25 Facts About Vlad Tepes the Impaler

Updated on March 29, 2018
Thomas Swan profile image

Dr. Thomas Swan studied cognition and culture at Queen's University Belfast. He specializes in the cognitive science of religion.

A 1560 painting of Vlad the Impaler. It is allegedly a copy of an original.
A 1560 painting of Vlad the Impaler. It is allegedly a copy of an original. | Source

Vlad the Impaler was a 15th century Prince of Wallachia who lived during a time of Ottoman (Muslim) expansion into Europe. He went by many names including Vlad Tepes, Vlad III, and Vlad Dracula, with the latter serving as inspiration for numerous supernatural tales about vampires and devilry.

History remembers Vlad Tepes as a sadistic madman, though in his native land he is revered as a savior from Turkish domination. This list of facts explains how he got his name, how Bram Stoker came to use it, and why opinion on the Impaler is divided. It also covers the main occurrences in the life of this controversial character.

1. Vlad Tepes the Impaler was born in 1431 in Transylvania and died in 1476 at the age of 45.

2. Vlad was Prince of Wallachia three times in 1448, 1456–1462, and 1476. Wallachia was a kingdom that now comprises the southern half of Romania. His official title was Vlad III, or Voivode of Wallachia.

A map of Wallachia (green). The colored regions now form Romania.
A map of Wallachia (green). The colored regions now form Romania. | Source

3. The name "Tepes" is a Romanian translation for "the Impaler." It was a title given to him posthumously.

4. Vlad earned this name by impaling his enemies through the torso with large stakes and erecting these stakes in the ground. Impalement would proceed either vertically or horizontally through the core of the body. Sometimes thousands of prisoners would be impaled at the same time. Many victims lived for several days in agony.

5. The Ottoman (Turkish) Empire was at war with Wallachia. In 1462, Sultan Mehmed II fled with his army at the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses rotting on the outskirts of Vlad’s capital city, Targoviste.

6. Upper limits on the Impaler’s combined atrocities put the death toll at around 100,000.

A German woodcut of Vlad presiding over the impalement of Ottoman prisoners.
A German woodcut of Vlad presiding over the impalement of Ottoman prisoners. | Source

7. His father's name was Vlad II Dracul. "Dracul" originally meant "dragon", although it later came to mean "devil." His father adopted this name when he joined the “order of the dragon,” a Christian group opposed to Ottoman domination in Europe. As a result, the Impaler was often called Vlad Dracula, which means “son of the dragon” and later “son of the devil.”

8. Bram Stoker borrowed this infamous man’s name for his vampire novel, Dracula. Stoker was friends with the Hungarian history professor, Armin Vambery, and may have gotten the idea from him.

9. Despite an association with Transylvania, this land lay to the north of Wallachia, and was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. However, Vlad did persecute the Transylvanian Saxons during his rule. He made frequent raids across the border, and many Transylvanians were allegedly impaled.

A 1992 Movie Blurs the Line Between Vlad and the Vampire

10. During his childhood, Vlad is believed to have studied all of the academic disciplines. He was also educated in warfare and close combat.

11. Vlad’s father (Dracul) was toppled from power in 1442 by factions allied with Hungary. He was forced to pay a tax to the Ottomans to secure their support for his return to power. As part of the deal, Vlad Tepes and his brother Radu were sent to the Ottoman royal court as effective hostages.

12. Dracul was finally killed by these rival factions in 1447 by being buried alive with his oldest son and heir. Vlad Tepes received permission from the Ottomans to return to claim his throne in Wallachia. The Ottoman’s accompanied him to prevent the land from falling into Hungarian hands.

13. Once the Ottomans left, the Hungarians quickly removed the Impaler from power. He left to live in exile in Moldavia (to the north east).

14. When the Moldavian leader was assassinated, Vlad had nowhere left to go. He offered himself to the Hungarian leader, John Hunyadi, who mercifully allowed him to live. Vlad’s knowledge of the Ottoman Empire made him useful as an advisor to Hunyadi.

15. After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, war raged between Hunyadi and Sultan Mehmed. In 1456, Vlad was allowed to lead an army into Wallachia where he reclaimed his throne and allegedly killed the Hungarian puppet leader, Vladislav II, in personal combat.

