November 2, 2017

3187 ROMANIA - Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476/77)

Ambras Castle portrait of Vlad III (c. 1560),
reputedly a copy of an original
made during his lifetime

Vlad III, known as Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Țepeș), was voivode of Wallachia three times between 1448 and his death. Even if he didn't reign more then 7 years, he remained in the collective memory of the Romanians as a national hero, because on the one hand he constantly fought with the Ottoman Empire, regardless of the consequences, trying to preserve the country's independence, and on the other he strengthened the voivode's position and the rule of law.

He took drastic measures against the theft, promoted work and punished the laziness, eliminated the begging, supported fair trade, and encouraged honesty, punishing the traitors harshly. For the Romanians, Vlad Ţepeş remained the voivode during which any passerby could drink water from the fountain of Târgovişte Fortress with a large solid gold goblet, without anyone stealing it (fact confirmed by historical sources). Even nowadays the Romanians invoke them when it comes to the generalized theft and corruption, with a verse by Mihai Eminescu: "Rise once more, o Ţepeş, lord!"

He was the second son of Vlad Dracul (the son of Mircea the Elder), who became the ruler of Wallachia in 1436. Vlad and his younger brother, Radu, were held as hostages in the Ottoman Empire from 1442 to secure their father's loyalty. The Turks released him after his father's death - assassinated at the command of Vladislav II, installed voivode by John Hunyadi, Regent-Governor of Hungary, who invaded Wallachia in 1447. At that time, Vlad also learned of the death of his older brother, Mircea, tortured and buried alive by the boyars of Târgovişte.

Hunyadi launched a military campaign against the Ottomans in the autumn of 1448, and Vladislav accompanied him. At only 17 years, Vlad broke into Wallachia with Ottoman support in October, but Vladislav returned and Vlad sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire before the end of the year. Vlad went to Moldavia in 1449 or 1450, and later to Hungary. He invaded Wallachia with Hungarian support in 1456, and Vladislav died fighting against him.

Once he became voivode, Vlad came into conflict with the Transylvanian Saxons, who supported his opponents, Dan, Basarab Laiotă, and Vlad the Monk, and dispossessed from their goods some Wallachian merchants. He plundered the Saxon villages, taking the captured people to Wallachia where he had them impaled. Peace was restored in 1460, due to Matthias Corvinus, the younger son of Hunyadi, who was elected king of Hungary in 1458.

In order to strengthen his position, but also to take revenge against the Târgovişte boyars, guilty of the death of his father and his brother, Vlad arrested all boyar families who had participated in the Easter Sunday party of 1459. The eldest were impaled, and the others were forced to walk 100km from the capital to Poenari, where they were forced to build a fortress on the ruins of an old outpost overlooking the Argeș River. In the same year, Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, ordered Vlad to pay homage to him personally, but Vlad had the Sultan's two envoys captured and impaled.

In February 1462, he broke into Ottoman territory, massacring tens of thousands of Turks and Bulgarians. Mehmed II raised an army at about 100-150,000 strong (the second in size after the one which conquered Constantinople in 1453) and launched a campaign against Wallachia, in order to replace Vlad with Radu. The army of the wallachian voivode didn't exceed, according to the most generous estimates, 30,000 soldiers. For comparison, in the famous Battle of Castillon (1453), which ended the Hundred Years' War, France and England had each about 6,000-10,000 strong.

Vlad adopted the scorched earth policy and retreated towards Târgoviște. In this oppressive atmosphere in which the Turkish army, hungry and frightened, advanced through the desolate country, took place the Vlad's great blow, the night attack on June 16-17, 1462. The target of the attack was the sultan himself, but he escaped, his tent being confused with a vizier. However, the psychological effect of the attack was important. Mehmed entered Târgoviște at the end of June. The town had been deserted, but the Ottomans were horrified to discover a "forest of the impaled" (thousands of stakes with the carcasses of executed people).

The sultan and the main Ottoman army left Wallachia, but more and more Wallachians deserted to Radu. Vlad went to Transylvania to seek assistance from Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, in late 1462, but Corvinus had him imprisoned. Vlad was held in captivity in Visegrád from 1463 to 1475, being released at the request of Stephen the Great (whom he had helped to climb the throne). He fought in Corvinus's army against the Ottomans in Bosnia in early 1476.

Hungarian and Moldavian troops helped him to force Basarab Laiotă (who had dethroned Vlad's brother, Radu) to flee from Wallachia in November. Basarab returned with Ottoman support before the end of the year, and Vlad was murdered before 10 January 1477. The place of his burial is unknown. Books describing Vlad's cruel acts were among the first bestsellers in the German-speaking territories. Vlad's reputation for cruelty and his patronymic inspired the name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Bats, about which I wrote here.

References
Vlad the Impaler - Wikipedia
Vlad Ţepeş (rom) - Wikipedia
The Real Dracula: Vlad the Impaler, by Marc Lallanilla - Live Science website

Sender: Dănuţ Ivănescu
Sent from Bran (Braşov / Romania), on 31.07.2017

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