Get over followers of Basarab rulers who contributed as much as one could in the formation of the Roman and reach Mircea the Elder.
Mircea the Elder (Bulgarian: Мирчо Стари Mircho Stari, Romanian: Mircea cel Bătrân, Serbian: Мирча Стари/Mirča Stari, d. 31 January 1418) was ruler of Wallachia from 1386 until his death. The byname “elder” was given to him after his death in order to distinguish him from his grandson Mircea II (“Mircea the Younger”). Starting in the 19th century, Romanian historiography has also referred to him as Mircea the Great (Romanian: Mircea cel Mare).
Mircea was the son of voivode Radu I of Wallachia and an unknown woman (not Callinica), thus being a descendant of the House of Basarab.He was the father to Vlad II Dracul and grandfather of Mircea II, Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), Vlad Călugărul and Radu the Handsome. All of these would at one time or the other rule Wallachia, with Mircea II and Vlad Ţepeş both being able military commanders (the later became one of the most notorious leaders in history]
Mircea’s reign is often considered to have brought stability to Wallachia. Found in a volatile region of the world, this principality’s borders constantly shifted, but during Mircea’s rule, Wallachia controlled the largest area in its history: from the river Olt in the north to the Danube in the south, and from the Danube’s Iron Gates in the west to the Black Sea in the east.
Mircea strengthened the power of the state and organized the different high offices, promoted economic development, increased the state’s revenue, and minted silver money that enjoyed wide circulation not only inside the country but also in neighboring countries. He gave the merchants of Poland and Lithuania trade privileges and renewed those his predecessors had given to the people of Braşov. As a result, Mircea was able to afford increasing his military power. He fortified the Danube citadels and strengthened “the great army” made up of townspeople and of free and dependent peasants. He also proved to be a great supporter for the Church.
While organizing the country and its institutions, Mircea also formed a system of lasting alliances which enabled him to defend the independence of the country.Through the intermediary of Petru Muşat, the prince of Moldavia, he concluded a treaty of alliance with Władysław II Jagiełło, king of Poland in 1389. The treaty was renewed in 1404 and 1410. He maintained close relations with Sigismund of Luxembourg, the king of Hungary, relying on their common interest in the struggle against Ottoman expansion.
His interventions in support of the Bulgarians south of the Danube who were fighting against the Turks brought him into conflict with the Ottoman Empire. In 1394 Beyazid I (also known as “Yıldırım Beyazıt”, “the Thunderbolt”) crossed the Danube river, leading 40,000 men, an impressive force at the time. Mircea had only about 10,000 men so he could not survive an open fight. He chose what today we would call guerrilla warfare by starving the opposing army and utilizing small, localized attacks and retreats (a typical form of asymmetric warfare). On October 10, 1394, the two armies finally clashed at the Battle of Rovine, which featured a forested and swampy terrain, thus preventing the Ottomans from properly spreading their army; Mircea finally won the fierce battle and threw the Ottomans out of the country. This famous battle was later epically described by the poet Mihai Eminescu in his Third Epistle. However, Mircea had to retreat to Hungary, while the Turks installed Vlad Uzurpatorul on the throne of Wallachia.
In 1396 Mircea participated in an anti-Ottoman crusade started by Hungary’s monarch. The crusade ended with the Ottoman victory at the Battle of Nicopolis on September 25. In the next year, 1397, Mircea, having defeated Vlad the Usurper with Hungarian help, stopped another Ottoman expedition that crossed the Danube, and in 1400 he defeated yet another expedition of Turks crossing the country.Giurescu, pp. 368.
The defeat of Sultan Beyazid I by Timur Lenk (Tamerlane) at Ankara in the summer of 1402 opened a period of anarchy in the Ottoman Empire and Mircea took advantage of it to organize together with the Hungarian king a campaign against the Turks. In 1404 Mircea was thus able to impose his rule on Dobrogea again. Moreover, Mircea took part in the struggles for the throne of the Ottoman Empire and enabled Musa to ascend that throne (for a brief reign). It was at this time that the prince reached the height of his power.Giurescu, pp. 369
Towards the end of his reign, Mircea signed a treaty with the Ottomans; in return for a tribute of 3,000 gold pieces per year, the Ottomans desisted from making Wallachia a province (“pashalik”).
The seal of Voivode Mircea from 1390, depicting the coat of arms
Battle of Nicopolis
The Battle of Nicopolis, as depicted by Turkish miniaturist in 1588
Titus Fay saves King Sigismund of Hungary in the Battle of Nicopolis. Painting in the Castle of Vaja, creation of Ferenc Lohr, 1896.