Impalement was a horrible way to die.
Impalement was a horrible way to die. | Source

16. Vlad’s second reign as Prince of Wallachia lasted six years. During this time, he strengthened the agricultural economy and the military. He ruthlessly punished thieves and criminals in an effort to restore order to the population. However, he also built them new villages and helped local merchants by limiting foreign trade. He ruthlessly punished the boyars (nobles) who he saw as betraying Wallachia by surreptitiously making alliances with Hungary.

17. Three years into his second reign, the Pope called for a crusade against the Ottomans. It was to be led by the new Hungarian leader, Matthias Corvinus. The Impaler allied with Corvinus against the Ottomans after executing the Turkish emissaries sent to make peace with him.

Vlad ordered the execution of Ottoman emissaries who sought to sell peace.
Vlad ordered the execution of Ottoman emissaries who sought to sell peace. | Source

18. Between 1459 and 1462, Vlad used his knowledge of the Ottomans to annihilate their campaign in Europe. Meanwhile, Corvinus sat on the sidelines and pocketed the money given to him by the Pope.

19. When Vlad ran out of money and was threatened with defeat, he sought the help of Corvinus. Having spent the Pope's money on luxuries, Corvinus imprisoned him and forged a letter to the Ottomans in which Vlad requested peace. He then blamed Vlad for making victory impossible and used this as an excuse for the war's failure in subsequent letters to the Pope.

20. Vlad spent 12 years in prison while his brother Radu became the Ottoman puppet leader in Wallachia.

21. When Radu died in 1475, pressure on Corvinus had grown sufficient enough to allow the Impaler to reclaim his throne with Hungarian support.

22. Vlad Tepes was killed in battle near Bucharest shortly after returning to conquer Wallachia in 1476. The Turks took his head to Constantinople as a trophy. Some rumors suggest he was betrayed and murdered by the boyars.

Vlad is depicted at Christ's crucifixion, fueling stories about his immortality.
Vlad is depicted at Christ's crucifixion, fueling stories about his immortality. | Source

23. Vlad may have been buried at the Comana monastery in southern Wallachia, though the exact location remains unknown. A less likely location is a monastery at Snagov.

24. He was married twice during his lifetime. His first wife's identity is unknown, though she may have been a Transylvanian noblewoman. She bore his son and heir, Mihnea cel Rau. He married a second time after his period of imprisonment in Hungary. Ilona Szilagyi was the daughter of a Hungarian noble, and she bore him two sons, neither of which became rulers.

25. Vlad Tepes the Impaler is revered in Romania and Bulgaria for defending them against Ottoman rule. In Turkey and Western Europe, he is regarded as a monstrous and vile leader who took gratuitous pleasure in the painful execution of his enemies. This is principally due to popular embellishments of his sadism in German stories. Russian sources describe his deeds as justified, though authorship can be attributed to Romanian scholars.

Vlad the Impaler, as depicted in popular German stories about his sadism.
Vlad the Impaler, as depicted in popular German stories about his sadism. | Source

Summary

Despite being a brutal wartime leader, perception of Vlad the Impaler is unduly negative for a number of reasons. While contemporaneous leaders have killed more people, his method of execution was unusual and brutal. This led to a macabre fascination with his crimes in Western Europe which exaggerated his unholy reputation.

He also made numerous enemies, including most of the Wallachian nobility and Matthias Corvinus, who sought to degrade Vlad's reputation in the eyes of the Pope. Once the frenzied curiosity finally died down, Bram Stoker's Dracula novel ignited it once again. Ironically, as the story would have us believe, the memory of Vlad Tepes the Impaler may never be completely put to rest.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Don Bessen 3 weeks ago

        Nice to read and get info about a cruel prince who got nicknamed as The Impaler. But it's not good seeing here all these racists commenting about the atrocities of a madman. He's no different than Hitler. If he didn't lose WWII he would be considered as a hero today. And before saying it was a common thing in old times to impale people you may be right but those who practiced it weren't good people. Da Vinci lived in old times yet I haven't heard him impaling anybody. Psychos as Tepes, Bathory still live in today's society and pose as regular people. Those who glorify killings and praise Tepes are those sickos who lack morals and compassion.

      • Thomas Swan profile image
        Author

        Thomas Swan 8 weeks ago from New Zealand

        Thank you Zillah. I meant to say "by being buried alive", meaning that's how he was killed. I have edited the article.

      • profile image

        Zillah722 8 weeks ago

        Item #12 states "Dracul was finally killed by these rival factions in 1447 and was buried alive with his oldest son and heir." So...was he killed, or was he buried alive? Surely I can't be the only one to have noticed this.

