Friday, 29 March 2013

Men of Yore: Vlad II, Prince of Wallachia

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form.  Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards.  We, as men, are the frontiersmen/the vanguard, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

It is also partly intended to show images, be they paintings, statues or photographs of the countenances of men of yore.  Because, quite frankly, many men wear the countenances of women these days: smiling, smirking, cooing, rolling their eyes, looking smug etc.  It's a sign of the times, and by showing some images of men from the past, I hope to show some modern men why looking surly, frowning and giving hard-ball stares at people is something to do, something to practise.

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (A 1560 copy of a painting of Vlad III while he was alive).

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1476), was a member of the House of Drăculești, a branch of the House of Basarab, also known by his patronymic name: Dracula. He was posthumously dubbed Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Țepeș pronounced [ˈvlad ˈt͡sepeʃ]), and was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462, the period of the incipient Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. His father, Vlad II Dracul, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was founded to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe. Vlad III is revered as a hero in Bulgaria as well for his protection of the Bulgarian population both south and north of the Danube. A significant number of Bulgarian common folk and remaining boyars (nobles) moved north of the Danube, recognized his leadership and became part of Wallachia, following his raids on the Ottomans. [3]
Vlad III spent much of his rule campaigning against the Ottoman Empire and its expansion.[4] As the cognomen 'The Impaler' suggests, his practice of impaling his enemies[5] is central to his historical reputation. During his lifetime, his reputation for excessive cruelty spread abroad, to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The total number of his victims is estimated in the tens of thousands. The name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula was inspired by Vlad's patronymic.[5]
Early life:

Vlad and Radu spent their early formative years in Sighișoara. During the first reign of their father, Vlad II Dracul, the Voivode brought his young sons to Târgoviște, the capital of Wallachia at that time.
The Byzantine chancellor Mikhail Doukas showed that, at Târgoviște, the sons of boyars and ruling princes were well-educated by Romanian or Greek scholars commissioned from Constantinople. Vlad is believed to have learned combat skills, geography, mathematics, science, languages (Old Church Slavonic, German, Latin), and the classical arts and philosophy.[9]

Internal policy

Vlad found Wallachia in a wretched state: constant war had resulted in rampant crime, falling agricultural production, and the virtual disappearance of trade. Regarding a stable economy essential to resisting external enemies, he used severe methods to restore order and prosperity.
Vlad had three aims for Wallachia: to strengthen the country's economy, its defense, and his own political power. He took measures to help the peasants' well-being by building new villages and raising agricultural output. He understood the importance of trade for the development of Wallachia. He helped the Wallachian merchants by limiting foreign merchant trade to three market towns: Târgșor, Câmpulung and Târgoviște.
Vlad considered the boyars the chief cause of the constant strife as well as of the death of his father and brother. To secure his rule, he had many leading nobles killed and gave positions in his council, traditionally belonging to the greatest boyars, to persons of obscure origins, who would be loyal to him alone, and some to foreigners. [..]

War with the Ottomans

In 1459, Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans, at the Congress of Mantua. In this crusade, the main role was to be played by Matthias Corvinus, son of John Hunyadi (János Hunyadi), the King of Hungary. To this effect, Matthias Corvinus received from the Pope 40,000 golden coins, an amount that was thought to be enough to gather an army of 12,000 men and purchase 10 Danube warships. In this context, Vlad allied himself with Matthias Corvinus, with the hope of keeping the Ottomans out of the country (Wallachia was claimed as a part of the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Mehmed II).
Later that year, in 1459, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II sent envoys to Vlad to urge him to pay a delayed tribute[10] of 10,000 ducats and 500 recruits into the Ottoman forces. Vlad refused, because if he had paid the 'tribute', as the tax was called at the time, it would have meant a public acceptance of Wallachia as part of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad, just like most of his predecessors and successors, had as a primary goal to keep Wallachia as independent as possible. Vlad had the Turkish envoys killed on the pretext that they had refused to raise their "hats" to him, by nailing their turbans to their heads.
In the winter of 1462, Vlad crossed the Danube and devastated the entire Bulgarian land in the area between Serbia and the Black Sea. Disguising himself as a Turkish Sipahi, he infiltrated and destroyed Ottoman camps. In a letter to Corvinus dated 2 February, he wrote: ”I have killed peasants men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea, up to Rahova, which is located near Chilia, from the lower Danube up to such places as Samovit and Ghighen. We killed 23,884 Turks without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers...Thus, your highness, you must know that I have broken the peace with him (Sultan Mehmed II).[14][17]
In response to this, Sultan Mehmed II raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars,[18] and in spring of 1462 headed towards Wallachia. Commanding at best only 30,000 to 40,000 men (depending of the source),[citation needed] Vlad was unable to stop the Ottomans from crossing the Danube on June 4, 1462 and entering Wallachia. He constantly organized small attacks and ambushes on the Turks, such as The Night Attack when 15,000 Turks were killed.
Vlad the Impaler's attack was celebrated by the Saxon cities of Transylvania, the Italian states and the Pope. A Venetian envoy, upon hearing about the news at the court of Corvinus on 4 March, expressed great joy and said that the whole of Christianity should celebrate Vlad Țepeș's successful campaign. The Genoese from Caffa also thanked Vlad, for his campaign had saved them from an attack of some 300 ships that the sultan planned to send against them.
It was reported that an invading Ottoman army turned back in fright when it encountered thousands of rotting corpses on the banks of the Danube.[14] It has also been said that in 1462 Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, a man noted for his own psychological warfare tactics, returned to Constantinople after being sickened by the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses outside Vlad's capital of Târgoviște.

Vlad III's defeat at Poenari was due in part to the fact that the Boyars, who had been alienated by Vlad's policy of undermining their authority, had joined Vlad’s younger brother Radu under the assurance that they would regain their privileges.
[C]ontinuous war had left him without any money and he could no longer pay his mercenaries. Vlad traveled to Hungary to ask for help from his former ally, Matthias Corvinus. Instead of receiving help, he found himself arrested and thrown into the dungeon for high treason.
[T]he Wallachian prince was held for 10 years.

Third reign and death

After Radu's sudden death in 1475, Vlad III declared his third reign in 26 November 1476. Vlad began preparations for the reconquest of Wallachia in 1476 with Hungarian support. Vlad's third reign had lasted little more than two months when he was assassinated.

Vlad III was another of the national heroes of the Balkans (with other such as Skanderbeg) of the medieval period who sometimes succeeded, sometimes failed, but always tried to defend themselves and their homelands.

There are several characteristics of Vlad that shine throughout his life: A love of independence and self-rule; A love of his homeland and his own people; A hatred of traitors to him and his homeland; Unrestrained actions, a ‘no holds barred’ attitude to keeping his homeland free.

This last sentiment echoes some of the words of Meister Echkart:
'Were I full of God I should care nothing whatever for the world. To respect the world shows want of self-respect. Self-respect betokens despisery of things..’

Respect God first, yourself second, and everything else third.

Check out some of the other entries from the 'Men of Yore' series:
King Alfred, the Great
John MacDouall Stuart
Robert Owen
Richard Trevithick
Wyatt Earp
William 'Wild Bill' Cody
Andrew Carnegie
Duke of Viseu (Henry the Navigator)
Meriwether Lewis
Arthur Schopenhauer
Theodore Roosevelt
Rudolph Diesel
John Snow
Ludwig van Beethoven
Henry Ford
George Custer


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