Cozia Monastery, founded and necropolis of Mircea the Elder
Vlad II (d. December 1447), known as Vlad Dracul (English: Vlad the Dragon), was a voivode (English: duke) of Wallachia. He reigned from 1436 to 1442, and again from 1443 to 1447. He was the father of Mircea II, Vlad Călugărul (English: Vlad the Monk), Vlad III Dracula, who became posthumously known by the epithet Ţepeş (English: the Impaler), and Radu III the Beautiful.
Vlad II received the surname Dracul in 1431, after being inducted into the Order of the Dragon, founded in 1408 by the King Sigismund of Hungary (the later Holy Roman Emperor), as part of a design to gain political favor from the Catholic Church and to aid in protecting Wallachia against the Ottoman Empire.
Vlad II Dracul was a member of the House of Drăculeşti lineage, and son of Mircea “the Old”, Voivoide of Walachia, and was known to have murdered members of the rival princely House of Dăneşti, a not-so-distant relation to his own father’s House of Basarab, and gained power in Wallachia, upon returning from exile in Transylvania in 1436.
The identity of Vlad’s first wife is unknown. His second wife, Princess (Cneajna) Vasilissa of Moldavia, was the eldest daughter of Alexandru cel Bun and paternal aunt of Stephen the Great of Moldavia.
Of his legitimate children, Mircea was the eldest, his mother’s identity being unknown. Vlad Călugărul was the product of Vlad and one of his mistresses, a Wallachian noblewoman called Călţuna. Vlad Ţepeş and Radu were products of his marriage with Cneajna of Moldavia.
In 1431, Vlad Dracul’s brother Alexandru I Aldea took the throne from Dan II, the latter having held it on and off since 1420. In 1436, following Alexandru I Aldea’s death from illness, Vlad Dracul ascended to the throne.
Mircea II ascended to the throne in 1442, as Vlad Dracul was in the Ottoman court negotiating for support from the Ottomans in an effort to better defend his rule against John Hunyadi, the voivode of Transylvania. Following the battle of Marosszentimre (Romanian Sântimbru) in 1442, Hunyadi forcefully entered Wallachia and forced Dracul to submit. In 1443, Mircea II was ousted from the throne by an invading army led by Hunyadi, and was forced to flee. Hunyadi placed Basarab II, son to Dan II, on the throne. However, Basarab II held the throne for only a short time, losing it within a year to Vlad Dracul, supported by armies of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad Dracul had made a treaty with the Ottomans insuring that he would give them annual tribute, as well as sending Wallachian boys to them yearly to be trained for service in their armies. He also had left his two sons, Vlad Tepes and Radu the Handsome as captives.
Mircea II supported his father, but did not support his politics with the Ottoman Empire. Mircea II led Wallachian forces in a successful campaign against the Ottomans with the full knowledge of his father, but with no support or opposition from him. An able military commander, Mircea II successfully recaptured the fortress of Giurgiu in 1445. However, in yet another treaty with the Ottomans, his father allowed the Ottomans to again have control of the fortress in an effort to retain their support of his having the throne, and in an effort to keep his two captive sons safe.
in 1433, the new King of Hungary, Ulaszlo I (also King of Poland as Władysław III Warneńczyk), launched the Varna campaign against the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Hunyadi, in an effort to drive the Turks out of Europe. Hunyadi demanded that Vlad II fulfill his oath as a member of the Order of the Dragon and a vassal of Hungary: Vlad was commanded to join the campaign but declined.
Pope Eugene IV absolved Dracul of his promise, but demanded that he send his son Mircea II instead (it is likely that Vlad II had originally denied the request in an effort to prevent his sons from being convoked). The Christian army was destroyed in the Battle of Varna; Hunyadi escaped the scene, and was blamed by many, including Mircea II and his father, for the debacle. This marked the start of hostilities between Hunyadi on one side and Vlad Dracul and his eldest son on the other.
In December 1447, boyars in league with the Hungarian regent John Hunyadi rebelled against Vlad Dracul II and killed him in the marshes near Bălteni. Mircea, Dracul’s eldest son and heir, was blinded and buried alive at Târgoviște
Vlad the Impaler
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 [vlad t’sepeʃ]), 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 folk hero in Romania for his protection of the Romanian population both south and north of the Danube. A significant number of Romanian and Bulgarian common folk and remaining boyars (nobles) moved north of the Danube to Wallachia, recognized his leadership and settled there following his raids on the Ottomans.
As the cognomen ‘The Impaler’ suggests, his practice of impaling his enemies 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
signature of the great leader
During his life Vlad wrote his name in Latin documents as Wladislaus Dragwlya, vaivoda partium Transalpinarum (1475).
