Medieval History: Vlad the Impaler, AKA Dracula

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There is no denying it, everywhere you look there are vampires, or something inspired by vampires. Every year countless people dawn the plastic fake fangs and exclaim “I will suck your blood”. But why is it so popular?

Think about all of it:

There have been countless incarnations of Dracula and vampire based movies, including Hollywood’s latest dysentery-ous spewing, the Twilight saga. There have been a few fictional vampire movies that were not as bad, including Underworld, Blade, and Queen of the Damned.

Vampires have had an unmistakable impact on books as well. The most famous in my opinion being Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

They are even “biting” our children. Sesame Street has a character on the children’s program, Count Von Count, that is the modern visage of Dracula and speaks with a horrendous attempt at a Transylvanian accent to teach kids to count.

Lets take a look at the father of all vampires, the real Dracula, Vlad the Impaler.

Vlad II, Dracula’s Father

Vlad III was born 1431 in Transylvania. Vlad III was the son of Vlad II, a knight in the Order of Dracul, or order of the dragon (or devil to some people). The Order of Dracul was a secret society formed to uphold Christianity and defend the empire against Islamic Turks.

In 1436, Vlad II took the throne of Wallachia, which along with Transylvania and Moldavia were now Romania. After just two years on the throne, Vlad II defied the Order and made a peace treaty deal with the Turks. As part of this deal, Vlad III and his brother Radu, were to stay with Sultan Murad II as a sort of insurance policy that Vlad II would not attack the Turks lest his sons be destroyed.

This pro-Turkish policy did not go over very well with everyone. In 1447, Vlad II was assassinated by one of his own relatives, John Hunyadi. After his father’s death, Vlad III was released from his capture, even though his brother decided to stay. Vlad III found that the throne that was rightfully his was occupied by Hunyadi and his chosen underlings. The young Dracula fought and in 1456, he killed his father’s murderer and took his throne. Anyone that was too weak to be a good slave was impaled for everyone to see. This began the legacy that would be Vlad the Impaler.

Vlad III Dracula, AKA Vlad the Imapler’s Rule

Vlad was a strict, some would say tyrannical, ruler. He demanded strict order, and would severely punish anyone that dared to not follow law and morals. There are rumors that he even had one of his wives disembowled in public for lying to him about being pregnant. He reportedly placed a solid gold cup unguarded in the center of town. The cup was never guarded, but no thief dared to try to steal this cup for fear of the punishment that would bestow him for stealing; most probably impalement.

When we talk about this impaling, we are not talking about taking someone and running a spear through them. This process was far from a fast death. Vlad would take logs, somewhere in the 10 to 12 foot tall range, and about as big around as the average man’s upper leg, for a rough estimate. These logs were just beveled slightly at one end. The beveled end was…this is painful to even type… inserted into a man’s anus. The log was then stood up, with it still in the mans anus. Gravity would then begin to work, slowly causing the man to slide down the log, until he either bled to death or the pressure of the log on internal organs became to great. This is the reason that Vlad did not sharpen the logs (I use the word log instead of wooden stake because of the fact that stakes are sharpened) for this specific purpose. It made for a much longer and more painful death. One other thing to think about; when then men began their downward slide, the bowels of the victim were released on the log. I can not imagine the smell. For women, Vlad would a lot of time use another, choice orifice, as the insertion point; use your imagination.

Hungry now? Well, apparently, Vlad was. This is where the myth that Vlad drank blood and ate flesh first began. Vlad, for use of scare tactics in my opinion more than anything else, would occasionally have a table and chair brought out to him in the middle of the collection of the impaled and have a dinner. As disgusting as this was, anyone that dared to turn their nose up at Vlad, soon became more familiar with what it felt like to be one of the victims.

The Defeat of The Impaler

Vlad used this scare tactic on his opponent, the Turks. After a failed assassination attempt in the middle of the night on Sultan Mehmed II, the Sultan became infuriated and, outnumbered, Vlad was forced to retreat. Vlad burned and poisoned his own kingdom along the way, not wanting to give the Sultan anything to conquer. The Sultan followed in pursuit, until he came upon a grisly sight: a virtual forest of his Turks impaled. The sight was so repulsive that the Sultan decided to leave. But his brother Radu, who had stayed behind with the Turks, soon came against Vlad.

Vlad was forced to flee to his castle on the Arges River. There, his wife jumped off the battlements to her death for fear of being overtaken by the Turks. Vlad fled the castle. But to escape, he turned his horses horseshoes around backward, so that anyone that saw them would think that the rider had been riding into the castle instead of riding away.

Having nowhere to go, Vlad fled to Transylvania from Wallachia. King Matthias had heard of Vlad, and imprisoned him because of his treatment of his subjects that did not follow Vlad’s law. It was rumored that Vlad still had a hunger for the impaling and would impale rats and such in his cell.

Eventually, Vlad was free to go, having no official charges against him, as long as he checked in periodically with King Matthias. He gained the king’s trust, and even married one of the kings cousins.
Vlad Returns

Radu had taken over the throne of Wallachia.

After all this, the people that had been under Vlad’s rule, actually missed him. Vlad had set up a very lawful society, and had defeated the Turks many times during his rule. The people of Wallachia began to look upon him as a hero.

So it was that, with the help of King Matthias (who don’t forget at one point had imprisoned Vlad), Vlad Dracula began his march to take back his throne. This time, however, the favored way of killing for Vlad was actually sanctioned by the Vatican, as he was killing Islamic Turks and had a force of Christians to back him.

Vlad retook his throne, but he was eventually defeated and killed. Finally being outnumbered in battle, he no longer had the surprise element either. It is not clear how Vlad actually died. Some will say that they never found the body, while some say that he was beheaded on the battle field and only recognized by the talisman he wore on a necklace.

Vlad the Impaler, is also Vlad the Hero

Vlad III Dracula, AKA Vlad the Impaler, was actually a national hero, and should always be viewed as such.

He was not the fanged, bat-man, coffin dwelling sicko that is thought of when someone mentions the name Dracula.

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