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The Historical Dracula

Chapter IV: Atrocities

German Medieval Depiction of Vlad Tepes enjoying a meal by his victimsMore than anything else the historical Dracula is known for his inhuman cruelty . Impalement was Dracula's preferred method of torture and execution. Impalement was and is one of the most gruesome ways of dying imaginable. Dracula usually had a horse attached to each of the victim's legs and a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. The end of the stake was usually oiled and care was taken that the stake not be too sharp; else the victim might die too rapidly from shock. Normally the stake was inserted into the body through the buttocks and was often forced through the body until it emerged from the mouth. However, there were many instances where victims were impaled through other bodily orifices or through the abdomen or chest. Infants were sometimes impaled on the stake forced through their mothers' chests. The records indicate that victims were sometimes impaled so that they hung upside down on the stake.

Death by impalement was slow and painful. Victims sometimes endured for hours or days. Dracula often had the stakes arranged in various geometric patterns. The most common pattern was a ring of concentric circles in the outskirts of the city that was his target. The height of the spear indicated the rank of the victim. The decaying corpses were often left up for months. It was once reported that an invading Turkish army turned back in fright when it encountered thousands of rotting corpses impaled on the banks of the Danube. In 1461 Mohammed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, a man not noted for his squeamishness, returned to Constantinople after being sickened by the sight of twenty thousand impaled corpses rotting outside of Dracula's capital of Tirgoviste. The warrior sultan turned command of the campaign against Dracula over to subordinates and returned to Constantinople.

Thousands were often impaled at a single time. Ten thousand were impaled in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu (where Dracula had once lived) in 1460. In 1459, on St. Bartholomew's Day, Dracula had thirty thousand of the merchants and boyars of the Transylvanian city of Brasov impaled. One of the most famous woodcuts of the period shows Dracula feasting amongst a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Brasov while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims. Impalement was Dracula's favorite but by no means his only method of torture. The list of tortures employed by this cruel prince reads like an inventory of hell's tools: nails in heads, cutting off of limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning, cutting off of noses and ears, mutilation of sexual organs (especially in the case of women), scalping, skinning, exposure to the elements or to wild animals and boiling alive.

No one was immune to Dracula's attentions. His victims included women and children, peasants and great lords, ambassadors from foreign powers and merchants. However, the vast majority of his victims came from the merchants and boyars of Transylvania and his own Wallachia. Many have attempted to justify Dracula's actions on the basis nascent nationalism and political necessity. Many of the merchants in Transylvania and Wallachia were Saxons who were seen as parasites, preying upon the Romanian natives of Wallachia, while the boyars had proven their disloyalty time and time again. Dracula's own father and older brother were murdered by unfaithful boyars. However, many of Dracula's victims were Wallachians and few deny that he derived a perverted pleasure from his actions.

Dracula began his reign of terror almost as soon as he came to power. His first significant act of cruelty may have been motivated by a desire of revenge as well as a need to solidify his power. Early in his main reign he gave a feast for his boyars and their families to celebrate Easter. Dracula was well aware that many of these same nobles were part of the conspiracy that led to his father's assassination and the burying alive of his elder brother, Mircea. Many had also played a role in the overthrow of numerous Wallachian princes. During the feast Dracula asked his noble guests how many princes had ruled during their life times. All of the nobles present had out lived several princes. One answered that at least thirty princes had held the throne during his life. None had seen less than seven reigns. Dracula immediately had all the assembled nobles arrested. The older boyars and their families were impaled on the spot. The younger and healthier nobles and their families were marched north from Tirgoviste to the ruins of a castle in the mountains above the Arges River. Dracula was determined to rebuild this ancient fortress as his own stronghold and refuge. The enslaved boyars and their families were forced to labor for months rebuilding the old castle with materials from another nearby ruin. According to the reports they labored until the clothes fell off their bodies and then were forced to continue working naked. Very few of the old gentry survived the ordeal of building Castle Dracula.

Throughout his reign Dracula systematically eradicated the old boyar class of Wallachia. The old boyars had repeatedly undermined the power of the prince during previous reigns and had been responsible for the violent overthrow of several princes. Apparently Dracula was determined that his own power be on a modern and thoroughly secure footing. In the place of the executed boyars Dracula promoted new men from among the free peasantry and the middle class; men who would be loyal only to their prince. Many of Dracula's acts of cruelty can be interpreted as efforts to strengthen and modernize the central government at the expense of feudal powers of the nobility and great towns.

Dracula was also constantly on guard against the adherents of the Danesti clan. Some of his raids into Transylvania may have been efforts to capture would-be princes of the Danesti. Several members of the Danesti clan died at Dracula's hands. Vladislav II was murdered soon after Dracula came to power in 1456. Another Danesti prince was captured during one of Dracula's forays into Transylvania. Thousands of the citizens of the town that had sheltered his rival were impaled by Dracula. The captured Danesti prince was forced to read his own funeral oration while kneeling before an open grave before his execution.

Dracula's atrocities against the people of Wallachia were usually attempts to enforce his own moral code upon his country. He appears to have been particularly concerned with female chastity. Maidens who lost their virginity, adulterous wives and unchaste widows were all targets of Dracula's cruelty. Such women often had their sexual organs cut out or their breasts cut off. They were also often impaled through the vagina on red-hot stakes that were forced through the body until they emerged from the mouth. One report tells of the execution of an unfaithful wife. Dracula had the woman's breasts cut off, then she was skinned and impaled in a square in Tirgoviste with her skin lying on a nearby table. Dracula also insisted that his people be honest and hard working. Merchants who cheated their customers were likely to find themselves mounted on a stake beside common thieves.

 

>> Chapter V: Anecdotal Evidence



All Text Rights Reserved.
 "The Historical Dracula" is Copyright Ray Porter, 1992

 

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