Everyone has heard of Dracula - the famous vampire count who lives in a big, scary castle, only comes out at night and feeds on the human blood. Count Dracula has become an inseparable part of modern culture. We see him everywhere, from many movie and TV show adaptations of the original Bram Stoker novel to people cosplaying as him on Halloween.
Many don't know that Dracula was an actual, historical figure just as terrifying as the fictional character. His name was Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad the Impaler was the ruler of Wallachia, a province in modern-day Romania, back in the 15th century. The bloodthirsty, merciless ruler earned himself the infamous nickname through his crooked ways of punishing his enemies. It is estimated that he has killed and tortured up to 100,000 people during his reign, making him feared throughout Eastern Europe.
Below, you can find the intriguing story of Vlad the Impaler, the ruler more terrifying than Dracula legends.
Who Was Vlad The Impaler?
Life in the 15th century was much more different than it is now. This does not only concern that rulers at the top had absolute power and could act however they wished. In addition, the political landscape of Europe was nothing like what it is now.
The menacing Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power, stretched from the Middle East to modern-day Balkans. It was precisely due to the struggle for power and the difficult life that came with it that Vlad III would come to be known as Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad was born in the noble family of Wallachia as the second son of the four. His father, Vlad II Dracul, managed to unite different Wallachian lands and became the leader of the principality. His name derives from the Order of the Dragon, with Draco in Latin meaning dragon. Vlad II was a member of the order, aiming to protect Eastern Europe from the threat of the Ottoman conquest.
In 1442, Vlad the Impaler was known only as Vlad, named after his father to confuse everybody. Along with his younger brother, he went to the Ottoman Sultan to reassure that Wallachia would not witness the wrath of the Ottomans first-hand.
Unfortunately, as he returned six years later, he found himself in a challenging situation. His father and brothers were slaughtered by the challenging Wallachian nobles, leaving a power vacuum that needed to be filled.
With that in mind, young Vlad started his quest to regain power after the nobles' betrayal. He was crushing anyone that stood in his way. In addition to the treacherous nobles, his own younger brother tried to oppose him with the help of the Ottoman sultan.
Despite initial success, he faced a lot of resistance, only reclaiming the title and becoming the rightful ruler of Wallachia eight years later. But when did he become known as Vlad the Impaler?
After nearly a decade of war, Wallachia was devastated. Vlad managed to regain his rule, but he still had a lot of work to make people believe in him and improve the overall situation in his holdings. It was precisely at this period when he would become notorious due to the atrocities he would commit.
Vlad the Impaler had finally managed to unite Wallachia once again, and he was not about to give up his control easily. That is why he used every possible measure to keep the power. At first, he mercilessly murdered those nobles that still had any discontent with his rule. This way, he ensured that the chances of another rebellion were low. This action installed fear in his subjects. People were terrified of their ruler, with many coming up with different stories about his horrifying nature.
Vlad the Impaler then continued to expand his power, and in doing so, invaded the neighboring lands. At first, the Ottoman Sultan tried to negotiate with him, but he impaled both of his couriers, sending him a message. Then, he directly attacked the lands under Ottoman control, massacring thousands of Turks in the process.
During this war, he would finally become known as Vlad the Impaler. He would torture his enemies, then execute them and hang their body parts on spikes for public display. This signaled that anyone who opposed him would meet the same fate.
Of course, with any ruler that is so ruthless against their foes, Vlad's rule would soon come to an end. After the initial success of defeating the Turks, the Ottoman Sultan decided to do everything in his power to get rid of him since Vlad was a thorn to the side of the enormous empire.
The Ottoman campaign was successful. The Sultan managed to overpower Vlad and make him leave Wallachia in fear of being captured. Vlad fled to the Romanian king, where he would spend many years in prison instead of finding assistance. Eventually, he would be released and fight in the Romanian army for the rest of his days.
The Legacy Of Vlad The Impaler
Vlad the Impaler became popular throughout Europe after his move to Romania. The stories of his horrible punishing methods started spreading in neighboring countries, mainly Italy and Germany. In fact, many fictional German books were solely dedicated to him and his doings.
When Bram Stoker released his novel, his status as a folk hero was reinforced centuries later. The resemblance between the character in the novel and Vlad the Impaler cannot be denied. Dracula possesses the remorseless, ruthless mindset of the Wallachian ruler and treats his enemies with wrath.
The story of Vlad the Impaler is genuinely fascinating.
Of course, many leaders before and after him practiced similar methods of punishment. Yet, the scale at which he tortured and murdered his enemies was virtually unseen. Impalement - one of the harshest ways of torture became synonymous with him. He had people hung on spikes all over different towns of Wallachia on public display to show what would happen to anyone that dared challenge him. Sometimes, he would leave them alive on spikes, leaving them to die in the following days, making it all more gruesome.
Vlad the Impaler earned himself a name for his wrathfulness. He did not hesitate to punish those who opposed him accordingly. He was both feared and respected for his deeds throughout Europe, even in bigger states that had seen many rulers come and go throughout the years.
Vlad's popularity ultimately resulted in one of the most famous, instantly recognizable characters of all time, Dracula. It still continues to impress those that are curious about the intriguing story behind him.