His Romanian patronymic Dragwlya (or Dragkwlya)Dragulea, Dragolea, Drăculea is a diminutive of the epithet Dracul carried by his father Vlad II, who in 1431 was inducted as a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order founded by Sigismund of Hungary in 1408. Dracul is the Romanian definite form, the -ul being the suffixal definite article (deriving from Latin ille). The noun drac “dragon” itself continues Latin draco. Thus, Dracula literally means “Son of the Dragon”. In Modern Romanian, the word drac has adopted the meaning of “devil” (the term for “dragon” now being balaur or dragon). This has led to misinterpretations of Vlad’s epithet as characterizing him as “devilish”.
Vlad’s moniker of Țepeș (“Impaler”) identifies his favourite method of execution. It was attached to his name posthumously, in ca. 1550.Before this, however, he was known as “Kazikli Bey” (The Impaler Lord) by the Ottoman Empire after their armies encountered his “forests” of impalement victims.
Bust of Vlad Tepes, Sighisoara, Romania
Vlad was born in Sighișoara, Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary (today part of Romania), in the winter of 1431 to Vlad II Dracul, future voivode of Wallachia. Vlad’s father was the son of the celebrated Voivode Mircea the Elder. His mother is unknown, though at the time his father is believed to have been married to Princess Cneajna of Moldavia (eldest daughter of Alexander “the Good”, Prince of Moldavia and aunt to Stephen the Great of Moldavia) but to also keep a number of mistresses.He had two older half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, and a younger brother, Radu III the Handsome.
In the year of his birth, Vlad’s father, known under the nickname Dracul, had traveled to Nuremberg where he had been vested into the Order of the Dragon.
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.
Life in Edirne
In 1436, Vlad II Dracul ascended the throne of Wallachia. He was ousted in 1442 by rival factions in league with Hungary, but secured Ottoman support for his return by agreeing to pay the Tribute to the Sultan.
Vlad II also sent his two legitimate sons, Vlad and Radu, to the Ottoman court, to serve as hostages of his loyalty. After the death of Vlad II Dracul, Radu stayed at the Ottoman court.
During his years as hostage, Vlad was educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish language and works of literature. He would speak this language fluently in his later years.He and his brother were also trained in warfare and riding horses. The boys’ father, Vlad Dracul, was awarded the support of the Ottomans and returned to Wallachia and took back his throne from Basarab II and some unfaithful Boyars.
First reign and exile
In December 1447, boyars in league with the Hungarian regent John Hunyadi rebelled against Vlad II Dracul and killed him in the marshes near Bălteni. Mircea, Dracul’s eldest son and heir, was blinded and buried alive at Târgoviște.
To prevent Wallachia from falling into the Hungarian fold, the Ottomans invaded Wallachia and put young Vlad III on the throne. However, this rule was short-lived as Hunyadi himself now invaded Wallachia and restored his ally Vladislav II, of the Dănești clan, to the throne.
Vlad fled to Moldavia, where he lived under the protection of his uncle, Bogdan II. In October 1451, Bogdan was assassinated and Vlad fled to Hungary. Impressed by Vlad’s vast knowledge of the mindset and inner workings of the Ottoman Empire as well as his hatred of the new sultan Mehmed II, Hunyadi reconciled with his former rival and made him his advisor.
After the Fall of Constantinople to Mehmed II in 1453, Ottoman influence began to spread from this base through the Carpathians, threatening mainland Europe, and by 1481 conquering the entire Balkans peninsula. Vlad’s rule thus falls entirely within the three decades of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.
In 1456, three years after the Ottomans had conquered Constantinople, they threatened Hungary by besieging Belgrade. Hunyadi began a concerted counter-attack in Serbia: while he himself moved into Serbia and relieved the siege (before dying of the plague), Vlad led his own contingent into Wallachia, reconquered his native land and killed Vladislav II in hand-to-hand combat.
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. He also gave positions in his council which had traditionally belonged to the greatest boyars to persons of obscure or foreign origin who would be loyal to him alone. For lower offices, Vlad preferred knights and free peasants to boyars. In his aim of fixing up Wallachia, Vlad issued new laws punishing thieves. Vlad treated the boyars with the same harshness, believing them guilty of weakening Wallachia through their personal struggles for power.
The army was also strengthened. He had a small personal guard, mostly made of mercenaries, who were rewarded with loot and promotions. He also established a militia or ‘lesser army’ made up of peasants called to fight whenever war came.
Vlad Dracula built a church at Târgșor (allegedly in the memory of his father and older brother who were killed nearby), and he contributed with money to the Snagov Monastery.
