Vlad the Impaler
These prints are 8.5 x 11" on cardstock.
Living proof that truth is often more terrible than fiction, Vlad III Dracul, or Vlad Dracula (c. 1431 - 1476) lent his name to one of the greatest monsters in literature for good reason. The war he waged against his enemies during his three reigns as Voivod of Wallachia was conducted not just with terror, but with outright horror.
Vlad's life was a horror story from the beginning. His elder brother, Mircea, was buried alive. Vlad's father sent him and his younger brother, Radu, to live as hostages to the Ottoman sultan, whose eye for conquest was fixed on the Balkans. After his father's death, the Ottomans sent Vlad back home to conquer Wallachia, where he killed his father's usurper by his own hand.
Vlad lost the throne shortly after, but regained it with the help of Catholic Hungary - a controversial move for the monarch of an Orthodox nation. Vlad knew how to hold onto power, however. Dracula fortified his land, founded the city that would one day become Romania's capitol, Bucharest, and waged merciless war against internal enemies - namely treacherous Wallachian nobles and Saxon merchants, whom he impaled or worked to death building his castles.
When Vlad refused to pay tribute to the sultan, the Turks invaded. The weapons Vlad turned against them were gruesome: he adopted a scorched earth policy, destroying every scrap of food, burning every building, poisoning every well, to ensure the Turks would find no succor in his land. He sent an army of plague victims and lepers into their midst to infect them with disease. He launched a night raid into the Ottoman camp that only failed to kill the sultan because it targeted the wrong tent. And, most famously, he left in his capitol a forest of 20,000 impaled corpses - enough to turn the stomach of the great warrior sultan, Mehmed II, to the point that he went home and left the campaign to his generals. It was during this time that he earned his chilling nickname, "Tepes" - "Impaler."
Vlad's cruelty cost him dearly. The King of Hungary, to whom he fled after the invasion, had him imprisoned. During this time, his portrait was taken from life; a copy of this painting is the most well-known image of the Impaler. Emerging from prison fourteen years later, Vlad again recaptured the throne of his country, but the Turks had had enough. Vlad Dracula died in battle sometime late in 1476. Numerous stories have circulated about his remains; the legends are full of empty graves and partial skeletons, and several churches claim to host the voivod's final resting place.
Vlad's legacy is clear to anyone with a taste for horror and the macabre. In his own lifetime, his image began to appear on altarpieces and in paintings, as a stand-in for figures of evil. By 1500, pamphlets manufactured by Europe's brand new printing presses carried the grotesque tales of Vlad's atrocities to a wider audience, becoming the first best-sellers in history. Finally, Irish author Bram Stoker invoked the Impaler's legacy by using Vlad's surname (Draculea, "son of the Dragon") for the eponymous vampire of his 1895 horror classic. Cruel and bloodthirsty as he was, however, the monster ultimately pales in comparison to the man.