Vlad the Impaler
Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia , more commonly known as Dracula, was a three-time voivode of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462.
Historically, Vlad is best known for his resistance against the Ottoman Empire and its expansion] and for the cruel punishments he imposed on his enemies. In the English-speaking world, Vlad III is most commonly known for inspiring the association of the name of the vampire in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.
Vlad's Russian surname Dracula, the name he was referred to in several surviving documents, means "Son of the dragon", and points to his father, Vlad Dracul, who received that epithet from his subjects because he had joined the Order of the Dragon. Dracul, from the Latin word Draco, meaning "dragon", is derived from the Greek word Δράκων (Drakon), though in modern Romanian Dracon means "devil". His other epithet Tepes or Impaler originated in his killing opponents by impalement. In Turkish, he was known as "Kazıklı Voyvoda" which means "Impaler Prince".
On September 26, 1459, Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans and on January 14, 1460, at the Congress of Mantua, His Holiness proclaimed the official crusade that was to last for three years. His crusade failed and the only European leader that showed enthusiasm for it was Vlad Tepes, whom the Pope held in high regard.
In the West, Vlad III Tepes has been characterized as a tyrant who took sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing his enemies. Estimates of the number of his victims ranges from 40,000 to 100,000.
Atrocities committed by Vlad in German stories include impaling, torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people, feeding people the flesh of their friends or relatives, cutting off limbs, and drowning. Other methods of punishment included skinning the feet of thieves, then putting salt on them and letting goats lick off the salt.
Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution. Death by impalement was slow and agonising. Victims sometimes endured for hours or days. Vlad often had the stakes arranged in various geometric patterns. The most common pattern was a ring of concentric circles in the outskirts of a city that constituted his target. The height of the spear indicated the rank of the victim. The corpses were often left decaying for months.
One of the most famous woodcuts of the period shows Vlad feasting in a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Braşov, while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims. (see left)
This place was famously known as the Forest of the Impaled. In this forest is a story of Vlad's "sense of humour": a servant was holding his nose and Vlad said to him while feasting "why do you do that?" The servant replied, "I cannot stand the stench" Vlad immediately ordered him impaled on the highest stake and said, "then you shall live up there where the stench cannot reach you."
Vlad the Impaler is alleged to have committed even more impalements and other tortures against invading Ottoman forces. It was reported that an invading Ottoman army turned back in fright when it encountered thousands of rotting corpses impaled on the banks of the Danube.