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).
Vlad the Impaler and the Turkish Envoys. Painting by Theodor Aman.
Later that year, in 1459, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II sent envoys to Vlad to urge him to pay a delayed tribute 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.
Meanwhile, the Sultan received intelligence reports that revealed Vlad’s domination of the Danube. He sent the Bey of Nicopolis, Hamza Pasha, to make peace and, if necessary, eliminate Vlad III.
Vlad Țepeș planned to set an ambush. Hamza Pasha, the Bey of Nicopolis, brought with him 1000 cavalry and when passing through a narrow pass north of Giurgiu, Vlad launched a surprise attack. The Wallachians had the Turks surrounded and defeated. The Turks’ plans were thwarted and almost all of them caught and impaled, with Hamza Pasha impaled on the highest stake to show his rank.
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 and utilizing the fluent Turkish he had learned as a hostage, 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’ .
In response to this, Sultan Mehmed II raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars, and in spring of 1462 headed towards Wallachia. Commanding at best only 30,000 to 40,000 men (depending of the source),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.This infuriated Mehmed II, who then crossed the Danube. With the exception of some Turkish references all the other chronicles at the time that mention the 1462 campaign state that the Sultan was defeated. Apparently, the Turks retreated in such a hurry that by July 11, 1462 the Sultan was already in Adrianopolis. According to the Byzantine historian Chalcocondil, Radu, brother of Vlad III and ingratiate of the Sultan, was left behind in Targoviste with the hope that he would be able to gather an anti-Vlad clique that would ultimately get rid of Vlad as Voivode of Wallachia and crown Radu as the new puppet ruler.
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.
Transylvanian Saxon engraving from 1462 depicting Vlad Țepeș
Vlad’s younger brother Radu cel Frumos and his Janissary battalions were given the task of leading the Ottoman Empire to victory at all expense by Sultan Mehmet II. After the Sipahis’ incursions failed to subdue Vlad, the few remaining Sipahi were killed in a night raid by Vlad III in 1462. However, as the war raged on, Radu and his formidable Janissary battalions were well supplied with a steady flow of gunpowder and dinars; this allowed them to push deeper into the realm of Vlad III. Radu and his well-equipped forces finally besieged Poenari Castle, the famed lair of Vlad III. After his difficult victory Radu was given the title Bey of Wallachia by Sultan Mehmed II.
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 Radu under the assurance that they would regain their privileges. They may have also believed that Ottoman protection was better than Hungarian. It was said as well that Radu (through his spies or traitors) found the place where some Boyars’ families were hidden during the war (probably some forests around Snagov) and blackmailed them to come to his side.
By 8 September, Vlad had won another three victories, but continuous 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. Corvinus, not planning to get involved in a war after having spent the Papal money meant for it on personal expenses,forged a letter from Vlad III to the Ottomans where he supposedly proposed a peace with them, to give an explanation for the Pope and a reason to abandon the war and return to his capital.
Captivity in Hungary
Vlad was imprisoned at Oratia, a fortress located at Podu Dâmboviței Bridge. A period of imprisonment in Visegrád near Buda followed, where the Wallachian prince was held for 10 years. Then he was imprisoned in Buda.
The exact length of Vlad’s period of captivity is open to some debate, though indications are that it was from 1462 until 1474. Diplomatic correspondence from Buda seems to indicate that the period of Vlad’s effective confinement was relatively short. Radu’s openly pro-Ottoman policy as voivode probably contributed to Vlad’s rehabilitation. Moreover, Ștefan cel Mare, Voievod of Moldavia and relative of Vlad intervened on his behalf to be released from prison as the Ottoman pressure on the territories north of the Danube was increasing.
Conversion to Roman Catholicism
Vlad III, the Impaler, converted to Roman Catholicism from Orthodoxy in 1475 while imprisoned by King Matthias of Hungary. King Matthias agreed to release Vlad from prison, only if he renounced his beloved Orthodox religion, and married Countess Ilona Szilagy, the Hungarian king’s cousin. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make; Vlad loved Valachia, and wanted nothing more than to be back home again. So, he begrudgingly took the hand of the King’s relative, and converted to Catholicism; he died soon after.
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.The exact date of his death is unknown, presumably the end of December 1476, but it is known that he was dead by 10 January 1477. The exact location of his death is also unknown, but it would have been somewhere along the road between Bucharest and Giurgiu. Vlad’s head was taken to Constantinople as a trophy, and his body was buried unceremoniously by his rival, Basarab Laiota, possibly at Comana, a monastery founded by Vlad in 1461.The Comana monastery was demolished and rebuilt from scratch in 1589