Vlad Dracula was a fifteenth century prince who has been the subject of many horror stories. There is much debate whether Vlad Dracula was a just prince or a crazed tyrant. Entanglement of fact and legend has portrayed him as both a national hero and the prince of darkness. Wallachian Politics In order to understand the life of Vlad Dracula, it is first necessary to understand something about the nature of Wallachian society and politics. A Transylvanian named Rudolph the Black founded Wallachia in 1290.

Wallachia was dominated by Hungary until 1330, when it became independent. The first ruler of the new country was Prince Basarab the Great, an ancestor of Dracula. (Augustyn p. 12) The throne of Wallachia was hereditary, but not by the law of primogeniture. Instead, the boyars or great nobles had the right to elect the prince from among the various eligible members of the royal family. (Augustyn p.

14) By the late fifteenth century the House of Basarab had split into two rival clans: the descendants of Prince Dan and those of Prince Mircea the old (Dracula s grandfather). These two branches of the royal family were bitter rivals. Both Dracula and his father murdered rivals from the Danesti upon reaching the throne. (Miller p. 64) Another important fact of the fifteenth century Wallachian political life was the influence of powerful neighbors. Dracula s grandfather, Mircea the Old, was forced to pay tribute to the sultan early in the fifteenth century.

(Miller p. 64) The Hungarian Kingdom to the north and west of Wallachia reached the height of its power during the fifteenth century and was a target for the powerful Ottoman Empire. Wallachia was the first step for the Ottomans on their way to conquer the Christian world, so throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the princes of Wallachia attempted to maintain independence by constantly shifting allegiance between the powerful neighbors. (Augustyn p.

20) Young Dracula Vlad inherited the name Dracula from his father. Vlad s father, Vlad II, was admitted into a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon to uphold Christianity and defend the Holy Roman Empire against Turkey. The boyars, which were land owning nobles, called him Dracul, meaning dragon. Consequently, Vlad III was called Dracula, meaning Son of the Dragon. Dracul also meant devil. So Dracula s enemies, especially German Saxons, called him son of the devil.

Dracula s enemies also called him Vlad Types, meaning Vlad the Impaler. (Miller p. 3) Vlad Dracula was born in 1431 in the Transylvanian city of Sighisoara in modern Romania. At that time Dracula s father was living in exile in Transylvania. Vlad Dracul was in Transylvania attempting to gather support for his planned effort to seize the Wallachian throne from the Danesti Prince, Alexandru I. (Augustyn p.

25) Little is known about the early years of Dracula s life. It is known he had an elder brother, Mircea, and a younger brother Radu. His early education was left in the hands of his mother, a Transylvanian noblewoman. (Miller p. 4) His real education began in 1436 after his father succeeded in claiming the Wallachian throne and killing his Danesti rival. His training was typical to that common to the sons of the nobility throughout Europe.

He was trained for knighthood by an old boyar who had fought against the Turks. Dracula learned all the skills of war and peace that were deemed necessary for a Christian knight. (Miller p. 7) The political situation in Wallachia remained unstable after Vlad II Dracul seized the throne in 1436. The power of the Turks was growing rapidly as one by one the small states of the Balkans surrendered to the Ottoman onslaught.

At the same time the power of Hungary was reaching its zenith and would peak during the time of John Hunyadi and his son King Matthias Corvinus. The Hungarian leaders were bitter enemies with the Ottoman Empire. As the prince of Wallachia, Vlad II Dracul tried to walk a middle coarse between his powerful neighbors. (Augustyn p. 22) In 1442 Vlad attempted to remain neutral when the Turks invaded Transylvania.

The Turks were defeated and the vengeful Hungarians under John Hunyadi forced Dracul and his family to flee Wallachia. (McNally p. 34) In 1443, Vlad II regained the Wallachian throne with Turkish support, on the condition that he sign a new treaty with the sultan that included not only the customary annual tribute but the promise to yearly send Wallachian boys to join the Turkish army. In 1444, to further assure to the sultan of his good faith, Vlad II sent his two youngest sons, Dracula and Radu, to Adrianople as hostages. Dracula was about 13.

(McNally p. 35-36) While Dracula was a hostage, the boyars and merchants of the Wallachian city Tirgoviste murdered his father and older brother. There are different stories about how he died he may have been tortured and burned, or buried alive. Some say that Hunyadi organized the assassinations. (Kalogridis p. 64) Since Vlad and Mircea were dead, and Dracula and Rau were still in Turkey, Hunyadi was able to put a member of the Danesti clan, Vladislav II, on the Wallachian throne.

