, and as a trophy. Some suggest that his body was buried at the Comana Monastery or at the Snagov Monastery. Both of these are located near Bucharest, in southern Wallachia. To this day, the exact location of his remains is still unknown. (10)
9. Vlad is considered a national hero in Romania
Vlad had a very difficult strategic point. His country was bordering the former Ottoman Empire and Vlad’s job was to control the breakthrough. He was forced to constantly be in a fight against these attacks, and to serve his country. Even though his methods were cruel and heartless, they kept his enemies away for some time.
Even though both Western Europe and Turkey see Vlad as a monstrous leader, who had no mercy for his enemies, he’s still considered a national hero in both Romania and even the neighboring Bulgaria. He’s revered as a patriot who fought for his country. Vlad’s life and battles are mentioned in national art, poetry, and legends. (11)
There you have it – those were all of the interesting facts about Vlad the Impaler you should know about! Was he a national hero, or a cruel monster? We’ll leave that up to you to decide.