Vampires are ubiquitous in modern pop culture. We’ve had stories about them for centuries. They pre-date superheroes as one of the most famous supernatural beings.

They exist in many cultures in one form or another, but the most notable are the European variants, the blood-sucking nobles who live as undead allegories for the state of royalty at the time.

All of these Vampire myths started from one source, one key figure who was so detested, reviled, and feared that the only explanation for his deeds was that he was a devil-sent fiend who fought falsely in God’s name.

Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler and Vlad Dracula, was the ruler of Wallachia, a region of modern-day Romania, in the 1400s. Many myths and legends were built around him for his bloody exploits.

He gained much of his fame when, as the country leader, he ruthlessly routed his enemies and famously brutalized them across the battlefields.

His wartime deeds became a thing of historical fiction, where they were already so awful it was easy to exaggerate them just a little to turn him into a living legend.

A bloody count of a distant land that was soaked with blood. That is how he became Dracula.

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10 /10 The Father Of Dracula

Vlad III was the son of Vlad II, who earned the title of “Dracul,” which was the then known word for Dragon.

Vlad II was a member of the monarchical Order of the Dragon, hence his epitaph, and became a ruler of Wallachia following a military campaign for a time before the land was exchanged to his first son, Radu.

Vlad’s youth is primarily unknown, though it is agreed upon that he frequently moved through the Wallachian borders to Hungary and the Ottoman Empire for political reasons.

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9 /10 The Voivode Of Wallachia

Vlad III assumed rulership of Wallachia for the first of several times in October of 1448 and was quickly routed from his position one month later. He took the throne after the death of his father and elder brother Radu.

However, his rule was contested by invasive forces from the Ottoman Empire who pressed up the Danube and threatened to capture critical territories.

Vlad’s supporter, John Hunyadi of Hungary, urged him to flee for his safety but refused. His rule was cut short, and he was forced into exile.


8 /10 Brewing Contention

Vlad lived in Edirne, known as Adrianople, in modern-day Turkey until he moved to neighbor Moldavia under the protection of a complex family relative.

While there, his uncle-in-law Bogdan II was murdered, and Bogdan’s son Stephen fled with Vlad to seek the aid of Hunyadi once more to retake the throne.

Hunyadi was busy settling peace with the Ottomans in Wallachia, which occupied the disputed rule, which Vlad was no longer a part of.

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7 /10 Transylvania's Defender

The then leader of Wallachia, Vladislav II, died during an invasion in which Vlad III participated. Vlad was assigned to the defense of the borders of Transylvania under Hungarian support.

Vlad immediately sent a signed letter naming himself as the Voivode, or ruler, of Wallachia to the noblemen other high-ranking parties.

And he signed his name as “Dracula,” which meant “Son of Dracul,” asserting his position as his father’s heir.


6 /10 The Impaler

Vlad’s rule was constituent with a tribute to the Ottoman sultan, which he paid up and his loyalty to the King of Hungary. But Vlad had other plans.

He turned against the Transylvanian Saxons that he once defended, who were loyal to the King, and pillaged their lands, starting his most famous practice of impalement where whole towns of people – men, women, and even children – were mounted on spears and stakes that were driven into the ground.


5 /10 Saxon War

While Vlad promoted free trade, he had little sympathy for his enemies within his territory. This led to a full-scale conflict against the Saxons, mercilessly persecuted in and around Wallachia by Vlad’s order.

Dan III, the brother of the deposed Vladislaus, led a charge against Vlad in a brief invasion but was defeated and executed.

From there, Vlad established peace with the remaining nobles, calling upon them as “brothers and sisters,” turning from a brutal war fiend one moment to a diplomatic envoy the next.


4 /10 The Ottoman War

The Saxons weren’t the only group Vlad sought to overcome. Vlad stepped up and refused to pay homage to the Sultan, and his continuous insult against the sultanate led to war.

Vlad’s Christian faith, either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, also led to contention with the Islamic rulers. Vlad scorched the earth where his army fought, but he was forced to retreat.

He also had to fight against his brother, Radu, who sided with the Ottomans to keep the peace between the territories.


3 /10 Hungarian Retreat

Vlad once more sought refuge in his on-again, off-again allies in Hungary, specifically Matthias Corvinus in the Carpathian mountains.

Hungary did not want to wage war against the Ottomans or march across Wallachia to do it.

As a penance for his actions in combat, Vlad was “imprisoned” in Hungary for several years until he affirmatively converted to Catholicism, which was supposed to mark the end of his reign of terror.

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2 /10 The Last Rule Of Dracula

Vlad had one more shot at the throne, but to get it, he had to depose the ruler Basarab Laiota, who in turn dethroned Radu to claim it with Ottoman support.

Hungary declared Vlad the rightful prince and heir and supported him to fight his way back into power.

He succeeded and ruled for another short month until Basarab returned with Ottoman reinforcements, and despite his best and bloodiest efforts, Vlad III fell in battle, and his grave remains unknown.

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1 /10 Legacy Of Dracula

Vlad’s military exploits, his service to God, and his immense cruelty to his enemies cast him a dark figure in eastern European history and lore.

Records of his actions were read to the modern age, where they seemed fantastical to consider. He was famously used as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

A Transylvanian count displayed dark and demonic powers and had a history of impaling soldiers through various old wars.

Adaptations of the book inspired countless iterations up to the point where Dracula is now synonymous with a bloody, violent monster of a man.

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