The Real Dracula
The question of whether the anecdotal horror and history of the fifteenth-century Romanian prince, Vlad Dracula, was the dominant factor in Bram Stoker's conception of Dracula has triggered innumerable books and films and has attracted the attention of scores of literary and historical scholars over the past century.
There's little question that the efforts of several prolific authors and researchers have attempted to seal an intrinsic relationship between the life of Vlad Dracula and the character of Stoker's frightening construction of the fundamental bloodthirsty creature in modern lore. The parallels between Dracula the vampire and Romania's Vlad Dracula are often perceived as unmistakable.
But one thing is for certain: If, in some past incarnation of fact or fiction, you'd ever stumbled upon the paths of either one of these ruthless beings, you'd have been in for the fright of your life.
Birth of a Tyrant
Vlad Dracula was born into one of the most contentious eras in the struggle for domination of eastern Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries between the empires of Hungary and the Ottoman Turks.
The regions of modern Romania that encompass the principalities of Wallachia and Transylvania were keys to that struggle, and rulers would often find themselves playing a political chess match of diplomacy and military intrigue in order to appease conflicting doctrines and to maintain regional power. Much of Vlad Dracula's life would be spent as a pawn in the maneuverings of desperate and often duplicitous leaders on both sides.
Although the name Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, is the most common description of Vlad Dracula today, there's no evidence that he ever used or even recognized the sobriquet. The third in his family's line to bear the name Vlad, Vlad Dracula is often technically, and correctly, identified as Vlad III. As the son of Vlad Dracul, Vlad Dracula translates to “Vlad, Son of the Dragon,” and there are existing documents drawn during his life on which he signed the infamous and instantly recognizable name, “Dracula.”
The Prince of Wallachia
The man who would become inseparably tied to the most unnerving character in horror was descended from Basarab the Great, the fourteenth-century ruler of Wallachia, who gained his homeland's independence from Hungary in the mid-fourteenth century. Basarab established a lineage that became the House of Basarab and from which the rulers of Wallachia would be chosen.
During the ensuing decades, Basarab's descendants were forced to alternately cooperate with the Christian authority of Hungary and negotiate periodic sovereignty to the rapidly expanding Ottoman-Turkish Empire. Essentially, they were caught in the geographical metaphor of the rock of Christian Holy Roman Hungarian authority and the hard place of Ottoman-Turkish muscle in a struggle for dominion over the region that would last for generations.