Rumanian nobleman and warrior (1431-1476). The second son of Vlad Dracul, Prince of Wallachia, and Princess Cneanja of Moldavia, he and his younger brother Radu were taken as hostages by the Turkish ruler Sultan Murad when he was only 11 years old. He was educated in the Turkish court, but he was under constant threat of death, torture, or mutilation. After serving briefly in the Turkish army, Vlad went into exile in Moldavia, where he involved himself in Wallachian politics. He was made prince of Wallachia in 1456.

As prince, he was notorious for his cruelty. After he was crowned, he had all the old boyars executed and replaced them with newly ennobled peasants. When two Italian envoys failed to remove their skullcaps before him, he had the caps nailed to their heads. His preferred method of execution was impalement -- it was this practice that earned him the nickname "Tepes" (pronounced "Tseh-pesh"), or "the Impaler". When the Turks invaded Wallachia, Vlad erected the "forest of the impaled" -- thousands of Turkish captives impaled on stakes along the main invasion route.

The Turks sent Vlad's brother Radu against him, and the people supported Radu's invasion, more terrified of Vlad than of the Turks. Vlad fled to Hungary, but he was taken prisoner by the Hungarian king, and Radu was recognized as the ruler of Wallachia.

Vlad regained his freedom after Radu died in 1475 and was sent back to battle his cousin, Stephen of Moldavia. He converted to Roman Catholicism and married a Hungarian princess. Soon afterward, he died mysteriously; two monks found his headless body in a marsh after a battle.

It is estimated that Vlad killed between 40,000 and 100,000 of his countrymen during his time as prince. Despite this, he is still revered in Romania as a national hero for his bravery against the Turks.

He is best known as the model for the vampire in Bram Stoker's horror novel "Dracula".

Research from GURPS Who's Who, compiled by Phil Masters, "Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler)" by William H. Stoddard, pp. 56-57.

Vlad became quite known for his brutal punishment techniques. He often ordered people to be skinned, boiled, decapitated, blinded, strangled, hanged, burned, roasted on spits, hacked, nailed, buried alive or stabbed. He also liked to cut off noses, ears, sexual organs and limbs. But his favorite method was impalement on stakes, hence the surname "Tepes" - pronounced "Tse-pesh" which means "The Impaler" in the Romanian.

Even the Turks referred to him as "Kaziglu Bey," meaning "The Impaler Prince." It is this technique he used in 1457, 1459 and 1460 against Transylvanian merchants who had ignored his trade laws. The raids he led against the German Saxons of Transylvania were also acts of proto-nationalism in order to protect and favour the Wallachian commercial activities.

There are many anecdotes about the philosophy of Vlad Tepes Dracula. He was for instance particularly known throughout his land for his fierce insistence on honesty and order. Almost any crime, from lying and stealing to killing, could be punished by impalement.

Being so confident in the effectiveness of his law, Dracula placed a golden cup on display in the central square of Tirgoviste. The cup could be used by thirsty travelers, but had to remain on the square. According to the available historic sources, it was never stolen and remained entirely unmolested throughout Vlad's reign.

Dracula was also very concerned that all his subjects work and be productive to the community. He looked upon the poor, vagrants and beggars as thieves. Consequently, he invited all the poor and sick of Wallachia to his princely court in Tirgoviste for a great feast. After the guests ate and drank, Dracula ordered the hall boarded up and set on fire. No one survived.

"Dracula" means "Son of the Dragon" since Vlad Tepes' father, Vlad Dracul, had been elected to the Order of the Dragon before Vlad Junior was born. Tepes himself also became a member of the Order.

Another story, possibly apocryphal, about Vlad Tepes is recounted in Robert Anton Wilson's Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy.

Two monks were taken in by Vlad during a storm. He gave them a meal, and then asked them what the people of his country thought of him.
The first monk, scared, lied to him saying 'They think you are a wise and benevolent ruler'.
The second monk was honest and said 'They think you are a psychopathic tyrant'.
And then Vlad had one of them killed - but there are two versions of the story, and in each one who he kills differs.

In the novel Simon Moon uses this story as a test to see what type of person you are. If you believe he killed the first monk, you're probably trusting and have faith in authority. If the second you're probably cynical, don't trust the government and are in all probability a realist...

Vlad Țepeș

A common misconception, or legend, if you will, is that of the vampire. When Bram Stoker toured Europe, he came upon the legend of Vlad Dracula, or Vlad Țepeș, and based his novel Dracula thereupon.

Vlad Țepeș' father started the Order of the Dragon, an order similar to the Knights Templar, which also apparently went corrupt later on. As a result of the order, Vlad II got the nickname of Dracul, meaning Dragon in Romanian. It also meant devil, probably influencing Bram Stoker as to the whole "satanic" portrayal of dracula in his novel. Vlad III consequently became known as Dracula, meaning "son of the dragon", or alternatively, "son of the devil".

There is a fair amount of uncertainty as to the whole blood drinking idea, as this was probably adapted to fit in another infamous person, Erzsebét Bathory, who, in the 1500s were believed to have killed about 650 people (virgin girls), and drank, and bathed in, their blood in the mistaken belief that it would grant her immortal youth and beauty, as she apparently was quite beautiful according to records.

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