(Kalogridis p. 66) The Turks didn t like having a Hungarian puppet in charge of Wallachia, so in 1448 they freed Dracula and gave him an army. He was seventeen years old. Dracula s little brother Radu chose to remain in Turkey. He had grown up there, and apparently remained loyal to the sultan. Dracula successfully overthrew Vladislav II, and became the new Prince Of Wallachia.

(Kalogridis p. 66) Vlad the Impaler During Vlad s reign as prince of Wallachia, he committed many monstrosities. Impalement was Dracula s preferred method of torture and execution. Dracula usually had a horse attached to each of the victim s legs and a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. The end of the stake was usually oiled and care was taken that the stake not be too sharp; else the victim might die too rapidly from shock. Normally the stake was inserted into the body through the buttocks and was often forced until it emerged threw the mouth.

(McNally p. 112) Death by impalement was slow and painful. Victims sometimes endured for hours or days. Dracula often had the stakes arranged in various geometric patterns. The height of the spear indicated the rank of the victim. Thousands were often impaled at a single time.

Ten thousand were impaled in the Transylvanian city of Siblu in 1460. The decaying corpses were often left up for months. (McNally p. 112 113) His first significant act of cruelty may have been motivated by a desire of revenge as well as a need to solidify his power. Early in his main reign he gave a feast for his boyars and their families to celebrate Easter.

Dracula was well aware that many of these same nobles were part of the conspiracy that led to his father s assassination and the burying alive of his elder brother, Mircea. Dracula had them all arrested. The older boyars were impaled on the spot. The younger and healthier nobles and their families were marched north from Targoviste to the ruins of a castle in the mountains. The enslaved boyars and their families were forced to labor for months rebuilding the old castle. Very few of the old nobles survived the ordeal of building Castle Dracula.

In place of the executed boyars, Dracula promoted new men from among the free peasantry and middle class, men who would be loyal only to Dracula. (Miller p. 88) Many of Dracula s acts of cruelty can be interpreted as efforts to strengthen and modernize the central government at the expense of the feudal powers of nobility and great towns. (McNally p. 113) Dracula s atrocities against the people of Wallachia were usually attempts to enforce his own moral code upon his county. He appears to have been particularly concerned with female chastity.

Maidens who lost their virginity, adulterous wives, and unchaste widows were all targets of Dracula s cruelty. Such woman often had their sexual organs cut out or the breasts cut off. They were also often impaled through the vagina on red hot stakes that were forced through their bodies until it emerged from the mouth. (Miller p. 90) Dracula also insisted that his people be honest and hard working. Merchants who cheated their customers were likely to find themselves mounted on a stake.

(McNally p. 115) Dracula s reign of terror ended in 1474. Dracula was killed while fighting the Turks near Bucharest. The sultan of Turkey displayed Dracula s head on a pike in Constantinople to prove that he was dead. His body was buried at the island monastery of Sna gov, which he had patronized.

(Flores cu p. 44) Hero or Psychopathic Tyrant Was Vlad Dracula s reigning that of a hero or a psychopathic tyrant It depends on what you read. In Romanian and Russian folklore, Vlad Dracula is considered a national hero. German and Turkish folklore portray Dracula as an inhuman monster who terrorized the land and butchered innocent people with sadistic glee. (Kalogridis p. 210) Among the Romanian peasantry, Dracula is remembered as a just prince who defended his people from foreigners, whether those foreigners are Turkish invaders or German merchants.

He is also remembered as somewhat of a champion of the common man against the oppression of the boyars. Dracula was a brave warrior. The peasants were proud of his military accomplishments; no matter what methods he used to attain them. Dracula s fierce insistence on honesty is a central part of the folklore.

Russian folklore portrays Dracula as a cruel but just prince whose actions were directed toward the greater good of his people. (Kalogridis p. 210-211) German and Turkish folklore portray Dracula as the Prince of Darkness because it was under his command that thousands of Turkish and German people were killed. Dracula was a bitter enemy of German merchants and Turkish people.

(Kalogridis p. 211) Vlad Dracula s reputation, both as a hero and psychopathic tyrant, is debated. Some say it was Dracula s ways of just punishment. Others think Dracula was a sick man who killed and tortured out of sadistic pleasure.