Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the first vampire in literature, the infamous Dracula, was the ruler of Wallachia, a small territory in nowadays Romania, in the 15th century, between 1456 and 1462. He was born in Sighisoara, a city which was then part of the Kingdom of Hungary, as son of Vlad Dracul from the House of Drăculești. His derived name – Dracula was meant only to link him to his father and his House.
Vlad got an excellent education, and he is believed to have learned combat skills, philosophy, arts, geography and languages such as German, Latin and Old Slavonic. Later in his life, after being offered as hostage to the Ottoman Empire by his father as a sign of loyalty, he learned Turkish and logic.
Vlad the Impaler ascended on the throne of Wallachia as part of a ploy thought by the Turks, in order to prevent the Hungarians to conquer the region. However, Vlad had a different plan in mind for Wallachia. He wanted independence. He found the region to be in tragic shape: the economy was down, the crime rate was booming and trade was affected.
His goals were to strengthen the country: he preoccupied himself with the well being of peasants, developed trade and a strong army. Believing that the boyars were ruining the development of his country, Vlad had most of them executed – by impaling them, for everyone to see.
It was the dawn of a new way of ruling, an independent and strong Vlad would rise to protect his country. He turned his back on the Ottomans, refusing to pay tribute. The armed conflict started, but the army of Wallahia was very small. Vlad managed to keep his country free. He decided to instill horror in his enemies by impaling people relentlessly and leaving their bodies for others to see. Those impaled would not die immediately, so his method of execution portrayed Vlad the Impaler as a blood thirsty tyrant, and so he would be remembered for ages to come.
Vlad the Impaler inspired the Irish author, Bram Stocker to write about the first vampire in literature, the infamous Dracula. Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula furthered the ruler’s image as a ruthless blood thirsty man. It is also said that the Bran Castle in Transylvania – a region in Romania – was the inspiration for Stoker’s character’s castle.
However, Vlad the Impaler lived in and ruled from Poenari Castle.
Truth is that Vlad the Impaler was one of the most skilled and savvy rulers of Wallachia. He fought for independence by creating fear and leading a psychological war. Wasn’t the freedom of his people worth being forever remembered as Dracula?
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