Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, as he was also known, was a fifteenth century Romanian prince who has gone down in history as one of the most bloodthirsty rulers of all time. His preferred method of torture was the so called "Impalement", which is the lost ancient art of inserting a victim through the belly, chest, mouth or most preferably, the anus in order to offer torture and warning to those who dare face up the Impaler. Such method did not only serve as a means for slow and painful death, but also as an encouragement to onlookers or soldiers to immediately surrender the troops.
Dracula did make usage of such way to punish both his enemies and his own people. He was utterly ruthless in is desire to dominate, and stories of his cruelty towards mothers and children, men and soldiers abound.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Dracula was an extremely barbaric ruler, but some believe that such stories about him being a devil worshipper and savage ruler are far too exaggerated. It is certainly true that his enemies, especially those belonging to the Ottoman Empire did fear and hate him. Nevertheless, he did not play such havoc at his own will, the Order of the Dragon, of which he was a member, financed his deeds directly with funds from the Vatican State in order to uphold Christendom at all cost.
He is reputed to have killed thousands of ordinary men, women and children, in the course of war, or for any kind of resistance to his draconian edicts. However, among his own people, he was revered as a courageous freedom fighter, who for decades defended his country against the Turks. Be that as it may, his reputation as a mass murderer gave birth to many stories and myths, and his name, and probably parts of his existence, inspired Bram Stoker's novel.
Vlad Dracul and his family were hounded by the Turks, forced to work for the Sultan and to live in exile away from their homeland. Dracula was born in 1428 in Sigishoara, although it is subject to debate. In addition, Vlad Dracul was made to surrender his two sons, Dracula and Radu, to the Sultan as hostages. The oldest son, Dracula's elder brother, was put to a savage death through being blinded by iron stakes and buried alive. Not surprisingly, Vlad grew up among the Turks in a growing hatred against his enemies, whereas the youngest brother, Radu, was educated as a Turk and later on became his brother's enemy. Dracula did loathe the high ranking Russians, boyards and Moldavian and Wallachian aristocrats, who he blamed for the downfall and death of his father and brother.
When young Vlad's father was assassinated, soon did he think of ruling again, and he certainly pursued vengeance against any personal, alongside national, enemy he would encounter. Gathering an army, Dracula fought the Ottomans and invaded Wallachia and gained control there. Despite his methods, he was feted by his people, having ousted the Ottomans and was more taken up the throne of his native land. After years of misery, Dracula set off to impose order, first by getting rid of any enemy to the throne. To curb the boyards, he appointed them to important positions in the government. He also cut off trade between boyards and Saxon settling in Transylvania. Boyards resisted and Dracula responded by having the Saxon officials in the city of Kronstadt impaled, as a warning to others not to defy his authority. Vlad was equally barbaric and merciless against his princes, and killed two of them and the people who had sheltered them.
In 1461, having made an alliance with the Hungarians, he marched into the Ottoman territory of the Danube and laid waste to the population there. Though not properly recorded, he is believed to have killed over 20,000 Turks and Bulgarians, burning them alive in their houses and chopping off their heads.
Not surprisingly, the Ottoman Sultan responded by sending a huge army of 90,000 men to fight back. Nothing could have prepared soldiers for what they were to see as they embarqued alien territory. They were greeted by the sight of thousands of people impaled, dead and agonizing along the roads and riverside forming a gruesome forest. Dracula's reputation as a murderer was sealed, and from that time on, he was feared across Europe as a man who would stop at nothing to retain his power.
However ruthless he was, Vlad's army was no match for the might of the Ottoman Empire, and the Turks eventually marched into Romania and attacked his castle. Dracula did not accept surrender, let alone cowardice. He inspected his army personally and checked every soldier. Those injured or wounded were praised and immediately rewarded, whereas those who were not wounded or had escaped were impaled at once.
During the siege of his castle, his wife flung herself into the river to die rather than be held captive by the Turks. When the castle was taken, Vlad was imprisoned and his brother Radu the Handsome, on the throne of Wallachia. By forgering alliances with the Hungarian throne, Vlad was released and forced to marry a Hungarian Countess, therefore, being converted into Catholicism. The marriage blossomed two children, but they did not prevent the Impaler to attempt reconquering the throne of Wallachia. He set off to war supported by his people and in 1476 got finally killed fighting near Bucharest. His head was cut off and sent to the Sultan, who displayed it immediately in Istanbul, oddly enough, impaled on a stake.
His death is subject to debate, for some debate the issue of treason as a primary reason for his death. Besides, his body was buried in a location which has not yet been discovered. It certainly helps build the myth.
The nature of Dracula's killings is also under dispute. In Germany, Vlad was alleged to be an insane sadist, whose crimes included burning, skinning, roasting, boiling and drowning victims; forcing their relatives to eat their flesh; cutting off their limbs; nailing hats to heads, and so on. In order to illustrate such stories, a couple of them shall be exposed.
On one hand, Dracula is said to have received a family of gipsies in town. They were rejected for being gipsies and refused to be given shelter and food. The gipsies responded by provoking a row, which draw Dracula's attention. When asked why they were having a row, the gipsies answered they wanted food and shelter. Dracula responded by taking the patriarch along with him and sitting the rest of the gipsies to a table. They were served and told they could stuff themselves, which they did. Vlad later on told them they had eaten their own patriarch and eventually killed them.
A second story deals with the Turk Ambassadors who visited Dracula. They refused to take off their turban. Dracula responded by nailing the turbans to their heads and sending them back to their land as a warning.
Today, many historians believe this stories were sensationalized. The tales were circulating in manuscripts throughout the fifteenth century . They undoubtedly had a political objective, to set the German against the Romanian, which was not shocking, bearing in mind the cruelty Vlad had displayed against the Saxons. In addition, Corvinus, the King of Hungaria, had reason to blacken Vlad's name. In order to justify his not going to war, he accused Dracula of secretly supporting the Sultan. Corvinus, through this inventions and many other stories created a scapegoat to hide his own cowardice.