East of the sprawling mass of the Black Forest lies Transylvania, a
small state nestled in a crook of the snow-capped peaks of the cragged
Now part of the Ottoman Empire, only a century ago Transylvania was
fighting for its freedom, and from that struggle there rose a warlord
whose name lives on in infamy —- Vlad III, otherwise known as Vlad the
Born in 1431 to Vlad Dracul, exiled Prince of Wallachia, Vlad III
(known as Dracula) and his younger brother, Radu the Handsome, spent
much of their early lives as hostages of the Turks, who ruled
Wallachia. Here Vlad learned first hand the power of the scourge, of
terror, and of barbarity.
A Dracul sat once more on the Wallachian throne in 1456. Although
enthroned as a puppet ruler, Vlad allied with the Hungarians and drove
the fell Turks from his homeland. During his reign, Dracula had
constructed in secret Castle Dracula. He had the builders impaled
Such was his fondness for impalement that in 1459 he impaled 30,000
merchants and citizens of Brasov for treason, followed the next year
by 10,000 citizens of Sibiu.
In 1462 Vlad fled Wallachia, the Ottomans having grown tired of his
stubborn resistance and cruelty. Legend recounts that during his reign
two Turkish dignitaries refused to remove their turbans in his
presence, for religious reason. Dracula had their turbans nailed to
their heads. That and his impaling of 20,000 Ottoman soldiers to form
a forest of corpses, prompted the Ottomans to act against him.
Vlad again fled to Hungary, but this time he was betrayed by Matthius
Corvinus, who feared Vlad would destabilize the entire region and
bring Turkish wrath upon them.
When freed in 1474, Dracula sought to gain support, claiming the title
of voivode (warlord) once again in 1476. Unfortunately, Dracula’s
persecution of the ruling boyars (nobles) and alienation of the Turks
were too much for his enemies to bear, and in 1476 he was killed.
Exactly how Dracula died is disputed. Whatever the truth, it is
believed his head was severed from his neck and sent to Istanbul,
where the sultan impaled it on a stake.