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Vlad The Impaler, The True Dracula

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Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Vlad III, Dracula, Drakulya, or Tepes, was born in late 1431, in the citadel of Sighisoara, Transylvania, the son of Vlad II or Dracul, a military governor, appointed by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. Vlad Dracul was also a knight in the Order of the Dragon, a secret fraternity created in 1387 by the Emperor, sworn to uphold Christianity and defend the empire against the Islamic Turks. Transylvania, along with Moldavia, and Wallachia, are now joined together as Romania. The name Dracul can be interpreted in two ways, the first translation from Romanian would be "Dragon", but it sometimes also means "Devil". Vlad was not called Tepes, which means ""spike" in Romanian, until after his death; instead, he was known as Vlad Dracula, the added "a" meaning "son of", so essentially, throughout his life, he was known as the "son of the Devil".

While growing up with such a name would normally present problems for most of us, Vlad certainly did not seem to mind, as he really did live up to his title; but before we look upon the exploits of the son, let us learn a bit more about the father. In 1436, Vlad Dracul took over the throne of Wallachia, taking up residence in the palace of Tirgoviste. It was there young Vlad Dracula would get his first taste of the opulent lifestyle, and perhaps also where the beast within would begin to grow. Merely two years later, in a strange turn of events, Vlad II betrayed the Order of the Dracul, forming an alliance with the Turks. He even went as far as allowing Sultan Murad II to keep his two sons, Vlad Dracula, and his younger brother Radu, as "insurance" that he would not plan to strike against the Turks.

In the winter of 1447, Vlad Dracul was assassinated in a coup orchestrated by one of his relatives, John Hunyadi, who had devoted his life to fighting the Ottoman Turks, and did not approve of Vlad Dracul's pro-Turkish policy. Vlad Dracula was granted his freedom following his father's death, but Radu decided to stay behind. In addition to learning of his father's demise, Vlad was also told his older brother, Mircea had had his eyes gouged out, and been buried alive by the boyars of Tirgoviste. While in captivity, Vlad had grown resentful, and vowed to have his revenge.

The throne of Wallachia, which would have normally been reserved for Vlad Dracula, was now occupied by the boyars. The still teenaged Vlad Dracula, with the help of Pasha Mustafa Hassan' Turkish cavalry, defeated the boyars, reclaiming the throne for a very short period of time, as Hunyadi would soon thereafter appoint Vladislav II to the post. Vlad Dracula formed an alliance with Hunyadi, in the hopes of persuading him he was the rightful heir to the throne, but it wasn't until 1456, that Vlad Dracula would make his move, killing his father's murderer, and defeating Vladislav II, to take over as the new ruler of Wallachia. In 1569, following an Easter Sunday feast, Vlad Dracula had all the boyar families who had been attending arrested. Those who were in good health were condemned to a life of slavery, and put to work on the construction of his Poenari Castle on the Arges river. Those who were old and weak were impaled for all to see. Thus began Vlad the Impaler's reign of blood and terror.

Construction of the castle was difficult work, and many of the slaves died in the process. Many were forced to work naked, for their clothes had fallen off from wear. Needless to say, Vlad Dracula in no way considered these people human beings, and he treated them worse than animals, severely punishing and torturing his captives, whether or not they had done anything to provoke him. He abhorred weakness of any kind, and was determined to be the ruler of a Kingdom which would only be host to the rich and powerful.

One day, Vlad Dracula decided to cleanse his Kingdom of those he considered to be lazy and unproductive, those who suffered from illness, a handicap, or were simply born in poverty. He decreed that no one should go hungry in his Kingdom, and invited all the poor, unfortunate souls who tainted his concept of what society should be to a banquet in the great hall in Tirgoviste. Once he felt his "guests" had been well fed, not to mention drunk and complacent, Vlad made his appearance, asking them how they would enjoy never having to feel the pain of hunger ever again, or if they wished to never have to worry about anything ever again, to be without a care in the world.

Of course, their reply was enthusiastic, so he obliged, ordering his men to board up the hall, which was then set ablaze. No one escaped. Vlad Dracula's treatment of his own subjects paled in comparison to the atrocities he committed against his enemies, and any who opposed him. On St. Bartholomew's Day, he impaled 30,000 merchants for disobeying trade laws, having their bodies left to rot outside the city walls as a reminder of what would happen to any who disobeyed him.

Rumours abound that Vlad also ate the flesh, and drank the blood of his enemies, often holding dinner parties next to the freshly impaled. He was very proud of his work, and anyone who showed disdain while looking upon the thousands of putrefying corpses would soon suffer the same fate. Vlad liked to arrange the impaled in circular patterns, the length of the stakes determined by the victim's rank; this way, wealthy, or powerful opponents would plainly see they were not above the law. Impalements were carried out in a variety of ways,

During his reign, Vlad Dracula also had people decapitated, had their eyes gouged out, had them skinned alive, boiled, burnt, dismembered, eviscerated, or sometimes just physically disfigured for his own amusement. In one particular incident, Turkish ambassadors who had refused to remove their Phrygian caps in his presence were asked why they insulted him in such a manner. When they replied it was because their hats had to remain on their heads according to custom, he graciously honored their tradition by ordering their hats permanently nailed to their heads, never to be removed again.

Vlad Dracula's tyranny was such that none dared break any laws in his land, for fear of being punished or killed. He even had his mistress disemboweled publicly for having lied about being pregnant with his child. Vlad enjoyed torturing and killing women, often mutilating their breasts and sexual organs in the process. He is even rumored to have forced mothers to eat their own babies. In order to impress visiting dignitaries with the efficiency of his methods at promoting order, he had a gold cup placed on display in the center of central square of Tirgoviste, unguarded from any thief that would fancy stealing it during the night. The cup remained, as no one would have been so foolish as to risk impalement

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