Dracula is one of the most famous novels globally, influencing global pop culture and spawning horror movies, TV shows, graphic novels and more. Its main character was inspired by a real-life кing from the 15th century named Vlad the Impaler. So was there an actual true to life vampire back then? Well, not exactly.
Vlad III Dracula was a prince or "Voivode" of the Hungarian territory of Wallachia in the late 1400s. During this time the Holy Roman Empire, headed by the Pope, was at war with the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Due to Wallachia's strategic geographical location, bordering Turkey in the south, it was caught in the middle of the conflict.
When Vlad III was 11 he and his younger brother Radu became the hostages of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II so their father, Vlad II, would not attack Turkey. They were treated well, educated with Murad's son, future emperor Mehmed II, but were held captive for many years.
Vlad focused his energy on getting back his rightful throne. He was successful three times, though with much bloodshed and betrayal. Many leaders were in awe of Vlad III due to his strict moral code and skill in battle. Wallachians admired him, especially the lower classes who saw him as a fair and honest leader. He also murdered thousands of people in brutal and cruel ways, with a preference for impaling his enemies, giving him the name Vlad the Impaler.
It was during his 2nd reign when Vlad began to show his true cruel nature. He ordered the execution of thousands of Wallachian boyars (noble classes) to ensure public order, impaling them on wooden spikes, leaving them to bleed out and die a slow, horrible death. Vlad III also invaded Transylvania to the north and raided Ottoman territories to the south, impaling thousands or burning them in their homes. In 1462 he surprised the invading Sultan Mehmed II, the son of Murad II and Vlad's old childhood pal, who upon attacking Wallachia's capital was met with a forest of impaled Turkish men, women and children, over 20,000 of them surrounding the city. The Sultan quickly retreated.
It was clear that Vlad III was a ruler with diabolical understanding of how to govern his people. Eventually his younger brother Radu, who stayed loyal to the Ottomans, captured Wallachia and Vlad became Hungary's prisoner for 12 years. He ascended to the Wallachian throne for a third time but was killed in a battle shortly after.
During most of his life, rumors of his cruel reputation spread all over Europe. Stories were passed on and embellished, blurring fact and fiction about who Vlad III Dracula was and how he lived his life.
It was 400 years later, in 1897, when Bram Stoker borrowed Vlad's name and inspired by his bloodthirsty ways wrote the classic vampire novel "Dracula." Today, he is a national hero in Romania and thanks to his fascinating life - and a literary vampire - Vlad the Impaler lives on in infamy.