Vlad Tepeș (Vlad the Impaler), by his real name Vlad Dracula, born in 1431 in the fortress city of Sighișoara, was Voivode (Prince) of Wallachia various times between 1448 and 1476.
His father, Vlad II Dracul, was a member of the Order of the Dragon (the Latin word for dragon is draco), a semi-military and religious organization founded in 1387 in Rome - Hence the name/ title Dracul, which in Romanian means “Devil”, Dracula being the diminutive and meaning “the son of the evil”. Actually, the ceremonial uniform of the Order was Bram Stocker` source of inspiration for Count Dracula`s look.
Vlad and his little brother Radu were sent by their own father, when he was prince of Wallachia, to Constantinople (today Istanbul) as hostages of the Sultan Murad II. Vlad was set free after six years, when his father was assassinated by the boyars of Târgoviște. That experience made him act with extraordinary cruelty against them: it is said that he arrested all the boyar families who had killed his father; he impaled some of them and forced the others to march from the capital, Târgoviște, to Poenari without rest. On arrival, he ordered them to build him a fortress there, today’s ruined Poenari Citadel (Cetatea Poenari).
He was so confident about the effectiveness of his law enforcing execution by impalement of criminals and enemies, followed by exposure of the bodies for public viewing, that he placed a solid gold cup in the central square of Târgoviște. The cup was meant to quench travelers` thirst, but after use it had to be put back and remain in the square. Historical sources say that it was never stolen throughout Vlad`s reign.
Vlad was also successful in fighting the Turks: he managed to win several victories even if his army was smaller and less powerful. When the Sultan invaded Walachia with an army three times larger than Dracula`s, the latter, without any ally help, had to retreat to Târgoviște but still, found a way to win that battle. He burned all the villages and poisoned the water wells along the way, so with nothing to eat and drink the Sultan reached the capital exhausted and there he found a horrible sight which made him withdraw. That horror scene called “Forest of the Impaled” was deliberately masterminded by Dracula, who had exposed the Turkish he had taken prisoners, impaled, all over the city.
In the end, the Ottomans turned Vlad`s younger brother, Radu, against him, and the latter pursued him up to Poenari Castle. Vlad`s wife committed suicide and he managed to escape the siege by using a secret passage into the mountains. He was assassinated in December 1476, though.
Unlike Bram Stocker`s monster, Vlad Tepeș is still considered a hero by many Romanians for his fierce insistence on honesty and order.
Djuvara, Neagu & Radu Oltean. De la Vlad Tepes la Dracula Vampirul. Bucharest: Humanitas, 2010.
Leblanc, H. Benjamin. “Vlad Dracula. An Intriguing Figure in the 15th Century.”
“Vlad the Impaler.” Wikipedia. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_the_Impaler>