      • profile image

        Dan 6 months ago

        Prince Vlad III was a diehard patriot, with nothing to do with vampire stuff...more so, he is resting now in my country. Naples hosts his glorious tomb!!!

      • profile image

        chupboy 6 months ago

        I think Prince Vlad was a Vampire

      • profile image

        Claus 8 months ago

        Great article. While the Bram Stoker version of him is silly and pure fiction, it has to be said that he was not a nice guy. He is considered a hero by many Romanians, cause he was seen as an uncorrupted law and order guy. But in reality he was totally nuts and a madman. Most likely his imprisonment in Istanbul as a kid drove him insane.

      • profile image

        Anti-dandruff 8 months ago

        In the end he was hunted down and executed with his head sent to the Ottoman leaders palace where it was placed on the gates. He was hunted by his own brother from what I had read. vlad killed many people

        Including many Christians who considered him evil

        And a servant of satan.

      • profile image

        Wings to fly 9 months ago

        Evil and inhuman, lesson to be learned. How some people still don't understand humanity.....shame on the ignorant minority!

        The best rulers, rule with respect and responsibility. Not fear and insanity!

      • profile image

        Greg White 12 months ago

        Impalement is no longer used because it's too barbaric.

      • profile image

        AshlynBonar 14 months ago

        Excellent article Dr. Swan.

        Being a Vampire Researcher, this information was great. Alot of it I already knew, but the information I didn't know, were a treasure trove of info to update my "Vampire Timeline".

        Thanks Ashlyn Bonar

      • profile image

        Michael M. What Vlad was about 15 months ago

        Western civilizations have not learned history. "Dracula" prevented or helped prevent the invasion of Europe in the fifteenth century by Arab/Muslims. Now they give it away, how dumb can are these people? Read, learn, and think.

      • profile image

        Cheryl Braziel Montoya 15 months ago

        Prince Vlad Tepes (Dracula) is not only a heroic, patriotic figure

        in Romania, but also in Texas; he is spoken of with respect in Austin, San Antonio and Comanche, Texas, the latter being where I grew up and first began defending this case; may I remind y'all that impalement was a common type of execution and was used in many countries in Europe, also in the Middle East and Africa; there are possible accounts of impalements in the Old Testament. Some of y'all need to wake up and smell the chili! -- Cheryl Braziel Montoya, SA TX. Don't mess with Texas!

      • profile image

        truy2 22 months ago

        Good on him. Nothing like impaling smelly turks!

      • Vlad Real History profile image

        Aurel Dan 3 years ago from Bucharest, Romania

        Regarding his cruelty, there are no historical evidences to prove that he was as cruel as we know today! We should not forget that a cruelty atmosphere dominated Europe of the XV century! Many horrible methods of torture were created and used to all the European courts from Western Europe until Russia, as: the iron maiden, the saw, the impalement, the pulling on wheel, the hot iron, etc. The impalement was an usual method of punishing that times. Prince Vlad did not became famous because of using it, but for the great number of victims impaled! Nevertheless, many of his deeds were exagerated by the saxon merchandisers from Southern Transylvania who were permanently in conflict with Vlad. There is a lot to say.

      • profile image

        Alina Manescu 4 years ago

        Will people stop woobifying this kind of as******?! I am Romanian and I just feel insulted that he's considered as "hero" in my country! Just because something was accepted in the particular era, does not make it excusable or defendable! Would you say that Hungarians must love Erszebeth Bathory!? These two may have had hard life, but their actions are simply inexcusable!!!!!!!!!

      • profile image

        The emporer 4 years ago

        Vlad III tepes may be the most interesting human being to ever exist.

      • awordlover profile image

        awordlover 4 years ago

        Hi Thomas Swan,

        I am enjoying your hubs about facts regarding certain people in history. It is funny how we are taught, then believe certain negative facts about historical figures, which color the way we think of them. We dwell on the less savory parts of their lives and view their acts as barbaric, yet in their own countries, they are looked upon as heroes. I didn't know the background of this character and thank you for publishing this hub to enlighten us. Shared and voted up.

      • Thomas Swan profile image
        Author

        Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

        Indeed, this was one Christian who was more of an "Old Testament" type! Thanks for commenting.

      • ParadigmEnacted profile image

        ParadigmEnacted 5 years ago

        Wow. Not one of the more pleasant characters anybody is going to meet.

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