VLAD THE IMPALER … THE REAL DRACULA

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Most authorities believe the character of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel was based upon the historical figure Vlad Tepes (pronounced tse-pesh), who intermittently ruled an area of the Balkans called Wallachia in the mid 15th century. He was also called by the names Vlad III, Vlad Dracula and Vlad the Impaler. The word Tepes stands for “impaler” and was so coined because of Vlad’s propensity to punish victims by impaling them on stakes, then displaying them publicly to frighten his enemies and to warn would-be transgressors of his strict moral code. He is credited with killing between 40,000 to 100,000 people in this fashion.


Origin of the name “Dracula”

King Sigismund of Hungary, who became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1410, founded a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Its emblem was a dragon, wings extended, hanging on a cross. Vlad III’s father (Vlad II) was admitted to the Order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks. From 1431 onward Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol. Dragon Emblem
Order of the
Dragon Emblem

The word for dragon in Romanian is “drac” and “ul” is the definitive article. Vlad III’s father thus came to be known as “Vlad Dracul,” or “Vlad the dragon.” In Romanian the ending “ulea” means “the son of”. Under this interpretation, Vlad III thus became Vlad Dracula, or “the son of the dragon.” (The word “drac” also means “devil” in Romanian. The sobriquet thus took on a double meaning for enemies of Vlad Tepes and his father.)

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