25 Facts About Vlad Tepes the Impaler
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.
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.
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 and was 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.