Vlad Țepeș Dracula – The Wallachian Hero
The birth and rise of Vlad Țepeș:
Title: Voivode of Wallachia.
Born: 1431, in Sighișoara.
Died: 1476, in present-day Bucharest.
The period of Ottoman conquest over the southeastern Europe is characterized by brutality, political intrigue and hunger for power. The fighting over lands or titles, quarreling with nobility and the weakening of central power were in shadow of another greater conflict, the conflict of cultures and religion.
To be a king or sultan in those times required cunning, administrative skill and battle prowess in order to keep their grip over lukewarm and potentially hostile nobility, economy and diplomatic relationships. These were the times in which great Slavic heroes fought to preserve their faith and culture.
One of them was Vlad Țepeș, ruler of Wallachia and a member of the Order of the Dragon (created in 1410. by King Sigismund of Hungary), dedicated to the safeguarding of Christianity in the face of the Ottoman threat. Vlad III was cruel and cunning indeed, but there is more to his personality than the Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” or countless grim stories of his life convey. Vlad Țepeș was an adept ruler, just leader and shrewd tactician, being the most able Christian commander at the time of Ottoman encroachment. He practiced impaling as punishment, but he judged people equally, no matter if they belonged to the boyars (nobility) or common folk.
Vlad’s ascension to the throne was not as simple as it would seem – he was a hostage in Istanbul along with his brother Radu where he received good education and gained an insight into Turkish culture and way of life. The problem was the decision of Vlad’s father, Vlad II to break the pact with Ottomans (Vlad and Radu were the guarantee as hostages), leading to war. However, Vlad II did not last for long and was killed by disloyal boyars along with his son, installing a new ruler, Vladislav II under the patronage of Hunyadi, the ruling dynasty of Hungary. This was the course that became a habit in the times to come – each ruler in Wallachia needed to tip the balance between Hunyadi Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.
Vlad was eventually freed and made his way to Wallachia with Turkish aid to take over the throne from Vladislav II that was on the anti-Ottoman crusade (It ended with the utter defeat of Christian forces at the battle of Varna). Vlad succeeded and took the throne briefly, until Vladislav II came back and took back the throne with Hungarian support, forcing Vlad back to the strategy table. However, in 1456. Vlad III took the throne and prepared to strengthen both his land and rule.
The problems never ceased, even when Vlad Țepeș became the ruler. The boyars were needed to be rounded up and cleansed of disloyal ones as well as quenching rebellions. Vlad Țepeș kept balancing between Hungary, Ottomans and now Moldova while keeping himself independent. This is when he started using the bloody method for which he is known for – impaling to preserve both his power and kingdom stability.
When Vlad III managed to unite his lands and get rid of the Hungarian influence, he ceased paying tribute to the Ottomans and went to war. He was successful and gave the Turks several strong blows, impressing all of the Christian Europe, even the pope Pius II. However, despite being a stout vanguard, the invading Ottoman force defeated Vlad III and forced him into exile in Hungary, where he married and got two children.
Radu was installed as the ruler of Wallachia under Ottoman supervision and served as their protege on the Balkans. Radu held the throne until his death in 1475, when the group of loyal boyars staged a rebellion in favor of Vlad III who returned to power once more with addition help from voivode Stephen III the Great (1457 – 1504) of Moldavia. He kept the fighting, but could not hold out for much longer and died in an Ottoman ambush. His tomb is the topic of speculation, though it is certain that he died as a human, not as a vampire. The degree of his punishments is still disputable, but it is confirmed that Vlad III was cruel in his punishments and prosecution.
Here are some events that are used to demonize Vlad Țepeș :
- Impaling of Saxon merchants in Krondstat in 1456, that allied themselves with disloyal boyars.
- He nailed the turbans of the Ottoman envoys to their skulls because they refused to take them off in his presence (they cited a religious reason on which Vlad III complimented them). This shows that they should respect the laws of the nation that they are in – an observed custom even in that time and was needed to be adhered to.
- In 1462. Târgoviște fell and whole of Wallachia with it, Vlad III left all of the Ottoman prisoners impaled as he left. This appalled Mehmet II, who was a famed commander that took even Constantinople, but was staggered by a mere little ruler when compared to the Byzantine Emperors.
- Impaling in Brașov (1459) took thousands of lives while Vlad feasted in front of them.
People today started to revise and reanalyze the rule of Vlad III Dracula, disregarding the negative and biased portrayals by his enemies that could be in fact exaggerated. I believe that he is a great hero of Wallachia, a vanguard of Christianity and a capable ruler in the sea of conspiracy and violence that is misunderstood.