Biography25 Apr 2010 01:22 am
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Biographies, will be available online and in stores on May 11. As the release date approaches, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from that book. Today’s entry on “Vlad the Impaler” draws from the “Villains” section of the Biographies edition.
Long before the popular teen lit series “Twilight” ushered in the era of the painfully sensitive “vegetarian” vampire, Count Dracula reigned supreme as the undisputed alpha male of the undead. Refined, suavely seductive and stubbornly unmoved by the plight of his victims or PETA ad campaigns, Count Dracula’s potent mix of elegance and savagery has captivated the public since the publication of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in 1897. While Stoker is credited with making Count Dracula into an icon, he did not invent the character all by himself.
In fact, most literary scholars believe the ever-thirsty Count was based upon the historical figure Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad III the Impaler, who intermittently ruled an area of the Balkans called Wallachia in the mid 15th century and famously and fiercely resisted the advancing armies of the Ottoman Empire. The word Tepes stands for “impaler” and was so coined because of Vlad’s penchant for brutality. Vlad III’s father, Vlad II Dracul, ascended the throne of Wallachia in 1436 amidst much political turmoil. He was ousted in 1442 by rival factions conspiring with Hungary, but he managed to reclaim his throne by making a truly Faustian bargain with his enemies: he agreed to turn over his two youngest sons, Vlad III and Radu the Handsome, to the Ottoman court as their prisoners in exchange for his crown.
Vlad III was locked up in prison and often whipped and beaten because of his intractable refusal to obey his captors. Ironically, Vlad III was first introduced to impalement, his favorite execution method of choice, while he was a prisoner in Turkey. The years that Vlad spent as an inmate of the hellish Turkish prison system had a great influence on his character and spurred his well-known hatred for the Ottoman Turks. After he was finally released and eventually claimed the throne, he became infamous for executing between 40,000 to 100,000 of his enemies by impaling them on stakes and then displaying them publicly to frighten his enemies and to warn would-be transgressors of his strict moral code. Whatever you might say about his methods, Vlad III inarguably knew the art of psychological warfare.
Interestingly, Vlad III continues to be revered in present-day Romania for his tenacious resistance against the armies of the mighty Ottoman Empire and is generally portrayed as a hero in Romanian folklore and literature. In fact, he is considered one of the greatest leaders in the country’s history, and was voted one of “100 Greatest Romanians” in the “Mari Români” television series aired in 2006. While no one has even tried to describe Vlad III as friendly, many Romanians argue that he has only been portrayed as sadistic by his Anglo-Saxon detractors.
However, the laundry list of atrocities he is said to have committed against his own countrymen for their “moral transgressions” makes it hard to believe that his brutality was solely motivated by patriotic fervor. Interestingly, Vlad III’s most damning characteristic is wholly absent from Count Dracula’s modus operandi; namely, the fact that the man was a hypocrite and his legend is not.
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