Project Description

History of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula)

Dracula became famous after the launch of the novel with the same name, written by Bram Stoker. The clues indicate that the source of inspiration for the author was the reign of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1476) who had been nicknamed Vlad Dracul and Vlad the Impaler.

Vlad the Impaler as Aegeas, the Roman proconsul in Patras, crucifying Saint Andrew. Approximately 1470–1480, Belvedere Galleries, Vienna

Romania, place of birth for Dracula

Let’s discover together the real facts about the impaler who inspired the story of Dracula, the vampire. Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, was born in 1431 in Sighisoara, the beautiful fortress town from Transylvania in a family of rulers. He was the Ruler of Wallachia for 3 times: in 1448, during the period 1456–1462 and in 1476. He had fought for the reign with another family of rulers and also with the landowners from the Northern part of Wallachia. His alliances with the Ottoman Empire and with the Austro Hungarian Empire had proven his abilities of being a good diplomat as well as a great ruler, ready to do everything for his people. Since Vlad III had an unusual practice of impaling his enemies, he was also known as Vlad the Impaler (in RomanianVlad Țepes).

Vlad Dracul was a leading member of the Order of the Dragon, a well-known knighthood military order, similar to the Knights of Malta and the Teutonic Order. His father and he, both, obtained the name Dracula after gaining this membership. In the beginning, Vlad’s nickname, the Impaler, came from the merchants from the city of Brasov which found him very harsh and severe, and spread this nickname as far as the German lands. Subsequently, his behavior had done nothing but confirm his new name.

During his childhood, he was held hostage by the Ottoman Empire (1442 -1448). This was a very important period of his life because it allowed him to understand the Muslims’ behavior, values, way of living, weaknesses and the Ottoman fighting tactics. Vlad Tepes then used all this information when fighting against the Ottoman Empire.

In 1462 Vlad Dracul stopped an enormous army for those times (120,000 warriors and 175 warships) led by Mehmed II (the ruler who conquered Constantinople in 1453). The small army consisting of less than 30,000 warriors and led by Vlad Tepes forces the Turk troops to retreat. All the chronicles of that time had presented this fight as being won by Vlad (Dracula). Tepes had used tactics based on small, fast attacks and ambushes; on June 17, 1462, he organized an attack that remained in history as The Night Attack. In this fight, 15,000 Turk warriors were killed. Maybe this cruel tactic of fighting at night brought the idea of Dracula the vampire. There are no clues to support the title of Dracula the vampire.

Tepes has gained the respect of other kings and rulers from Central Europe for his victories against the Ottoman Empire. During his reign, Wallachia had partially gained its independence. This has been a great achievement. Many countries from the Balkan Peninsula were under the Ottoman dominance. During this period, the Ottoman Empire had a great force, having conquered the famous city of Constantinople in 1453, and reaching the gates of Vienna a few years later.

Vlad_Tepes_Vlad The Impaler1

Dracula – Vlad the Impaler – The Romanian Ruler

Legends about Dracula

During the conflict with Mehmed II, Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) employed various harassment tactics. One notable strategy involved creating a horrifying tableau depicting Turkish soldiers impaled in a forest near Targoviste. Aware of the deep fear Muslims had regarding impalement, Vlad orchestrated this scene to instill terror and drastically reduce their morale. Legends depict gruesome images of slain Turkish soldiers, soaked in blood, evoking fear and dread. While this may have influenced the Dracula vampire folklore, it’s crucial to note that there is no concrete evidence linking Vlad to vampiric tales.

German woodcut from 1499 showing Dracula dining among the impaled corpses of his victims

German woodcut from 1499 showing Dracula dining among the impaled corpses of his victims

Vlad Dracul succeeded in imposing a society based on honor, law and order. The legends are saying that if you were to leave a box full of gold at a crossroads in those times, nobody would have had the courage to steal it. There was also an anecdote saying that if you had any money, you would have to be afraid not to steal your own money. Very often, the punishment was death by impaling. Vlad the Impaler believed in the active role of every citizen in the social life of the community, therefore he didn’t tolerate beggars and thieves. After inviting all of them to a big feast, he locked all the doors of the big saloon where lunch was served and burned the building with all the beggars and thieves trapped inside. Another dreadful act and a scene as you can see in vampire movies, with a lot of people killed and with fearful ending.

Tepes was very cruel to the noblemen of that period; they were his biggest enemies. The chronicles say that in 1459, on Easter, he invited all the landowners to the royal feast, where he killed the elders and forced the others to walk more than 100 kilometers on foot to the Arges River to build the Poenari Fortress (also called the Fortress of Dracula). There is also a metaphor that says that the landowners were the vampires that suck the blood of the people – the landowners exploited unfairly the masses to obtain benefits. To do justice for the people, he became Impaler for every landowner vampire.

Dracula places

Read more about them in the articles dedicated to places connected to him.

Dracula Fortress

The Bran Castle – The Castle of Dracula

Bran Castle, Dracula Castle

The Royal Courts from Bucharest and Curtea de Arges.

Places where is said that Dracula is buried. If there really exist vampires, these must be the places where they could be found.

Comana Monastery

Located near Bucharest, it was built in 1461 following Vlad the Impaler’s orders. It is said that this monastery is the place where he was buried.

The Snagov Monastery

Situated near Bucharest, in the northern part of the lake with the same name was established by Mircea I of Wallachia, and it was first mentioned in 1408. This Monastery was restored by Vlad the Impaler. Some voices say that Vlad’s grave is situated in this monastery, rather than Comana.

Photographs Copyright:

Elena Avram

Petr Kraumann