One of the most interesting figures in history is Vlad III, later known as Vlad Tepes. He is commonly known as Vlad the Impaler. He was known to sign his name as Vlad Draculea which means "son of the dragon". Because of this fact, he is often thought to have been the inspiration of the book Dracula, by Bram Stoker. He was Prince, or Voivode, of Wallachia two different times, fighting against the invading Ottoman Turks. Vlad's cruelty and his habit of impaling enemies is pretty well known. What's not as well known is that Vlad was considerd by many, especially in his native Romania, to be a hero. He was seen as a great leader who reclaimed control of the country from the corrupt aristocrats of the time (the Boyars). Though he had hundreds of Boyars impaled and made others build his castle by hand, his methods were seen as harsh but necessary for the times. When Vlad was crowned as ruler the second time, one chronicle said "Voivode Vlad sat on the throne and all the country came to pay respect, and brought many gifts and they went back to their houses with great joy. And Voievod Vlad with the help of God grew into much good and honor as long as he kept the reign of those just people". Wow. Really?
In 1459 Pope Pius II proposed a new crusade against the Ottomans. He paid Matthias Corvinus, the son of the King of Hungary, to mount an expedition against the Ottomans. Vlad sided with Matthias Corvinus. When the Ottoman ruler sent messengers to Vlad asking him to submit to Ottoman rule, Vlad resisted in no uncertain terms. You see, the Turkish messengers refused to remove their turbans in Prince Vlad's presence. He had their turbans nailed to their heads so they could keep them on always. The Ottoman ruler got the message. Vlad fought the Ottomans for years, achieving many victories along the way, and killing thousands of Ottoman Turks. His victories were celebrated by the Saxon cities of Transylvania, by the Italian States, and by the Pope himself. Depending on which version you follow, Vlad either turned back the Ottomans and was then betrayed by Matthias Corvinus, or the Ottomans eventually overwhelmed his lesser forces and Vlad was forced to flee to Hungary. In either case, Vlad was imprisoned in Hungary for several years. He converted from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholocism after his release in 1475. In 1476, Vlad was trying to reclaim the throne of Wallachia for a third time (with the support of Hungary) when he was killed.
So, accounts of Vlad's life vary depending on who you talk to. The Turks called him "Kaziglu Bey", which meant "The Impaler Prince". Since Germn merchants were often the targets of his punishments, the German sources often portray him as a sadistic, inhuman monster. Russian princes of the time were facing problems from the aristocratic Boyars, and many of Vlad's most cruel punishments had been meted out to the Boyars in Wallachia. Consequently, Russian sources tend to portray Vlad as a cruel prince, but one who acted in the best interests of the people against a troublesome and corrupt Boyar class. Romanian folklore has been kindest to Vlad's memory. Though his cruelties are not overlooked, he is often known as the man who selflessly defended Wallachia against the invading Turks. Were it not for his cruelty and determination, the country would have been lost. In addition, Romanian tales often focus on Vlad's efforts to eliminate crime and dishonesty under his rule while downplaying the inhuman and gruesome punishments he meted out.
Most poeple who know anything of Vlad the Impaler know him as a heartless and sadistic tyrant. He was known to have impaled, hanged and beheaded hundreds, maybe thousands of people. He was also a man who made generous donations to various churches and monasteries, and fought a war on the side of Christianity. He defended his country against an army of foreign invaders, and helped to keep the Ottoman Empire from taking over parts of Serbia and the Italian States. We'll probably never know the full truth about the man and his life, but if you read a little history, you're bound to find out some things you didn't know.